Relaxing Retreat on Star Lake

Filed in Feature Homes by on January 10, 2014

Rongen-DecJan-RelaxingRetreatOnStarLakeA path framed by a forest of tall trees gently leads the way to a scenic lot overlooking Star Lake. At the end of the winding road visitors will find the Rongen home. “One of the first things people comment on is the beautiful drive,” remarks Barry Rongen. “There’s a half-mile of trail through the woods to get to our home.” This idyllic, private setting perfectly fulfills a longtime dream Barry and Connie Rongen shared to someday build a year-round home on one of Minnesota’s beautiful lakes.

They designed their home to complement its wooded, lakeside setting. Concrete siding in a neutral timber bark color helps the house fit in with the surrounding trees. Two deck areas and a patio off the back of the home seamlessly open the living space into outdoor space, with large windows allowing in plenty of light.

Construction on the house began in May 2011. “We found out this property was up for sale eight years ago,” Barry explains. Connie’s parents, Melvin and Jane Hoaas, have a year-round home on Star Lake right near the three lots Barry and Connie purchased to build their dream home.

11145783414_000e9e1aab_o“Because Connie spent her summers here as a young girl, she knew the area. We also wanted to be closer to her parents,” Barry explains of their decision to build on the west arm of Star Lake. Connie has fond memories hanging out with kids from the area’s resorts when she was growing up. Barry had a similar experience, also growing up on a lake as a young boy.

After owning the Star Lake property for several years, Barry and Connie sold their home in Devils Lake, North Dakota and moved into a condo. During that time Barry received a job transfer to this area. During the building process, they loved in the three-bedroom, one-bathroom cabin that remains on the property down near the lake. Even after their home was completed in April of 2012, the Rongens still use the cabin when entertaining guests.

“I love being on the lake and by the water,” Connie says of their decision to move to the heart of the Minnesota lakes area. “It’s also a big deal for me to be able to see my parents every day.”

Barry and Connie worked together to design the layout of their home. For years, Connie worked on adding clippings of future home ideas to a three-ring binder. Many of the eventual color and informal concept ideas for each room came from this compilation of the things that inspire her.

11145897633_1066bb688b_oWith a general plan in mind of how they wanted the house to look and feel, the Rongens enlisted the help of builder Rick Bladow, Bladow & Sons Construction, to make their dream a reality. “I handed him my drawings and then he drew up the plans,” Barry explains. “Rick made the whole process very simple and easy.”

One suggestion the Rongens took from Rick was to add a third level to the home that houses a spare room, library area, and a two-person office space. One of the highlights is a small deck off of the office area that overlooks the lake. Its position above the tree line provides a perfect vantage point to enjoy a morning cup of coffee.

The Rongens say that teaming up with Bladow and Sons to build their home was a natural fit. “We love that they are a family business and they do all of their own work. Each person in their family has their own area of expertise,” Barry explains. “They were all very committed to making sure we were happy with the end product.”

The finished three-bedroom, four-bathroom house offers approximately 6,000 square feet of living space. Oak wood floors throughout the main floor pair well with the home’s custom oak cabinetry and oak trim. “We patterned the cabinetry after the Craftsman style, I like the clean, simple lines,” Connie remarks.

Although elements such as the home’s cabinets and built-ins reflect the Craftsman style, the Rongens didn’t strictly adhere to any singular design concept. Instead, they focused simply on incorporating what they liked and felt worked well for their family.

11145897683_c15da91eb9_o“We have three grown sons and we look forward to them getting married and having families,” says Connie. “Our primary goal was to create a family-friendly home.”

Her favorite room of the house is the open kitchen space, designed with entertaining in mind. Centrally located in the kitchen is a granite island workstation, complete with a second sink. Connie had a customized pull out lift for her KitchenAid mixer installed in one of the cabinets. All of the kitchen cabinets have pull out shelves and soft close doors.

A set of double ovens is another one of Connie’s favorite features in the kitchen. There’s even a kitchen television so Connie can be inspired by some of her favorite cooking shows while whipping up some of her own creations.

Antiques from Barry and Connie’s grandmothers fill the space above the kitchen cabinets, adding a personal touch to the spectacular kitchen. The pack deck off of the kitchen provides for a convenient inside to outside transition when entertaining guests. “Whenever we have friends over we’re often outside,” Connie says.

11145754106_7fe2191ec7_oOff of the kitchen is the main living room, with a wall of windows overlooking the lake. “We wanted the focus in this room to be on the view of the lake and the fireplace,” Connie explains. The floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace features a limestone mantel and a sitting hearth. A large flat screen television is hidden behind the doors of a custom-built cabinet.

The main floor also includes a guest bathroom, master bedroom, laundry room, and a large walk-through kitchen pantry. With the future in mind, Barry and Connie wanted all of the main living areas located on one level of the house.

In the basement, directly beneath the main floor living room, is another cozy seating area with a fireplace. DuraCeramic tiles line the basement floor. A hallway off of the basement living room leads to two additional bedrooms and bathrooms. One of the bedrooms was designed as a separate suite, with a handicap accessible bathroom.

There’s also a spacious game room complete with a pool table, shufflepuck table, darts, tic-tac-toe, and a bar area. Red walls in the game room add a pop of color to the otherwise neutral toned walls throughout the house. The walls of the game room are decked out with caricatures of the boys and sports memorabilia.

A patio off the basement overlooks the lake and leads down to a fire pit in the backyard. Future plans for this space include an outdoor shower and a hot tub. “We just love living here. I love it when all of the boys come home and we hang out as a family,” Connie says.

11145754256_7035ec8d54_oOne of her favorite family activities at their new home centers around the greenhouse Barry built in the front yard. Connie and her mom have spent hours together researching the best way to grow annual flowers and garden vegetables with the aid of the specialized greenhouse.

Just across the driveway from the greenhouse is a separate, insulated garage area that Barry is currently converting into a woodworking shop. His “man cave” includes a stone and refrigerator, workbench, and a custom Viking scene Connie is painting on the wall to reflect their family’s Norwegian pride.

Whether they’re enjoying a family bonfire by the lake, watching birds and other wildlife around the property, ice fishing with the boys during the winter, or relaxing on a pontoon cruise around the lake, Barry and Connie are thankful for the many perks of lake living their new home provides.

“We want people to walk into our home and be comfortable,” Connie summarizes. “We feel very blessed and we just love living here.”

by Heidi Kratzke, a writer from Ottertail

Photography by Bryan Wendland

To view additional photos of this home, click here.