A Rustic Illinois Lake Cottage Gets a Modern Revamp


modern sofa in front of...

Three structures replace a family’s dilapidated vacation cottage perched along Paw Paw Lake.

modern exterior and sitting area

Three structures replace a family’s dilapidated vacation cottage perched along Paw Paw Lake.

modern wooden staricase treads a...

In a home by architect Michael Abraham on Michigan’s Paw Paw Lake, a three-level staircase by Dave Knecht features floating wood treads and a steel railing. The flooring in the entry sequence is Autumn Brown limestone by Virginia Tile from Gebauer Tile & Stone; the pendant is from Hinsdale Lighting.

modern neutral living room and...

A functional six-drawer chest with a concrete top by Reaching Quiet creates a sense of separation between the living and dining areas, while the pair of table lamps offer illumination for the custom sofa by SB Interiors. The metal-clad fireplace is by Builders Ironworks.

modern dining room with white...

A pair of oversize metal lanterns by The Urban Electric Co. add a touch of whimsy to the spacious dining area, which is furnished with two tables back-to-back. "We needed something to hold its own against the volume of the space," explains owner and interior designer Katie Lopez.

modern kitchen with iceberg quartzite...

In the kitchen, iceberg quartzite countertops from Gebauer Tile & Stone juxtapose the dark stain on the white-oak cabinetry by nuHaus. "The kitchen was so big that it was a cool opportunity to use darker cabinetry, which makes the space feel much more intimate," Lopez says.

dining room with modern teak...

A Gloster teak dining table and chairs, a Lee Industries sectional sofa and a custom Abner Henry hanging daybed offer a variety of cozy seating options in the screened-in porch off the kitchen. "The kids fight over the hanging daybed," Lopez says.

exterior and landscape of this...

"It's like a grown-up tree house," interior designer Shannon Bowman describes of the compound. Each of the property's three structures is clad with cedar shingles and a cedar-shake roof from Woodridge Enterprises, and all overlook a serene path that leads through a naturalist courtyard by landscape architect Eric Tharp. The windows are by Kolbe Windows & Doors from Ashland Millwork.

modern neutral bedroom with velvet...

In the master bedroom, a custom bed with velvet upholstery by SB Interiors through Abner Henry makes good use of the room’s high ceilings and contains a TV lift in the footboard. The bedside tables are from Shine Home, and the bed linens are from Bedside Manor.

modern bedroom with a white...

The master bedroom’s Stanford Furniture pivot armchair, customized by SB Interiors, can turn to face the room or the view outside. This fireplace and the one on the screened-in porch are by Denali Masonry. Linen draperies introduce “a fresh, serene touch,” Bowman says.

With six children in tow, it’s no wonder interior designer Katie Lopez and her husband felt their rustic cottage along Michigan’s Paw Paw Lake was bursting at the seams. So when the couple discovered their vacation home was also structurally unsound, they saw an opportunity to commission architect Michael Abraham to design a new Napa-inspired abode with plenty of room for the whole family. “That’s Abe’s wheelhouse,” Lopez says of the aesthetic while referring to the architect by his nickname. “There’s a lot of ease to his design.”

Four years later, the tiny cottage has been replaced by a compound that comprises three structures: two coach houses at the top of a hill and a spacious new home at the bottom of the slope along the lake, all connected by a unique ipe-wood bridge system. “We wanted the property to feel like several cottages that have been linked together over time,” Abraham explains, noting the style reflects the various residences nearby. “There’s a mix of older and newer buildings in this area. Sometimes, you’ll find a big house next to 10 smaller ones.”

Seamlessly blending traditional and modern elements, the lake house and its two guest cottages all boast white cedar-shingle exteriors. Guests enter the main home on the second floor, where a sculptural staircase with open wooden treads and a linear steel railing connects the residence’s three levels. While water views prevail throughout, some spaces peer into a front courtyard Abraham had worked into the plans. “These houses are all about the lake side, so it was fun to do something where the street side also got attention,” he says. Flanked by the two structural arms of the house, the courtyard offers beautiful exterior scenery for rooms that don’t face the water.

A path of irregular bluestone pavers by landscape architect Eric Tharp meanders through the courtyard to a bridge that leads to both the main house’s front door and screened-in porch. A mix of natural grasses and non-native plantings softens the lines of the abode and adds seasonal interest. “It has a romantic feel,” Tharp says. “The viewing window of the courtyard is quite amazing.”

Installing large windows was one of many ways Abraham blurred the line between inside and outside. He also extended the interior stone walls beyond some exterior walls and incorporated throughout the residence exposed white-oak ceiling timbers, which serve as a load-bearing aspect. “The beams are really a cool feature of this house,” says general contractor Dave Knecht. “They not only serve a purpose but also are exposed to create an aesthetic value.” He and his crew had the massive beams craned in and carefully connected them in post-and-beam fashion on-site.

Steel also plays a crucial decorative role. In addition to the staircase, for instance, the wall containing the fireplace in the main home’s living area is clad with hot-rolled steel, making a show-stopping statement. This space is light and airy thanks to pieces like a tactile cream-colored Moroccan rug that creates a cozy backdrop for two complementary sofas–one beige, the other gray–and a pair of beige swivel chairs, all custom designed and covered in natural fabrics by Lopez’s sister-in-law, interior designer Shannon Bowman. “We let the trees, lake, grass and sky guide the color,” Bowman explains.

Behind the living area, a full bar by cabinetmaker Doug Durbin of nuHaus acts as another gathering spot and showcases select bottles from Lopez’s extensive wine collection behind a wall of illuminated glass. Accessible by doors on the other side of the wall behind the bar, the insulated cabinet draws in tempered air from a wine cellar below.

Durbin also did extensive work in the kitchen, where he paired dark custom cabinetry with white quartzite countertops and bespoke hardware. Oversized pewter refrigerator doors take the modern aesthetic to the next level, and two massive islands offer style and function. Lopez and Bowman furnished the room’s breakfast area with a built-in velvet-covered banquette and placed custom barrel chairs around a trio of smaller tables that can easily be interlocked. “We wanted this space to feel like a restaurant lounge, a place to relax with a glass of wine,” Bowman says.

The family also enjoys relaxing in the three-season sun porch, which has heated brick flooring and a stone wall with a fireplace. A plush sectional sofa and a whimsical hanging daybed are ideally positioned between the fireplace and the lake view. “The daybed is unique but very cozy, and the kids love piling on it,” Bowman says.

Now, when the Lopezes head to Paw Paw Lake for boating, tubing and swimming, they have a beautiful and spacious dwelling for their summertime activities. In fact, some of the family’s favorite moments happen when thunderclouds roll in, the sky turns lavender gray and it begins raining. As Lopez makes snacks in the kitchen, the children light candles and curl up in front of a fireplace in comfortable surroundings. “The property is so relaxed and beautiful at the same time, and that’s a hard combination to come by,” Lopez says. “We experience some of our best memories at the lake.”