[Lake Eunice: Fargo Modern Homes + Designingwomen2]
Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography & drone imagery by Micah J. Zimmerman, Amdak Productions
Although most of Sue Stite's adult life has been spent living in Reno, Nevada, she is a North Fargo native who's dreamed of living the lake life since she was seven-years-old. Two months ago, her dream finally came true, thanks to the talents of her architect daughter, Julie Stites, Fargo Modern Homes and Linda Birmingham of Designingwomen2. This summer, she and her partner, Skip Houk, are happily settled into an impressive, contemporary lake home on the sandy shores of Lake Eunice, Minnesota.
The Journey Home
While Nevada has its fair share of excitement, Stites has never outgrown her Midwestern roots. "It's so great to be back - I always thought I'd get back to this area and it just didn't happen. My husband was from Oakes and I was from Fargo, but as life progressed and he did his residencies and studies around the country, we ended up in Truckee, California. I said I'd give it one year and if it didn't work out, we were moving back to the Northwest. It worked out, so we stayed, but I've come back to this area every year - I have a little brother in Fargo, and a big brother in Minneapolis."
Building her Dream
Stites has six grandchildren and three grown kids, all soon arriving to see the finished home for the first time. Her architect daughter, Julie Stites, designed the stunning lake abode; traveling from her firm in San Diego, C.A., to devise a plan for the existing footprint and build with Fargo Modern Homes. Shortly after, Linda Birmingham of Designingwomen2 was hired as an interior designer for the home she's waited a lifetime for.
"It's phenomenal that my daughter envisioned this footprint on the old property," said Stites. "As it progressed they didn't want the second story upstairs too close to the lake, so we needed to come back; the original cabin was about 10 feet off the water. We kept the same footprint and it gave me a wonderful grassy area and a much bigger deck. I absolutely love it here - it's just short of a double lot, so I have 140 feet of beachfront." The original cabin, thought to be the oldest on the lake, was 600 square feet and built in the late 50s. In the late 60s, the previous owners added on another 600 square feet, so that became the footprint Julie Stites would work with.
Great Room Goals
Centered around the sunset, Fargo Modern Homes completed the great room's vaulted shiplap ceiling with wood beams and live-edge hickory benches flanking the stacked, linear fireplace. "The home was designed and built with the view in mind, and it makes you feel instantly relaxed when you are surrounded by such beautiful views," said Fargo Modern Homes.
Stites only had a few "must haves" for the main living area; incorporate a shiplap ceiling, design an open stairway and find a stylish recliner for the great room. She loves contemporary design, so Birmingham helped her choose a compilation of sleek and simple pieces, with lake-inspired pops of color within pillows, accessories and artwork. The two chose high-quality, comfortable furnishings like the Norwalk sofa and Adam & Eve print chair with a plush "poodle" fabric on the seat. The idea was to compliment the contemporary lines with inviting textures and tones for gathering family and friends.
"You will see contemporary and modern styling throughout the home, but it also pulls in some cottage/beach-inspired flavors as well. The straight lines, sheetrock return windows and custom railings make the home feel modern, but shiplap on the ceilings helps give it a very cottage-like feel, along with the beach-inspired decor throughout the home," said Fargo Modern Homes.
Cooking & Dining: By Design
Stites spectacular kitchen faces the lake and offers beautifully-crafted Swenson Cabinets, Cambria quartz countertops, custom tile and a contemporary take on the traditional farmhouse sink.
With massive windows overlooking dramatic sunset views, Birmingham knew the dining room needed an equally dramatic and organic design. She worked with Stites to choose bold, wood and woven rope side chairs, then paired them with a raw wood table. The live-edge tabletop is beautiful, but it's what's below that stole the show - an avant-garde, steel and wood base, worthy of it's own art exhibit.
"I could not be happier, and I love the contemporary feel," said Stites. "To put all of it together and be 1,200 miles away...I came back only three times during the process, once in October with Julie, before we tore down the old one, then two more times in the winter."
Just off the dining room and kitchen, the contemporary powder room, with sleek linear and frosted windows, allows for privacy and natural light with quick access to the lakeside deck.
Overlooking the water, the master suite offers Stites one-level living with a vaulted, shiplap ceiling, adjoining bath and patio entrance. With a fresh take on beachside design, Birmingham reflects Stite's lively energy, choosing linens with coastal coral tones, crisp whites, and a cheerful Kate Spade black dot pattern.
The master bath features a distressed, white plank tile with contrasting, backlit vanity mirror, contemporary fixtures, custom glass-enclosed shower and soaker tub.
Upstairs is designed with family in mind. Stites worked with her daughter, Fargo Modern Homes, and Birmingham to design a multi-functioning bedroom for each of her three grown kids. The space needed to allow just enough area to accommodate six grandkids within three bunk systems. Elevated and sloped ceilings help give the cozy rooms the illusion of more space, while five-panel contemporary doors lead to spacious walk-in-closets.
Birmingham designed each of the bedrooms and bunks with a distinct color palette and the perfect dose of inviting visual and textural elements. "We were a little concerned initially with how they were going to fit a full bed and bunks in each room, but we made it work and I think it turned out well," said Birmingham. "I’m a big fan of Kate Spade - I’ve always wanted to use her line on a project and this was the perfect one. Her bedding designs are clean, graphic and speak fun and happy in every way! We used Kate's lines in the gray room for the bunks, and the queen bed, then her colorful stripes on the triple bunks in the surf room. Because designs come and go seasonally, all of the patterns I wanted to use had been discontinued, so we had to search for them on eBay." Birmingham found some great options at Target for the third bedroom, a mix of denim and pale blue patterns with pops of bright orange and nautical navy.
The three bedrooms share a bright and airy bath with double sinks, chrome fixtures, and a glass-inclosed, tile shower. The tub features a linen-look tile surround with bench and upper window, welcoming natural light from the lower level's vaulted ceiling.
Designing & Building From Afar
"The biggest challenge in this type of build was implementing changes or recommending features when the client can’t be here to physically see and give their stamp of approval. We had to do many things over email, text, then follow up with a phone call to discuss. Thankfully Sue came to Fargo and saw some of the previous homes we had built, so it helped make the process more comfortable. We did a lot of FaceTime with her so she could see the process and make sure she was satisfied. There was a lot of trust put in us from Sue, and we are happy she loves the end result," said Fargo Modern Homes.
When it came to working with designer, Linda Birmingham, the two had an immediate connection and also worked remotely via phone, email and text message. "Linda's amazing - I put a lot of trust in her and we were on the same wavelength - it was fantastic. In choosing a designer, it couldn't have been a better fit," said Stites.
"It's been 62 years since I first came to the lakes, and I've wanted my own lake place ever since - it was worth the wait."
A Storied Journey
"It's just been phenomenal that Skip's really embraced what I've decided to do here. He has his dreams and his journey, and I have mine; this was mine and I'm going to live it," said Stites. The two have been together for two years; she happened to meet him at a football game with her family, only 10 days after she purchased the lake property. Houk is an avid runner who's completed 50 marathons. He ran the Boston Marathon when he was 50 years-old and once qualified for the Olympic trials. Houk also founded the 8k Journal Jog which is on its 51st year and dubbed Reno's Oldest Footrace.
"My family cabin used to be on Maude Lake, so I've been bringing my own kids to the lakes area for 35 years," said Stites. "My grandkids have been coming to the lake for eight or 10 years, and they love it too. They have had tons of experience in their travels, but the lake is where they want to be; this is their number one. It's been 62 years since I first came to the lakes, and I've wanted my own lake place ever since - it was worth the wait."
Find the Finishes:
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Fargo Modern Homes
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