Lighthouse Living

Filed in Feature Homes by on April 2, 2015

Paulson-MP_MG_2781By Merrie Sue Holtan | Photography by Thru Him Photography


Gina Paulson has always loved the sea. As a little girl, she dreamed about living in a lighthouse. For several years, Gina and husband, Jeff, worked the family farm near Hanska, Minn., where they lived in another kind of sea. A sea of corn. Yep, that’s right. They built a new home in the middle of a corn field. “Couldn’t even see the house for the corn,” Jeff says.


IMG_0121The allure of the water kept calling Gina however, and in 2013, when the couple had opportunity to build a new home on Lake Miltona’s Ideal Beach near Alexandria, they took the plunge. No longer a fairy tale for Gina, she now lives in a lakeside house with a tower/ light house, on one of the most beautiful and historical sandy shore beaches in Minnesota, Lake Miltona’s Gold Coast. In August 2014, their home appeared on the Vikingland Builders Association Tour of Homes, where they welcomed over six hundred guests.


What does it take to make a fairy tale dream come true? Well, some hard work, planning, dreaming, revising the plan, revising the dream, contracting, constructing and pushing through a mega-tough winter to complete the project on time. Local companies working together formed the “dream team” to construct the 3180 square foot home.


As a farm couple, Gina and Jeff lent their “Jack and Jill” of all skills to the project. Gina, who passionately reads home magazines, found the visual floor plan she wanted and kept pictures and a notebook for five years.


IMG_0099“The design was a combination Cape Cod and Caribbean,” she says. “And I knew it was the yellow- painted tower house I had always dreamed of, but how to make it work on our 105 feet of lakeshore was another matter.”


Shircliff Construction, Inc. of Parkers Prairie went to work as project managers, and Jeff lent his help with some general contracting and electrical work. Hilltop Lumber and Nathan Bradford in Alexandria drafted the plans for the house, and Klimek Bros. Well Drilling, Inc. provided drilling services.


Other subcontractors included Larson Painting, L & O Plumbing and Heating, and Henning Excavating. “Our company enjoys doing things that are one of a kind,” says Don Shircliff. “When I first saw the preliminary plans, I said ‘wow’ and ‘cool’ a lighthouse. In the back of my mind, I was thinking about the height restrictions in our area and how to somehow make this work. Despite one of the coldest winters on Miltona plus northwest winds, we managed to make the Paulson’s dream a reality.”


In the beginning….


In 1979, Jeff’s father, Orville, who farmed the Hanska homestead, purchased the last two cabins, which had been a part of Ideal Beach Resort.


IMG_0161“He wanted a sandy beach, hard sand bottom (no rocks) with a gradual 150 foot walk out into the water,” Jeff says. “He wanted it to be good for kids and grandkids. One of the cabins had a small basement, the other did not.”


For Jeff and Gina, who worked as a para-professional in the school system, summers meant going back and forth from the farm to the lake. In 2010, they began spending more and more time at the lake. In 2012, an opportunity arose to purchase the property.


“It was a slow process after the decision to build,” Jeff says. “We needed excavation for a basement, a new well dug and a house moved after we decided to keep one cabin as a guest cabin and remove the other for our new home.”


Structural features of the unique, contemporary two and one half story home include: two bedrooms with balconies, Geo Decking decks with a water shedding system, exterior vinyl yellow siding dressed up with covered porches, spray foam insulation, a heat pump and in-floor heating, a balcony and the lookout tower.


Really a light house


Gina achieved the effect she wanted for a “light house.” With 19 foot ceilings and 42 windows, light streams in from every direction.


16974565666_47ea225266_z“Overall we wanted a ‘beachy’ look to the home,” Gina says. “The paint colors, white, subtle green and blue hues along with shades of brown and blue flooring complete the beach look.”


A three -season porch opens to the lake featuring clear vinyl windows which convert into screens. Gina, a longtime collector of antiques, also repurposes old finds into contemporary styles. She reports success at recent craft sales where she has been selling her repurposed furniture and home accessories.


“All of our furniture on the screen porch, I found at thrift stores,” she says. “I went to many farm auctions in the 1980’s and prowled around home stores for furnishings. And yes, I’ve been known to dumpster dive a bit. The furniture in the main living room are the only new pieces we bought for this house.”


Gina also knew exactly what she wanted for lighting, and she sought out fan blades in the form of leaves (one is a palm leaf) to enhance the Caribbean theme. They found a salvaged captain’s wheel from an old river boat in Davenport, Iowa. It sits atop the gas fireplace mantel along with sailboats and lighthouses.


The kitchen features custom Swedberg Wood Products cabinets with square frame beaded panel and staggered upper cabinets. The flooring throughout is sturdy Kardean vinyl planks and tiles with custom borders; the showers are a mixture of porcelain and ceramic tiles. Vanity tops feature cultured granite, and the master bath has a hammered copper sink.


16999748242_d1a44542f2_zA staircase leads to the 180 square foot lofted balcony, where the three (number four expected soon) Paulson grandchildren have their special sleeping area. The kids also love the lookout tower and the spiral staircase leading to the deck overlooking Lake Miltona’s seven mile stretch across its 5600 acres.


The second cabin next door, painted to match the house, gives privacy for the Paulson’s three children and families. Son, Ryan, who recently relocated to Miltona, did the concrete stamping around the lake home and assisted his parents with landscaping. In 2012, a 24-foot by 40-foot shop was built in the back, which houses street rod vintage cars.


It certainly takes a village to make a fairy tale dream come true. Gina now has the lighthouse of her dreams and agrees with the plaque which greets their guests, “Life is Good at the Beach.”


In fact, for the Paulsons – it’s Ideal.


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



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