Nestled in the Towering Pines

Filed in Feature Homes by on December 25, 2013

larsonThe year was 1987, the children were 8 and 3 and Doug and Mary Larson were up north visiting friends with no intention whatsoever of purchasing their own cabin. Life was good – they had a home that they loved in the Twin Cities, life was busy and they wanted for nothing. All of that changed when they saw the little two-bedroom cabin nestled among the towering pines on Cross Lake.

So began the two decades of weekends and holidays at the cabin – of long and lazy days in the sun and nights gathered round the campfire. When Doug and Mary reflected on all the marvelous times with friends and family over the years, they knew that there little piece of paradise was where they wanted to spend their retirement years. They’d had enough of driving back and forth between the fast pace of the city and the peaceful days and nights up north, and they wanted to create something more comfortable for the place they would now call home.

Exactly 20 years after they purchased their little cabin, they began making plans with Baratto Brothers of Crosslake to transform their charming and beloved weekend retreat into something that could accommodate their style of entertaining both inside and outside the home.

They’d come to cherish the time they spent outdoors, and they didn’t want to lose that. They loved chatting in the screen porch and around the firepit, and they couldn’t imagine life on the lake without those traditions. After spending so many years living and entertaining in an 850-square-foot cabin, they knew what worked for them and wanted to make sure their new home included the best of the old.


Knotty pine paneling throughout the house serves as a reminder of the old cabin. The open loft that overlooks the great room offers a quiet escape, yet is still connected to activity below.

The Larson felt the general flow and layout worked well in their tiny little cabin and wanted to duplicate the same seamless flow from indoors to out. They accomplished that with a great room that combines the living room, dinning room and kitchen, with spectacular views to the lake and the original vintage boathouse standing proudly at the water’s edge.

A pair of double French doors open to a magnificent porch that runs the width of the house. The porch was designed to accommodate screened outdoor dinning on one side and an open-air seating area that is anchored by a wood-burning stone fireplace on the other, creating a flawless extension to the interior living spaces.

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The Larsons love to cook and entertain at home. Among their favorite recipes are Grandma’s Old Swedish Hard Tack and Eddie Webster’s Wild Rice Soup.

Having come from so little space, they were determined to enjoy every inch of the 3,000 square feet of living space in their new lake home. Tucked into the stairwell wall is a softly lit niche where Doug and Mary display some of their favorite things. Nestled under the stairs in the great room is a bar that allows convenient and intimate entertaining beside the two-story fireplace and, at the end of the hall between the kitchen and the laundry room, they’ve created a cozy library and home office.

The open loft area that overlooks the great room offers comfortable seating for those who seek a quiet escape but still want to be connected to the activities in the space below. A table in the loft can easily handle an hour or two of letter-writing,  work on a puzzle or a rousing game of cards, while the players enjoy the crackling fire below and the views of the lake. If you’re yearning for fresh air, the loft door opens to an upper deck that’s right in the treetops. Reach out, and you can touch the pine boughs.

The Larsons even took advantage of the space above the garage, turning it into a haven for guests. They built the room thinking, “Build it and they will come,” and they were right. Its custom-built twin beds are reminiscent of Scandinavian-style bed cabinets, each with its own reading light, a niche for books and teddy bears and side-by-side full-depth drawers built into the base.


The Larsons even took advantage of the space above the garage, turning it into a haven for guests. They built the room thinking “Build it and they will come,” and they were right.

Matching window seats are tucked into the dormers, with built-in storage beneath each seat. The room, dubbed the “oh, my gosh room” by some of the Larsons’ guests, has its own coffee bar so guests can brew a cup of coffee and escape through a private access to the upper deck before the rest of the house awakens.

The lower level of the house offers self-contained guest quarters with a guest bedroom, full bath, sauna, full bar, media center and a pool table.

As a constant reminder of the history the have with their home, the Larsons have two items prominently displayed in their dining room: One is a very special drawing of their cozy little cabin that was given to them by a dear friend. The other is a bird house designed and built by a friend using bits and pieces from the old house, with the original door knob serving as the perch.

When they look back on the building process, the Larsons agree they accomplished all they set out to do. The only disappointment came early on in the project, when it became apparent that one of their majestic red pines was not going to survive the trauma of construction. Their builder suggested that they salvage the tree and have it milled for trim, and they now have hundreds of feet of the grand old tree as an integral part of their new home.

by Susan Ackerman, a writer who lives on a hobby farm in Deerwood

Photography by Henry Hempel

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