The Family Plan: Heiser lake cabin is built to suit a growing clan

Filed in Feature Homes, In This Issue by on December 28, 2016


By Patricia Carlson

When Justin Heiser’s parents semi-retired and purchased some land on Maple Lake, they smartly invested in some extra space. The idea was to create a haven for their three children, Justin, Amber and Brittni, and their growing families.

The only problem? Everyone was living in campers when they visited the lake, which is just south of Alexandria.

“We were out there on the weekends in the campers,” says Justin, Senior Vice President of Pharmacy for Thrifty White Pharmacy. “Fortunately, we were not living there full time.”

“I wouldn’t have been able to handle that,” adds wife Abby, with a laugh.

To make matters more complicated, Abby, Amber and Brittni were all pregnant at the same time.

“The babies are all three months apart,” says Abby, a remote executive assistant for the founder of Clinical Supplies Management in Fargo. “One of us was three months pregnant and the others six and nine months. All little boys.”


Needless to say, something had to change with all the little bambinos running around. “I think we really enjoyed being out there and it was really great because one of my sisters lives in Fargo and the other lives in the Cities. Seeing the cousins getting to play together and be positive influences on each other on the weekends, it became apparent to Abby and I that we wanted something more permanent,” explains Justin. “We saw ourselves coming out here for years to come.”

The Heiser siblings all started to look for spaces of their own on Maple Lake. Justin, Amber and Brittni found three lots all next to each other on the land their parents owned. The family plan was working.


What to Build

Aside from knowing they wanted to build a permanent second residence on Maple Lake, Justin and Abby didn’t really know how to tackle a project that big. So, they did what any web-savvy person with an interest in home building or renovating does nowadays, they turned to Houzz, an online platform for home design and remodeling.

Houzz features real-life layouts, architecture, remodeling and interior design projects, complete with manufacturer, pricing and shopping information. The couple compiled folder after folder of images and ideas of the type of home they’d like to create. Together, they sketched an idea out and brought it to Phil and Jon Haabala of Haabala Construction Inc., in Alexandria.

“They had a bunch of pictures they were showing me of things they liked,” says Jon. “We took their ideas and had a draftsman draw it up for us. We looked at how we’d fit it on the lot and how they wanted everything to work. It was pretty simple.”

Justin puts it another way, “Jon was very patient with us.”


Key Architectural Features

Justin and Abby, whose main residence is in Maple Grove, had several key architectural features they wanted incorporated into their new lake home.

An open floor plan was paramount considering the amount of family and friends the Heisers would be entertaining, especially with relatives right next door. “Our home in Maple Grove is very open and what we love about that is when we have a lot of family get-togethers, people can be throughout the house but still feel like we are together,” says Abby.

The home features an incredibly large main room that opens to the kitchen. It has a magnificent wood ceiling with exposed beams and distressed wood flooring, perfect for hiding any scratches made by the family Weimaraner dog. Adjacent to the kitchen is a separate grill and bar area with wood shiplap on the walls and ceiling. The big sell of this room is the pellet-burning smoker complete with its own hood. “The large hood sucks so much air out we had to put a make up air unit in,” laughs Justin.


Indoor-outdoor capabilities were a must, too. Although the Heisers love the outdoors and the views their Maple Lake cabin would provide, they did not want to be chased inside by the elements like mosquitos and bitter cold. They settled on a three-tier system. Off the main floor with access points from the great room and the master bedroom is a proper deck. Exterior steps then lead down to a paver patio that runs along the entire rear of the home. Just inside the paver patio is a dynamic throwback porch complete with retro-looking beadboard, exposed aggregate flooring that mimics pebbles in a lake, wood-burning fireplace and adjustable paneled windows that can completely open to the outside or remain closed.

Finally, the Heisers wanted their home to fit a growing family. The couple already has one child, Jaxson who turned 3 in January, and they are hoping to add a sibling soon. Therefore, Justin and Abby built two basement bedrooms. “We’ve already been able to use it that way when we have friends out to the lake,” says Justin.


Cape Cod Cool Meets Minnesota Masculine

Narrowing down the design aesthetic proved the most difficult challenge for the couple.

“Initially what we were going for was a Cape Cod or East Coast theme,” explains Abby. “But during the process we learned we love that style and look but we also love the Minnesota lake feel. What we ended with is a Cape Cod and Minnesota blend.”

You can see the influence of both styles throughout the home. Dark wood on floors and ceilings are juxtaposed with white cabinetry in the kitchen and bathrooms. Furniture and accessories from Pottery Barn used throughout the home bring the mixed look together.

But the large multi-use room off the kitchen (it stores the pantry, office space, laundry room, and dog kennel) is entirely the couple’s unique idea. The couple cannot stand clutter. “Everything has a place,” says Abby. They wanted a room where they could block out any blemishes to an otherwise spotless home.


“We wanted a space for our offices but we didn’t want to dedicate a whole room for it. And when you come home from the grocery store and your arms are full and company is coming you can drop it in there and shut the doors,” explains Justin.

The final piece of maximizing their Minnesota lake cabin is their two-story garage. The couple has a main floor three-stall garage and a tuck-under garage of the same size that can only be accessed from the rear of the home. “A three stall garage can fill up pretty quickly in the wintertime with boats and snowmobiles and vehicles,” says Justin. “All the lake toys and backyard toys and inner tubes and Jaxson’s toys for the sandbox are all stored down below.”

Despite all the space and amenities their lakeside retreat provides, don’t be surprised if you find the Heisers relaxing in their porch most of the time. Justin and Abby both count this vintage-looking gem as their favorite space and Jaxson loves to make s’mores by the fire.

Now that Justin’s parents are finally building a house on Maple Lake, too, the whole family will have their own lakeside abodes. Quite the family plan, indeed.

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