Comfortable and Cozy

Filed in Feature Homes by on September 27, 2014

10143406705_f65d0d28f6_oMike and Jane Swenson weren’t looking for an extravagant place on the lake. Rather, they wanted a semi-secluded home-away-from-home to escape the busy city life with enough space to accommodate family and friends.

Through a collaboration effort between their builder, interior designer and themselves, the Eagan couple created a cozy cottage set among towering pines on Lake Margaret on the Gull Chain in Lake Shore. Brett Jans, owner of Timberwood Construction in Nisswa, said the Swensons came to him in 2007 after having purchased and lived in an existing cabin on the property. The couple had visions of a rustic, yet modern, getaway and came prepared to meet Jans with a floor plan in hand. Due to ordinances of the lakeshore property, the existing foundation was saved to preserve the exact footprint, constraining the Swensons to build exactly in the same space.

“It wasn’t a big cabin, but that’s what we had to work with,” Jans said, noting they did add square footage by extending slighting out to the roadside.

Construction commenced in the fall of 2007; and, by early spring 2008, it was move-in ready.

“We’d been coming to the area for 31 years,” Mike Swenson said, and their family of three children loved summers on the lake. The family rented a property on Margaret for 17 years before discovering the property where their current cottage sits. The cabin just five houses down from their initial rental, was for sale. Mike and Jane walked down one afternoon to take a look. The next day, it was theirs.

The cozy and comfortable master bedroom faces the lake and the half bath room is located between the hall and spare bedroom.

The cozy and comfortable master bedroom faces the lake and the half bath room is located between the hall and spare bedroom.

“We didn’t want a great big cabin,” Jane said. “We just wanted something comfortable and cozy.

So, after eight years, the couple opted to tear down the existing cabin and build something to fit that cottage-look vision.

“The other cabin was just getting old and tired,” Mike said. “And it didn’t have that great of a view.”

It was while they were golfing that the couple came across an advertisement for Timberwood Construction and decided to contact the local business for a bid. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Working in the real estate development field, Mike had a friend help create a basic plan that they gave Jans at their first meeting. From there, the Swensons brought in their interior decorator from the metro area and they got to work planning the perfect cottage for the limited space they were allowed on the property.

“I did nothing,” Mike laughed, saying after working in the construction industry, he gladly opted out of the planning process. “But I did catch the fish and shot the deer,” he added, motioning toward the taxidermied mounts on the living room wall.

The threesome collaborated, bringing a variety of ideas together including large timber beams and reclaimed wood accents.

“The whole process was an experience,” Jans said, noting the feature that stands out most in his mind regarding this project was the hand-distressed floors throughout the main level.

“We put down new boards, and then took chains and hammers and a torch to it to make worn tracks and give it that worn look. It sounds easy, but it’s a lot of work.”

Jans added small personal touches thorough the cottage. He whittled wall hooks for the entryway and hand crafted the wood top for the kitchen island, as well as a small table that Jane requested for jigsaw puzzles.

Jans added small personal touches thorough the cottage. He whittled wall hooks for the entryway and hand crafted the wood top for the kitchen island, as well as a small table that Jane requested for jigsaw puzzles.

Jans also added small, personal touches to the cottage flooring, including etching a “J” in the kitchen floor and an “M” in the small office off the entry. He also whittled wall hooks for the entry and hand crafted the wood top for the kitchen island, as well as a small table that Jane requested for jigsaw puzzles. He also preserved a vintage weather vane from the original property and integrated it into the living area of the new cottage.

“Brett was actively involved from start to finish,” Mike said. “He came to meet use and had on a tool belt, not a suit and tie. It’s pretty impressive when the owner of a business comes ready to work.”

Jane agreed. “He was very attentive to our needs.”

White wainscoting in areas of the cottage give it a crisp appearance, and wide plank boards lend to the cozy feel. Large windows on the lakeside allow for a better view of the water and the minimal maintenance landscaping, done by Little Yukon Landscaping.

Indoors, the cottage houses the master bedroom and bath, as well as a half bath and spare room. However, guests won’t run short on space considering a one-time shed adjacent to the cottage was transformed into a guesthouse, complete with a toilet and sink. Also on the property is an original bunkhouse the couple acquired, equipped with bunk beds and single beds for even more company.

“It’s wonderful because we have separate places for people to spend their time,” Jane said, including their three grown children who visit often with friends.

“It’s a great spot, because we’re tucked away, yet we have access to the larger lakes.”

The open floor plan that includes the kitchen, dining and living rooms is tied together with the large wood beam trusses an give the cozy cottage a much more grand feeling inside.

The open floor plan that includes the kitchen, dining and living rooms is tied together with the large wood beam trusses an give the cozy cottage a much more grand feeling inside.

Kathy Walker was the interior designer behind the east coast feel of white wainscoting and light blue hues. Jane met Walker several years ago at Ethan Allen and hired her to help decorate their circa 1880s farmhouse in Eagan. Having her as an integral part in the design of their cozy cottage getaway was only natural.

“When I talked to Jane about her vision for this cottage, she kept using the words ‘fresh,’ and ‘light and airy,'” Walker noted. “The old cabin on the property was very dark inside.”

“I’ve always loved the houses around Nantucket on the ocean with light blues and white,” she added. “Fortunately, Jane and I had the same vision.”

Walker said the women worked alongside builder Brett Jans on every detail from board size to trim design.

“When the wood went up on the walls, the guys on the job kept asking ‘Are you really going to paint this?’ Jane would look at me and I’d say ‘Stay strong! Don’t let them talk you out of it!’ But it really did turn out beautifully.”

In the end, the completed project was more than anyone had envisioned, giving the Swensons a new cabin with an old cottage feel.

“It was a fun process,” Walker said of the collaboration between homeowner, builder and designer. “We had a good time doing it. It really was a designer’s dream.”

More photos, including photos not seen in the magazine, are available in the slideshow below.

by Jenny Holmes, a writer from Nisswa.

 

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