Homegazing: A North Woods retreat

  • Article by: BY KIM PALMER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 7, 2012 - 2:56 PM

You can have this rustic log home Up North, set on secluded acres of woods and more than 900 feet of lake shoreline, for $2.75 million.

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This lakeside retreat includes more than 40 acres near Ely.

Photo: Kate Davies, Bear Island Land Co.

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When Jim Mattson and his family want to get away from it all, they head to the ultimate Minnesota getaway spot: a rustic log home Up North, set on secluded acres of woods and more than 900 feet of lake shoreline.

The lake is Burntside, known for its 100 islands and its clear water -- so clean that it supplies drinking water for the city of Ely. "It's a deep, cold lake -- you can see the bottom in close to 30 feet of water," said Mattson.

For more than a dozen years, Mattson, his wife and their two daughters, now young adults, commuted from Plymouth to their North Woods retreat just about every weekend.

"You can use it year-round, and there's stuff to do all the time," Mattson said, including swimming, boating and trout fishing in summer; snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and ice fishing in winter. "There's a snowmobile trail right by the house."

The Mattsons built the 5,000-square-foot house in 1998 with plenty of room for their family and friends. It has five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a big gourmet kitchen, a four-season sunroom and three wood-burning fieldstone fireplaces that took three months of stonework to complete. "There's nothing like a stone fireplace," Mattson said.

But even though the house is outfitted with "all the bells and whistles," according to listing agent Charlie Chernak of Bear Island Land Co., the Mattsons also wanted to make sure the house had a rustic character to complement its setting, which is just a quarter-mile from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

"We were fanatical," Mattson said. "We wanted a Boundary Waters-type experience," not a suburban-style home.

That's why they hired builder/craftsman John Huisman to construct the house using cedar logs from British Columbia. Each log was hand-scribed to fit the log next to it, for a snug fit that doesn't require filling gaps with mortar. "All you see is logs," Mattson said.

The quality of the log construction is one of the house's most distinctive features, according to Twin Cities listing agent Robert Hare, of Coldwell Banker Burnet. "This is the highest-caliber log construction you're going to find."

The home's doors, cabinets, bookshelves and other built-ins also were handcrafted by the builder, using indigenous wood. The flooring is Danish, made of 7/8-inch solid wood installed with a clip system. There's also radiant in-floor heat.

Just steps from the main house is an octagonal screened gazebo, also built of logs, overlooking the lake. And there's a two-car garage with plenty of space for storing boats and snowmobiles.

Both the house and its setting are rare, according to the listing agents.

"The setting is phenomenal," said Hare. "The acreage and amount of shoreline is unusual."

Mattson said he hates to part with the place. "Our family has enjoyed it immensely," he said. But now that their daughters are grown and living out of state, "we need to downsize and get something smaller. The kids are traumatized. They love the cabin."

What he'll miss the most is the privacy, he said. "It's a very special spot -- one of those places that are getting harder and harder to find."

Features

• Private setting: More than 40 acres, including 900 feet of shoreline on Burntside Lake near Ely, Minn., and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

• Hand-scribed log home, built with western red cedar from British Columbia.

• Three fieldstone fireplaces.

• Handmade doors and built-ins.

• Room for guests. The home's 5,000 square feet of space includes five bedrooms and three bathrooms.

• Screened, log-built gazebo overlooking the lake.

• Radiant in-floor heat.

Robert Hare of Coldwell Banker Burnet (952-473-8700) and Charlie Chernak of Bear Island Land Co. (1-218-343-6781) have the listing.

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