AIA Home of the Month: A Wisconsin lakeside retreat intermingles the rustic architecture of national park buildings with comfortable cottage-style character.
Architect Michaela Mahady's clients had wonderful memories of vacationing in Yellowstone and other national parks. They also were drawn to the rough, dark brown buildings anchored with massive stone chimneys on the park grounds.
So the St. Paul family hoped to bring the National Park Service's rustic-style architecture to Round Lake, near Hayward, Wis. They enlisted Mahady, of SALA Architects in Stillwater, to design a weekend getaway along 280 feet of shoreline of a peninsula heavily wooded with pine and maple trees.
"They liked the permanence of the strong, chunky elements and wanted to build a home that felt like it had a sense of history, like those old WPA national park structures," she said.
Mahady designed a three-bedroom cottage, which combines elements of those classic park visitors centers and guest lodges, such as exposed timbers, gables and big stone fireplaces. But she also infused storybook cottage-in-the woods qualities to create a home that feels cozy, inviting and fits the naturally sloped lot as if it had always been there.
At first glance, the cottage's dark red roof with pointed gables and steeply pitched lines is the most prominent feature. But a closer look reveals a unique entry porch sheltered by a curved, shell-shaped roof.
"The shell roof is framed by sturdy stone columns, which are the welcoming arms of the house that reach out and invite the visitor in," she said.
Mahady is a big fan of softening curves, also evident in curved-top French doors, an eyebrow second-floor window and arched fir timbers. For the cedar exterior, she chose wavy, horizontal siding at the base to break up the facade.
The lake takes center stage once inside the efficiently designed 2,800-square-foot cottage. The great room, dining area and kitchen form a big L-shaped room where the family can gather, with spaces defined by hand-hewn Douglas fir timbers and pine ceilings. Down the hall is the private owner's suite. On the other side of the floor plan is a laundry/mudroom, which connect to a casual family entry for daily use.
The second floor is about half the size of the first floor and houses another bathroom and two dormer bedrooms tucked under the sloped roof. A study loft in an alcove at the top of the stairs overlooks the great room.
The finely crafted interiors are accented by chunky wood trim around the windows and tall baseboards throughout the home.
"The clients wanted the millwork to be overscale to give it a fairy-tale cottage feel," Mahady said.
Because the lakeside of the home faces north, Mahady strategically placed windows to draw in as much natural light as possible. She placed high clerestories in the two-story great room, which extends out from the main footprint, resulting in windows on three sides.
"The windows are large enough for outdoor views, but it's not a glass box," she said. "It's more of a refuge and safe place."
A screened-in porch is pretty much a given for a lake home. For this one, Mahady decided on a "screen house," which juts out from the main house and is outfitted with a wood-burning fireplace.
"It's not clamped on but pulled away from the house for more light and views from the southeast side," she said. "And you don't have to carry food and drinks through bug territory, like you would a gazebo."
The screen house and a detached garage with a matching gabled roof break up the forms and create distinct places, she added.
The cottage's design might have been inspired by Yosemite and Yellowstone national park buildings, but it's Mahady's custom touches, such as the vibrant red roof, that give it charm and personality.
"It's a strong, colorful hat for the house," she said. "It adds a whimsical, enchanted feel."
Mahady's one-of-a-kind lakeside cottage resonates not only with family members who go there to escape the city, but also architecture fans who have paged through her book, "Welcoming Home," which came out last year.
"Of all the homes in the book," she said, "people have told me that they are particularly drawn to the red-roofed cottage."
Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619