During the summers when their children were young, Jack and Joan Hansen would spend the weekends at their cabin on Red Cedar Lake in Wisconsin.
Now retired and with their adult children, the St. Paul couple looked forward to full-time lakeside living. Although charming, the family’s modest cabin had a steep slope to the lake and views of the water were limited. So when they came across a property with a cabin and 12 acres of shoreline on the north end of Cedar with less incline, it seemed like fate.
“As we get older, we want to be able to navigate the lake without having to navigate anything steep,” Jack said.
The cabin had so many structural problems that it had to be demolished. But the property, although overgrown, had the potential to accommodate the multi-generational structure they wanted and to offer panoramic views of the lake, with its creeks and bays.
After looking at several companies, they hired Minneapolis-based Lundin Architects to design a contemporary cabin.
“They had a signature style,” Joan said. “It was definitely modern, clean lines.”
Conviviality and intimacy
Early in the design process, it was decided that two realms would be created, said architect Richard C. Lundin. The cabin, known as the Red Cedar Lake Home project, was named the winner of the 2022-2023 AIA Star Tribune House of the Month, a partnership with the Minnesota Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
The cabin has two separate sections; one contains the gathering spaces, such as the living room, dining room, and kitchen. A screened porch with walk-through window next to the kitchen further creates a connection to nature.
This section is cut by a north-south charred box, which physically and visually separates public and private spaces. The other wing contains the master bedroom, with modern elements such as heat-treated wood, an alternative to green wood. For the bathroom, large terrazzo-like porcelain slabs with minimal veining and grout lines were used for the backsplash.
An office, also on the main level, can be transformed into a guest bedroom.
“My mom can visit and she can access everything on one floor,” Joan said.
Jack said they also wanted spaces for their adult children, their guests and, maybe one day, their grandchildren.
The idea was how to “accommodate and create intimacy for [their guests]”, Lundin said. “And then for the owners of the house, they have their own kingdom so that they can enjoy their lifestyle without having to feel every time someone comes and ‘I have to transform my house for them.’ It really explains how we ended up putting things together.”
There is a loft which includes a bathroom and bedrooms. Douglas fir bunk beds and natural cork flooring and wall coverings are woven into the design.
“We wanted the cabin to have a natural palette,” Lundin said. “Douglas fir just has wonderful warmth. The cork in the wallcovering looks like birch bark.”
Be one with nature
For Lundin, it was important to connect with nature. That’s why an open breezeway between the garage and the house allows for a view of the lake rather than blocking it. The warm covered wooden walkway also allows direct access to the water without entering the cabin.
Although landscaping was incorporated, the site was left as natural as possible. On the south side, a gently sloping natural wild grass driveway leads to a fire pit, gazebo, family beach and swimming dock.
“It’s on an ADA-quality path,” Lundin said. “With the gazebo, we thought it was a place where adults could go and watch the kids swim, but maybe they didn’t want to be surrounded by all the bugs.”
A looping path through the forest provides areas of peace and quiet. Plus, benches and a hidden dock provide places to pause and enjoy nature. There are also features for outdoor group activities such as a volleyball court and a “toy” cabana, which houses a foosball table as well as ATVs and snowmobiles.
The Hansens are happy to have found an architect who brought a contemporary vision to their interior and exterior spaces.
“The house was meant to be heavily focused on us as we enjoy our retirement years,” Jack said. “We wanted it to be extremely livable, accessible and practical.”
These days, the Hansens are settling in and enjoying cabin life full time.
Joan enjoys walking along the paths, occasionally taking a break in one of the seating areas. “We can see all kinds of wildlife; it’s very lovely and peaceful,” she said.
The couple use the gazebo more than they imagined, dining there and simply sitting to enjoy the breeze.
“On Sundays there is live music [from a restaurant across the lake] and it almost feels like the band is playing for us right in the gazebo,” Jack said. “It’s a wonderful seating area. And there are no bugs.”
The cabin also made for family time, gathering around the fireplace in the living room or doing puzzles at the dining room table, or heading outside to jump into the lake.
“It’s very conducive to all age groups. When the kids come, they have their private space and yet we can come and join each other in the public spaces,” Joan said. “We build special memories there.”
About this project
What: A modern cabin connects owners to the surrounding natural landscape while creating distinct gathering and private spaces, and the forest and lake landscapes provide several recreational options.
Project type: New construction.
Project size: Over 3,000 square feet.
Cost per square foot: $375.
Design firm: Monday Architects.
Group project: Richard C. Lundin II, AIA; Mike Bader, AIA.