Camp character

Homeowners' dream: Two lifelong friends wanted a shared retreat to enjoy together and with their individual families. "They loved the original vintage character of fish camps in northern Minnesota," says architect Christine Albertsson of Albertsson Hansen Architecture. "They wanted to create a place with that feel — and all the comforts of modern life."

Architect's approach: The camp includes a main cabin, guest cottage and recreational building with a garage below and TV/hangout space and bar, distanced so that late-night gatherings don't disturb sleepers. The cabin is set close to the lake; its modest scale and high windows contribute to a feeling of being right on the water. "My idea was to capture the feel of a modest Minnesota retreat. It feels like it has always been there," says Albertsson.

Special features: Dark shou sugi ban (charred wood) siding and black paint help the camp recede into the landscape. Wood-paneled interiors have warmth but their graywash finish keeps the space light and airy.

Albertsson Hansen design team: Christine L. Albertsson, Tammy Angaran, Abigail Merlis; contractor: Dylan Howard, Howard Homes; interior design: Lynne Boyer; photos: Corey Gaffer

Scandinavian simplicity

Homeowners' dream: A family with teenage children sought a simple, modest getaway near Hayward, Wis. "They wanted a Nordic-inspired home," says architect Mark Larson of Rehkamp Larson Architects, who has traveled to Norway and seen its colorful country houses firsthand.

Architects' approach: Efficient forms, including a gable with shed dormer and a Nordic-style roof, helped keep value high and costs down. "It's straightforward — a simple compact house," says Larson. The exterior is clad in a combination of wood sidings, and the Nordic-inspired palette features red, blue and green. "Playful colors — so common in the countryside of Norway." A potbelly stove provides cozy ambience and winter warmth, while the porch is the heart of the home: Its central placement with entries from both the kitchen and living room make it part of the home's circulation. "It's a great summer house."

Favorite features: The staircase was built on-site using simple wood slats and railings. "We didn't have to commission a fabricator," says Larson. Ceiling beams are exposed. "The decoration is the structure," says Larson. "It's a charming, delightful, frugal house."

Rehkamp Larson Architects project team: Mark Larson, Will Spencer; contractor: Brousard's White Pine Construction; photos: Troy Thies

Crayola bright

Homeowners' dream: A family with young-adult children had purchased a 1973-built lake home in Okoboji, Iowa, to remodel. "They love bright, happy, cheerful spaces," says architect Jean Rehkamp Larson of Rehkamp Larson Architects. "The goal was to create a joyful house for family and friends to gather."

Architect's approach: A large brick fireplace divided the interior space and blocked light. It came down. New shed dormers bring light into an upstairs loft and bring it closer to the lake. A new entry addition breaks the roofline and creates a welcoming presence for guests. Lake views are now framed by a wall of glass. Vibrant color and repurposed materials were used creatively throughout the home, including a former gym floor with confetti-bright detailing, an old bowling alley, complete with lane markings, now incorporated into the kitchen island, and vintage doors and light fixtures, powder-coated in fresh bold hues.

Favorite features: An airy central staircase with open risers becomes an art piece with glass panels of varied textures set within a steel frame. The modern entry chandelier was designed by Rehkamp Larson Architects and manufactured by Lightworks in Minneapolis.

Rehkamp Larson Architects project team: Jean Rehkamp Larson, Anders Matney, Will Spencer, Laurel Johnston, Elissa Juhnke; contractor: Bob Cornell Construction; interior design: Barbara Clayton Design; landscape design: Keenan & Sveiven Landscape Architecture; Photos: Scott Amundson