By Shelby Deering | Photography By Shanna Wolf
There are some places that feel as if they’re a million miles away from reality, where people can live in the moment, feel worries melt away and simply have fun. This may sound like a remote, tropical island, but it’s actually a locale that’s a lot closer than you think. Situated near the Bloomfield Wildlife Area and south of Lake Geneva, a sprawling estate boasts a family compound, a private golf course and an oasis for veterans and their families.
At The Lake takes you on a tour of this jewel of a property, a home that’s equal parts grand and welcoming, and introduces you to the most notable features on the surrounding acreage.
A FAMILY RETREAT
The family who owns the estate has a connection to the Geneva Lakes area that dates back nearly 100 years. The homeowners reminisce about a family member who was known to frequent the Riviera ballroom in the 1930s for lively dance-a-thons. And they talk fondly of aunts and uncles who resided on the lake, and of days spent boating and hitting the slopes at Majestic Ski Hill.
In the 1980s, the family began to feel a pull toward creating a private hideaway for themselves near Lake Geneva. A pristine, 330-acre parcel was purchased in 1988 for the eventual purpose of transforming it into a family retreat. As the family explains, “We had six buildings 30 years ago when we bought the land. Over the years, several were renovated into various homes, including a 5,000-square-foot main home, which was once an old barn.”
In 2009, they enlisted Lowell Custom Homes and their dream of a new family home began to take shape. The original main home was torn down and replaced with the current 9,300- square-foot dwelling “in preparation of grandchildren.”
Today, the entire family, which includes five adult children and six grandchildren, are living out the original vision for this property, which included plenty of room for fun and recreation. On the 75-acre private lake (unofficially dubbed “Lake Tranquility”), everyone water skis, sails and takes carefree spins on WaveRunners. The family also treasures their time spent horseback-riding on the property.
When the sun begins to set, and the horses are tucked away in their stables, spirited family dinners and gatherings ensue, whether that’s inside, gathered in the outdoor kitchen, around the swimming pool or beside the firepit on cool summer evenings. When the weather turns warm, the large patio doors in the living room are often opened, setting the scene for casual get-togethers enjoyed by friends and family alike.
The festivities can easily travel inside and out thanks to features that adapt to the seasons. For example, the outdoor kitchen, a three-sided structure tucked next to the house, is hidden behind an aluminum garage door that protects it from the elements. With just a push of a button, the door ascends to reveal a full kitchen for use year-round. Just some of its amenities include a large grill, warming drawers, exhaust hood and wine cooler.
In addition to the main house, there’s a nearby lighthouse which is frequently used as an “entertainment house.” The property’s private golf course with clubhouse is ideally suited for parties and gatherings as well.
All of that entertaining requires ambiance, something that’s achieved in spades through the eclectic artwork and striking design accents witnessed within the interiors.
STRONG DESIGN DETAILS
Throughout the house there’s something that’s guaranteed to grab your attention. With its four bedrooms and six baths, the main house effortlessly mixes together traditional and contemporary décor, with a few surprises for good measure.
The goal was to create a home that showcased an artful combination of wood, stone and steel. Family members desired a feeling of warmth in the home, but they also envisioned distinctive and unexpected touches. They wanted every guest who entered the home to immediately take in the view that can be seen through the living room’s oversized wall of windows, something that the open floor plan easily allows. And they pictured a spaciousness, which is exhibited in the 40-foot-high vaulted living room ceiling.
The bones of the home display what can be called masculine-meets-modern design details. The homeowners acknowledge its sturdy structure is made up of a lot of solid granite, which was mined in northern Wisconsin. The several-feet-thick granite walls match up flawlessly with the equally stoic steel staircase, a design choice that helps to create a modern look in the foyer.
Wood also permeates this home. Gorgeous polished walnut envelops the interior offering a warm, natural feel, from the staircase to the distressed floors to the doors and even the custom millwork. The office sports what is potentially the most stunning use of walnut in the home, with wood detailing and an exquisite, geometric ceiling pattern that was hand-built on site.
Continuing the solid appeal of this home, wrought iron crafted by a local blacksmith weaves its way throughout the spaces, such as the kitchen and wine cellar.
The family wanted to carefully choose décor that would mesh well with the robust architectural details, and so they looked to unpredicted sources—salvage yards and their travels.
An artistic vibe is conveyed everywhere in the house. For example, on the first floor, a set of remarkable wooden doors which clearly weren’t made in modern times are simply stunning.
Rendered in teak, the doors were discovered at a salvage yard in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Originally made in India, they’re estimated to be over 200 years old and ended up serving as the main piece of inspiration for the home’s design. “The joke,” family members say, “was that we found the doors first and then built the house around them.”
The powder room sink is like a piece of art in itself. Made to look like a fanciful tree, a local blacksmith created the ornate trunk that serves as a base. It was completed with an onyx top which mirrors the onyx seen in the walls and flooring.
Even the wine cellar has an imaginative look. Opulently displaying custom millwork in African mahogany, the cellar holds a collection of predominantly French wines purchased at auctions. The flooring in the cellar echoes the age of the wine within. Comprised of 200-year-old terra cotta, the tiles were salvaged from a home in London that was scheduled to be torn down, and then shipped to the United States. The hardware and chandelier were handmade by artisans, tying into the other custom-built fixtures seen in the rest of the home.
And then there’s the actual artwork throughout the home, which is an impressive collection reminiscent of a modern art museum. Before they began gathering art pieces, family members called upon the talents of a pair of curators who put together the entire McDonald’s corporate art collection, comprised of over 4,000 works and famously displayed in McDonald’s corporate offices around the world.
Many of the artists spotlighted in the McDonald’s collection are also exhibited in this home. There’s the Mark McDowell pencil-sketched work “Fire and Ice” that hangs in the foyer, a playful display of ice cream and flames. Nearby, a glass polar bear adds to the whimsical feel, a piece the family uncovered during a ski trip to Aspen, Colorado.
Near the wine cellar, large black-and- white prints of cowboys photographed by Jay Dusard grace the walls. The dwelling also houses vibrant oil paintings created by Valentina DuBasky, organic acrylics crafted by Chicago painter Robert Gadornski and modern sculptures constructed by Robert Winslow. These works can be appreciated in nearly every corner of this home, capturing the color and life that can also be seen throughout the property.
A PICTURESQUE PIECE OF LAND
The beauty of the land is evident everywhere you look, and it’s the perfect setting for the estate’s private, 120-acre golf course.
Once known as Lakewood Estates, the 22-year-old private golf course has evolved into a non-profit organization. It was originally founded to be simply enjoyed among close friends and family members, and then it was opened up to limited memberships. Currently, the golf course serves as a 501(c)(3), with donations going directly to providing military families with fun-filled retreats spent on the property (see sidebar).
Golfers revel in the 18-hole, par-72 course that contains undulating topography that’s a challenge for all skill levels. Add in the wetlands, floating wooden bridges and lakeside views, and the setting is sure to be just as gratifying as your golf game.
Since it’s close to a wildlife area, it’s no surprise that this golf course brims with animals like deer, coyotes, beavers and an abundance of birds. If you’re golfing, you also might catch a glimpse of the family’s beloved Great Pyrenees, Jellybean, who the family calls “the golf course mascot.”
Family members believe they’ve chosen the perfect location for their retreat because Lake Geneva offers “wonderful growth, year-round activities and all the different seasons.” The house and its land are a direct reflection of the area’s natural beauty and a place this family and their guests will enjoy for years.