Their House, Their Ways

Filed in Feature Homes by on December 30, 2013

5406468258_7616551e18_b“Iso Tupa” is the Finnish name given to the Sand Lake home of Bill and Lona Schreiber. It translates to “Grand Cottage,” a somewhat contradictory title but so fitting to the home. Contradictions extend beyond its name to the house itself and its owners.

The Schreibers met some years ago when both were legislators in the Minnesota House of Representatives. Bill, a Republican, represented the north metro area of the Twin Cities for 18 years. Lona served the Rangers of northern Minnesota for 10 years as a Democrat.

They were married to other people at the time. It wasn’t until years later at a political function, when both were free, that they began their relationship. Despite their philosophical differences, both agree the other is morally upstanding and intellectually astute. So refreshing to hear from members of rival political parties!

Their home is decidedly Finnish, a bow to Lona’s heritage and the history of the property. The land came into Lona’s family in the early 1940s when her grandfather’s nephew, Eino, purchased two lake lots and reconstructed from a Finnish homestead to a “tupa,” a modest two-room cabin. Lona has fond memories of time spent there as a child. She display photos throughout her home, inviting those memories into today.

After Eino’s death, the cabin was purchased by someone outside the family. In 1997, some 25 years later, Lona drove past the property. Eino’s name was still on the old garage. On a whim she contacted the owner and found he was willing to sell. The tupa – the cottage – was in Lona’s family once more. It was time to make it grand.

5406468160_db17d5fe54_bConstruction began in 2006. The Schreibers have traveled to Finland several times and opted to include Finnish elements into their new home, including the unique design of outside windows and door trim boards, the red outside trim color, the Tulikivi fireplace, and the floor plan patterned after older Finnish farmsteads where the mother and father would reside on one side and the eldest son and his family on the other, with a family/gathering space in between.

And what self-respecting Finnish home would be without a sauna? With a Republican and a Democrat sharing close quarters and lively conversation, it’s likely that the heat and steam found in the traditional lakeside Finnish sauna is due to more than water on hot stone!

Oma Tupa was built in two phases over a three-year period. A draftsman’s plan guided the construction of the guest area that has an IKEA look, very Scandinavian with Finnish blue and light woods. It’s a perfect place to host the Schreiber’s blended family, including their six grandchildren. It has its own kitchen, living area, bedrooms and laundry facilities.

An architect was hired for the second phase that features a mission-style design and dark woods. This main living area, the owner’s side, includes a 1920s era quarter-sawn oak room divider made into a dinning room buffet and interior doors removed from Bill’s mother’s home in the Twin Cities. There are antique light fixtures and a stained glass insert from the owner’s previous home. In a wink and a nod to Bill’s German heritage, eyebrow windows were included to the roof of this second phase.

There is stark contrast between the first and second phases, but again it just fits. Daughter Heather Larson, designer and proprietress of Heather Ann Interiors of Duluth, lent her creative talents to the Schreibers’ vision. Another Finnish saying found in the home, “Oma Tupa, Oma Lupa,” is loosely translated to “our house, our ways.” It is an apt description of how the Schreibers feel about the eclectic floor plan and design.

A geothermal system heats and cools both phases but allows for separate zones for adjusting when the guest area is unoccupied. Solar tube lights are installed in windowless areas,  and there is an on-demand water heating system for the guest area.

This house was designed for welcoming family and friends. The visits of children and grandchildren are highly anticipated. The Schreibers’ pride in family is evident. Lona has a collection of her grandchildren’s artwork displayed in a secluded loft area that is a favored retreat. At the beast of the stairs leading to the loft is a life size drawing of a young Lona done by a family friend.

5405861551_9af7c6a5a7_bIn addition, Lona’s pride in her heritage is seen throughout, most prevalently in the kitchen. She collects iitala glassware, made by a Finnish design company, and displays it prominently. the Schreibers spend the majority of their time here. Lona loves to cook and try new recipes. A family favorite is her pulla, a Finnish cardamom bread. The grandkids’ eyes grow wide when a tray is pulled from the oven, piping hot, slabs spread generously with melting butter. Whether Lona is baking pulla or experimenting with some other new recipe, Bill can be found nearby, catching up on the news of the day in front of a small TV located just off the kitchen.

They don’t fish or boat, traditional reasons for seeking a life at the lake. Bill’s primary activity is working on the land. Both are sensitive to erosion and runoff concerns for their lake. They utilize rain barrels, rain gardens and wildlife planting, and they have a buffer zone between lake and lawn. There are many planting and yard projects yet to be done.

That’s life at the lake, but it’s not truly a chore. It doesn’t seem like work when you are in the quiet outdoors, just hearing the loons and birds and wind in the trees, they agree.

For more photos of the Schreiber Feature Home scroll down for the slideshow. 

by Sheri Davich | Photography by John Connelly

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