hen you’re no stranger to business travel, coming home is a vacation unto itself. Which is why a Wisconsin businessman and his wife asked designer Kimberly Knight and architect John Vetter to design a family abode that leaves no desire for them or their children to go anywhere else. “He didn’t want a weekend house,” explains Knight. “He said, ‘I want this to be my weekend home–my getaway, my lake house.’ ”
Knight and Vetter were tapped to create a casual, comfortable yet elegant space, from soup to nuts. Knight was tasked with selecting every interior detail from the furniture and finishes down to the towels and bed linens. “He is a high-level executive and understands how to put together a project,” says the designer of the freedom they were given by the husband. “He had the right team in place and he decided to go for it.”
Taking inspiration from the simple farmsteads that dot the Wisconsin countryside, Vetter, working with builder Bruce Nordgren, conceived a sprawling home clad with dark-stained vertical cypress siding accented by a series of flat and gabled metal rooflines. “The building blurs itself,” says Vetter of the multiwing house, which flows seamlessly between indoors and out through the use of landscape walls, pavilions and outbuildings. A black stone walkway meanders through the front entry and out to the pool courtyard, and the rift sawn oak ceilings in the entry likewise breach the home’s envelope, further integrating indoors with out.
The relaxing milieu is also a hallmark of the interior, where the foyer’s 8-foot ceiling makes the peaked ceiling in the neighboring great room feel even more airy by comparison–“a feeling of uplift,” is how Vetter describes it. A skylight over the floor-to-ceiling limestone chimney enhances the effect. At the far end of the room, the open kitchen maintains a low profile, with the refrigerator concealed behind white oak panels. Instead of the large stainless steel hood the owner envisioned, Knight convinced him to go with a subtler plaster one that complements the quartzite countertop and backsplash.
The designer also took great care to arrange a comfy living area, incorporating plush furnishings in front of the stone fireplace. Selecting such pieces without her client’s input was one of the most difficult parts of the project. She recruited the tallest men she could find to stand in for her 6-foot-4-inch client, rating furnishings for comfort before she placed any orders, noting, “What’s comfortable for me is not necessarily comfortable for somebody who’s a foot taller than me.”
In the open dining area, hand-blown glass pendants illuminate a custom solid wood dining table so heavy four people were needed to carry it inside. “You could absolutely dance on this table!” Knight exclaims. Stylish and practical, the chairs are slipcovered in a durable indoor-outdoor fabric selected with the kids in mind.
The children were not a factor in the husband’s office, however, where handsome custom cabinetry is stained to match leather-covered walls. A black desk plays off the dark windows, coordinating with the black Eames lounge chair and a midcentury modern abstract artwork by Graham Harmon. Even though it’s a work space, it feels serene. And, Knight observes, “When you walk in this room, the smell of leather is amazing.”
For this family, relaxation is about being together. So the design team created several lively entertainment spaces. On the lower level, a sectional sofa anchors a seating area in front of the limestone fireplace, which floats in the center of the room. On the other side of the fireplace, steel-framed windows enclose a climate-controlled wine room furnished with wool-and-leather club chairs atop a hair-on-hide rug. And the main living areas open to an outdoor kitchen and dining area. Nylon rope chairs surround a long table with a concrete top in the dining area. And teak lounge chairs with plush tailored cushions offer a relaxing spot from which to look out over the infinity-edge swimming pool. “It’s definitely the place to be,” Knight says.
Indeed, being here feels very much like being on vacation–just what the owners had in mind. At the culmination of the nearly two-year construction project, Knight staged the entire house. And then, on a Friday night, came the big reveal: “They were just floored,” she says. “I really think we hit it.”
“We created something that elevated, enhanced and enriched their life,” Vetter adds. “That’s the best thing you can get from a project.”
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