Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Scott Amundson Photography
When this Fargo family first sat down with Chris Hawley Architects to discuss their West Battle Lake build, the conversation got, well… a little steamy. Their new home’s design had to start with the sauna, the same way it had been done by the Finnish for centuries. For the homeowners, having a sauna was not just an amenity, it was a necessity and a time-honored tradition of their Finnish family tree. See inside the award-winning family retreat, that’s bound to inspire guests to sweat it out and run for the lake.
As Hawley explained, “Fins tend to be crazy about their saunas. Most of the time, these are detached buildings, but our site didn’t allow that, so it became a part of the house, which is pretty awesome,” said Hawley. “The sauna conversation drove the project. In terms of its location, it was a really important part of the project and was discussed in our very first meeting.”
Sweat it Out
“The sauna is my favorite part because it has an amazing view of the lake when you’re sitting on the bench,” said Hawley. It’s part of the home, but immediately accessible to the outside. From the exterior, it’s located just behind the black, spiral staircase to the side of the master suite, so guests can come and go as they please. The area consists of the master suite, sauna, laundry and three-quarter bath, all connected so they can come right in from the lake without having to walk through the house.
Coordinating with the rustic, stone entrance details, the great room’s fireplace extends nearly 20 feet to the second level’s living space and Moso bamboo ceiling fan. As a unique design element and extension of the heated concrete flooring, a poured concrete firewood storage area was built near the bottom and doubles as a sitting bench.
Near the main entrance, Hawley and contractor, Jackson Strom, worked with Straightline Design to fabricate the custom staircase and railing.
“If you look at a classic, 1950s cabin at the lake, the way that they used to be built was, they’d build a masonry fireplace, then build a wood house around it. That’s kind of here, but it’s done in a very 2018 way. It’s evocative of an old-school cabin, but meeting far more of the needs of the homeowners.”
Entering from a sliding barn door in the great room, this room has been designated as the den and sunroom, with a stunning view of the lake. From the exterior vantage point, this is the left, cedar-sided box facing the water. A two-sided, stone fireplace with custom steel detailing creates the focal point for their more casual living space. Cedar ceilings match the room’s exterior siding with polished concrete flooring for a more natural approach.
Recently, this project was awarded Juror’s Choice by the North Dakota Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. “This was one of our first projects where we did the construction management on it as well,” said Hawley. “We designed and built it all in-house.” While Hawley was the main designer and did the initial front elevation and the floor plan, Strom managed the 3-D models of the home and the construction drawings. As the project progressed, Strom assisted Hawley in making tweaks to the original design, customizing it to meet the needs of the family.
One idea that the homeowners presented to Hawley, was the concept of the kitchen being located at the back of the cabin. “Typically you see people come straight into the kitchen at the lake, but what’s cool about this is the fact that the door to the lake is wide open and the dining room is almost outside,” said Hawley. “When you’re standing in the kitchen, it still feels like you’re part of that lake scene. We typically don’t lay out houses this way, but it’s awesome.”
A major focal point in the kitchen, this column wrapped with steel and 2×2 cedar sections, was fabricated by Straightline Design and provides a transitional wall, dividing the kitchen and the main entrance.
“If we’re going to be honest, it seems like pretty much everything Chris Hawley Architects is a part of turns out awesome. This project was just remarkable and it was an absolute blast to be a part of it.”
Eric Soyring, Straightline Design
For the kitchen design, Chris Hawley Architects worked with Bill Tweten, a Certified Master Kitchen and Bath Designer from Western Products. Wall-hung cabinetry in a sleek, contemporary design, flows seamlessly with high-end Cambria countertops to an adjacent wet bar. The family chose their own Mid-century Modern-inspired, lighting throughout the home.
A stand-out feature on the main floor is the 12-foot-wide, bi-folding door panels which completely open the dining room setting to the exterior’s private patio and lake view. “We designed this with a motorized screen that comes down at the touch of a button, creating an interior, screened-in porch,” said Strom. “The bi-folding wall of doors is a great feature, but they don’t work well for going in and out throughout the day, so we made sure to include a swing door to the side of it.”
“Classically, a dining room table doesn’t get used unless it’s in a place where it should be used,” said Hawley. “In this case, it was front and center. The homeowners love to entertain and have dinner parties. They actually use their table and really enjoy each other’s company.”
This is the actual cedar from the exterior that was designed to flow through to the interior wall, creating the backdrop for the kitchen. The doorway on this wall is the entry to the master suite.
“There were a lot of design elements that were indicative of a classic, Minnesota, shed-roof cabin,” said Hawley. “The stone chimney has a 1950s type of cabin approach, but they have the contemporary wood boxes that extend from the inside to the exterior. That’s really one of the coolest features in the design, especially the master bedroom. The master suite has a prime location facing the lakeside in the right hand, cedar-sided box.”
According to Hawley, the homeowner bought this entry light fixture back when she was in college, with the intent to put it somewhere, at some point in her life. “It’s a 1950s or 60s fixture but looks like something in a Mid-century Modern style you’d find now. So, she’s been saving this for about 20 years,” said Hawley.
Open-Concept Bathroom Design
With efficient design in mind, Chris Hawley Architects created a singular, yet spacious bathroom with an open concept, designed for sharing. The only private, doored spaces are the shower and toilet. The shower is a room in itself with an area designated for changing. The vanity area with double sinks and coffee bar is considered a large, communal space in a centralized location accessing the three upstairs bedrooms.
“We do a lot of these at the lakes, it’s a great solution for people who don’t want to clean three separate bathrooms for guests,” said Hawley. “What people always do with bathroom design is create one doored-off space which holds the shower, toilet, tub and sink area. So, that is a design where you can only have one person in there at a time. This is only one bathroom, but three people can easily be using it at one time. At the end of the day, it saves a lot of money and works just as well.”
Classic Cabin + Contemporary
The homeowners chose one of the last available lots on West Battle Lake with a 100-foot shoreline and a wooded lot that could accommodate their design. “We basically maxed this lot out – but we have to remain 10-feet from the lot lines,” said Strom. “If you looked at the lot from an aerial view, you’d see that the home is almost touching that 10-foot line at four different spots. The lot consists of 100 feet on the shoreline and it trails back to about 90 feet on the roadside. It’s parallel with the lakefront but then angles back to accommodate the smaller part of the lot.”
From the roadside, Hawley designed two intersecting mono-pitches with cedar soffits. On the left, the black dryvit garage has a custom cedar door and bonus room above while the other side represents the main form of the house. The two are connected by a more traditional, cabin-style, stone accent and custom steel trellis with inset 2×6 cedar boards.
“A design perspective that I try to do on a lot of projects, is to create a pocket or a u-shape with the building,” said Hawley. “So, when you’re sitting on your patio, you’ll have ultimate privacy and the neighbors can’t see you.”
Hawley achieved this by using two mono-pitched rooflines with two cedar boxes that extended out toward the lakeside. This created a private, courtyard area between the two. The right side cedar box is the master bedroom with a rooftop patio and access from the black spiral staircase, while the left side features and den and sunroom.
Elevating the View
A Jack-and-Jill patio for three upstairs bedrooms, the homeowners’s rooftop space is custom-designed with guests in mind. Hawley and Strom worked with Straightline Design to create the spiral staircase and steel-fabricated railing which incorporates lighting within the handrail. The exterior’s spiral staircase is their own entrance to that living space and direct access to the lake and sauna. Not missing a detail, they also ran a line up to the rooftop, allowing for a gas fire pit for their upstairs guests to enjoy.
Carrying on a Finnish Tradition
If you want to learn more about the health benefits and long-standing sauna tradition, Hawley suggests a book called, “The Opposite of Cold” which he considers the “bible” of saunas. He’s also done his research, sharing information about how the Fins immigrated to the United States and set up shop in the Duluth, M.N., area. “Back in the turn-of-the-century, you’d walk down Main Street and every three storefronts was a sauna or bath house. That’s how important it was to their culture,” said Hawley. “When the Fins first moved here, they would build a sauna first – live in it, bathe in it, give birth to their kids in it; it was like the center of Finnish life back then and still is for many.”
Find the Finishes:
Architect and contractor – Chris Hawley & Jackson Strom – Chris Hawley Architects
Steel fabrication – Eric & Tami Soyring, Straightline Design
Cabinetry & Countertops – Bill Tweten, CMKBD – Western Products
Great room ceiling fan – Haiku, by Big Ass Fans
Lighting – Homeowners
For more information, contact:
Chris Hawley Architects
2534 S. University Drive #3, Fargo