Manitou Island Haven

Filed in Feature Homes by on November 1, 2013

337 Manitou Island on White Bear Lake could easily be described as Mayberry with sand and water.


The peaceful island exemplifies the quiet and relaxed pace of life sought by many people today, yet it’s located just outside of the Twin Cities. This beautiful, old-fashioned oasis is where Mark and Rebecca Shavlik and their two children call home.


“When Mark and I first moved to White Bear Lake, we used to sneak out and look and the houses on the island. I am an architecture geek, and I also love living in a place with history, so we thought this area was great. It’s a really unique place to live,” says Rebecca.


Some say that White Bear Lake was the object of the short story Winter Dreams by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was a summer resident on Manitou as a young man. The island is also rich with Sioux Indian history, and its name comes from a Sioux word meaning “habitation of great spirit.”


Mark and Rebecca met while both were attending the University of Wisconsin – Madison. After graduation, the couple moved to Seattle, where Mark landed his first job at Boeing Computer Services and later worked for Microsoft. After several years in Washington, the Shavliks wanted to return to the Midwest to raise their children and start their own company, Shavlik Technologies. They honed in on the Twin Cities area and ultimately chose White Bear Lake as the location for their dream home.



Their lot had been in the previous owner’s family since 1896, but it had been sitting empty for 10 years before the Shavliks bought it. (The summer home that was previously on the lot had been torn down after it deteriorated so badly that it couldn’t be restored.) Almost all of the lots and homes on the island had been passed down from generation to generation, so the Shavliks were fortunate to purchase their lot without any ties to the location.


“I think the fact that we had no relationship to anyone on the property actually benefited us,” says Rebecca. “We were able to come in with a clean slate and start making our own history.”


Construction of the nearly 10,000-square-foot sprawling home began in fall 2006 and was complete in January 2009. The Shavliks chose Joe Metzler of Sala Archtiects and Peter Hagstrom and his team at Hagstrom Builders, Inc. to design and build their home. “The team at Sala was very helpful with taking my ideas, putting them on paper and making them one step better than I made them initially,” says Rebecca, “and Peter Hagstrom couldn’t have been more wonderful to work with.”



It was important to the Shavliks to build a house that blended well with the rest of the neighborhood and the other houses on the island. “There is a real turn-of-the-century feel to this part of White Bear Lake, and we wanted it to be a throwback to when it was a resort town but still incorporate all of the modern amenities we enjoy,’ Rebecca says.


The home boats four official bedrooms with additional sleeping spaces above the garage and on both porches, seven bathrooms, a shop and mechanical room, two offices, a formal dining room, kitchen, living room, two theater rooms, (mudroom and a separate boat house with even more sleeping space.


“We designed this house so we could grow old here. The main-level bathroom connects to a bedroom and is wheelchair accessible with wide doors and a large open shower. We also installed an elevator so in our later years we will still be able to use the upper levels of the house,” Rebecca says.



Being conscientious of the environment was also very important to the Shavliks. The home is heated and cooled with a geothermal system installed by Binder Heating & A/C of St. Paul. Although this home is several thousand square feet  larger than their previous home, it costs only a few hundred dollars more to heat per month. They used lyptus, an exotic species of wood grown to sustainable forest certification standards, throughout most of the house with the exception of some carpeted areas and Mark’s office, where there is bamboo flooring (which is also grown to sustainable forest certification standards).


The house combines expansive areas and vies with cozy, intimate spaces to curl up with a good book. “It’s the perfect home for entertaining, with it great common areas and wide-open design, but we have two older children, Anton, 20, and Irina, 15, so we wanted to make sure we had plenty of places for them to have their own space,” explains Rebecca. “We also wanted to have some really cozy gathering spots where we could all spend time together as a family.”



Their favorite places to share are the media room in the basement and the terrace off the living room, where they like to have dinner in the summer and enjoy the beautiful view of the lake.


The Shavliks are definitely a family that loves the lake and being out on the water. “We especially love tubing because no skills are required to have a great time,” Rebecca jokes. The family also enjoys their kayak, canoe and countless inflatable toys in the summer and cross country skiing and ice skating on the lake in the winter months.


Now that the family is settled into their beautiful home, they are staying true to the meaning of the island’s name, and their appreciation for this special haven will continue for years to come.



by Marianna Taves

Photography by Bryan Wendland


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