Retro on Rock Lake
[Lighthouse Construction, Detroit Lakes]
Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Kristen Perala Creative
On this month's journey into lakes country, we encountered the most adventurous, mile-long driveway through the woods we had ever experienced. It's impossible to spot Birch Point Lodge through the heavily wooded area, but once we turned the last winding corner, we discovered something truly special. Perfectly perched overlooking Rock Lake, Dan and Patsy Thompson's cottage may be newly built, but it still carries on the family's 116-year love of the land and lake. Inside, we'll give you a glimpse of how Lighthouse Construction was able to redesign the old cabin's existing footprint, meeting the needs of their modern-day family.
Inspiration in the Woods
Dan Thompson's great grandfather built the land's first log cabin in 1904, but surprisingly, it wasn't on the lake. "My great grandfather was a local pastor and he never liked the idea of being on the lake, so his log cabin was back in the woods. He was inspired by the lake and the woods though, so he would do his sermons here," said Dan Thompson. "Later, my grandfather, uncle, and my dad put the cabin on logs and slid it down the hill - so, that became our first cabin. At that time, we had an outhouse and no electricity." Eventually, the family would add on a kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom.
After decades of renovations and additions, the Thompsons reached out to their lake neighbors and longtime family friends at Lighthouse Construction in Detroit Lakes, Minn. With further inspection of the old foundation and structure, the Lighthouse team determined that starting from scratch was the most efficient option. The original cabin was not structurally sound and only offered one bedroom and bunk beds. Lighthouse was given the goal of creating a new architectural design that would create more usable space within the existing footprint.
Completing the new build three years ago, the cottage was a distinct challenge due to its close proximity to the water. Thankfully, Lighthouse had plenty of expertise in lake home restoration and rebuilds, familiar with all of the different county ordinances. When it comes to rebuilding structures too close to the water, the county and state have very particular rules about what can be done; as a result, the footprint had to be identical to what was originally there. With 3-D renderings, Lighthouse Construction was able to experiment with wall placement, change room layouts, and completely reconfigure the space until they landed on something that would work well for their family.
Take a Tour!
The Thompsons travel back and forth from their home in Bismarck, N.D., and primarily stay in the larger home up on the hill. The smaller, lakeside cottage was designed to suit guests, along with their two grown kids and two grandchildren. Working with Lighthouse Construction, they created a more functional footprint that would give them an open-concept kitchen, storage room, great room, master bedroom, full bath, two additional guest rooms on the main floor, and dual lofts flanking the main living space.
Just inside the door, Lighthouse designed a custom, built-in coat cubby made with reclaimed materials from the original cabin. "We wanted to have a little bit of the old cabin, so we saved some wood, then the Lighthouse crew took some of the old siding from the old white house. The back of the coat rack is the cabin's old flooring," said Dan Thompson. Since they refer to the cottage as Birch Point Lodge, the team also incorporated birchwood into the design.
Displaying their family's legacy is a 1960s photo of the old cabin, the first one on the lakefront. Part of that cabin was a granary that was hauled down, along with further room additions. The original log cabin is back on the hill and the Thompsons are currently working on refurbishing it.
Framing in the lake view is the great room's nearly 20-feet of stained pine, tongue and groove vaulted ceilings. Lighthouse helped create a cozy space with a custom corner fireplace designed in a river rock surround and timber face frame with a polished granite hearth and stained concrete flooring. High ceilings and large windows were used to harvest maximum natural light, making the 980-square-foot cottage feel bright and spacious.
To create the cabin's unique retro-inspired kitchen, Patsy Thompson requested 50's style mint green appliances from Elmira; similar to the original cabin's appliances. The team worked with SWI Interiors to design shaker maple cabinetry with waterfall glass inserts and a nearly 11-foot island with Formica laminate countertop.
Accenting the space in a nostalgic style meant incorporating steel bar stools, large, hammered metal pendants, and a subway tile backsplash with green glass, mosaic accent stripes.
Just off the kitchen, Lighthouse designed a full bath with a custom, furniture-style vanity, toiletry cabinet, Cambria quartz countertops, and an under-mount sink with a transom window to capture natural light.
Mastering the View
In a smaller space with more efficient rooms, the Thompsons didn't want anything unnecessary - the space and views like the one in the master bedroom can speak for themselves. Lighthouse also salvaged anything they could from the old cabin; figuring out ways to incorporate the sentiment of the old materials into the new space.
The cabin's exterior features mixed siding with Hardie board and batten, along with great room facade and gable peaks using Hardie board lap siding walls. Lighthouse also utilized Certainteed asphalt architectural shingles and rebuilt the wrap-around deck with maintenance-free TimberTec composite. The lowest portion of the deck and lake access was designed to be easily removable in the off-season.
The cabin may be small, but it comes equipped with several mechanical systems, making it a destination the Thompsons can enjoy year-round; hot water hydronic heat under the slab, an air system with air conditioning in the concrete floor, and electric off-peak heat with L.P. gas backup.
With a rich history of family memories rooted in the land, the stakes were high, but Lighthouse Construction took a thoughtful and educated design approach. Achieving their ultimate goal to preserve the integrity of the original cabin's location, they maintained the view that Dan Thompson's family first fell in love with.
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