Story by Candice Wagener | Photography by Shanna Wolf, unless noted otherwise
Lake living is a lifestyle. For most it evokes relaxation, where the beauty of your surroundings is the touchstone that sets the stage for all that follows. Geneva Lake, with its crystal-clear waters, has drawn generations of families and friends to rest and recharge, and of course, to entertain and play.
Nestled along the north shore of the lake, at the end of a long, winding driveway, the Athans’ home greets visitors to lake living with every imaginable amenity. At 12,000 square feet, the home is a showstopper to be sure, but the subtle mix of elaborate yet comfortable is felt throughout. Owners Dean and Eilena Athans worked with Tony Osnacz and Troy Wise and their team at South Shore Custom Homes; Jason Bernard of Lake Geneva Architects; and Scott Price and Kathleen Peacock of Toms Price Interiors to design and craft a home that was built with the purpose of entertaining and welcoming guests and enjoying life at the lake to its fullest.
“We wanted the house to be a place for our son to have his friends spend time and enjoy the lake. We also enjoy having family and friends over,” says Dean Athans.
Like many things, however, the massive building project started as something completely different and that’s where the story gets interesting. For 20 years, the Athans had lived in the home next door to their current property, which they had always admired. When they decided it was time for a home renovation, it necessitated a conversation with their neighbor about acquiring some of their property. The families ultimately decided to swap homes and properties, and as a result, a much more ambitious scope of work got underway. Over the course of 16 months, demolition of the existing home occurred and the new home was built.
This spot on the north shore is clearly home to the Athans family, and now they’re fully settled on approximately four acres and 290 feet of lake frontage, with a beautiful new house to take it all in.
During construction, South Shore Custom Homes made sure to take into consideration environmental issues surrounding the size and position of the new home, which created a lot of exposed soil. They worked quickly to protect the exposed soil, “so we didn’t create any type of environmental risk to the lake we all live around and love so much,” says Wise. “We needed to make sure our storm water protection plans were very carefully maintained and adhered to,” he adds.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL FROM THE MOMENT YOU ARRIVE
As you approach the grand entry of the home, you’ll notice a number of architectural details, beginning with a combination of white shingle-style siding and matching corbels plus fieldstone accents and arched windows that create a cottage-like feel. The home’s many complex roof lines culminate in just a slight eyebrow curve over the entryway that is finished with copper cladding to shield the weather. Welcoming gas lanterns illuminate your way to the magnificent front door.
Upon entering the home, the stunning view from the foyer takes your breath away. The visual appeal continues as you notice the intricate staircase with custom details on the banister and railings as well as decorative raised panels on the walls. The extraordinary amount of millwork throughout the house is one of the home’s most impressive features and it was all completed on-site by a team that South Shore commissions, according to Wise.
The long hallways on either side of the foyer make the home feel light and airy, with sunshine pouring in from the abundance of windows. The 10-inch wide, white oak plank flooring by Martin & Blum throughout the house brings warmth to every room.
Off the hallway to the left of the foyer is Athans’ office, a quiet space to retreat. The whole room has a distinctive masculine vibe, starting at the entryway marked by leaded glass doors. Dark wood surrounds the walls, and a sailing theme comes through in several art pieces depicting seaside moments, a large sailboat model on display above the fireplace and deep, sea blue accent pillows.
ENTERTAINING SPACE ABOUNDS
The spacious chef’s kitchen provides the ideal spot for gathering, with yet more stunning views of the lake and easy access to the expansive back patio. Crisp white cabinets and contrasting countertops create a feeling of simple elegance. Plus Wolf, Sub-Zero and ASKO appliances ensure entertaining ease. Despite the spaciousness, Athans admits, “I actually wish I would have made it a little bigger. It seems no matter what the occasion, everyone still seems to congregate in the kitchen.”
Guests can easily move from the kitchen through the breezeway to the screened porch, a majestic spot with 20-foot vaulted ceilings and 540 square feet of space to unwind, mingle or put your feet up in front of the floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace. While it’s hard to settle on one favorite room, this porch is definitely on that list. “Certainly the screened porch is a favorite spot on summer nights. It’s very relaxing,” says Athans.
When you step out onto the patio, you’ll note the spaciousness of the area and the multiple seating arrangements, which create an ideal setting for large parties and events. The infinity pool with Geneva Lake as a backdrop takes this entertaining space to the next level.
Also stunning is a large, one-of-a-kind mosaic that hangs on a wall just outside the screened porch. Made locally by mother-daughter team Patricia and Samantha Strenger, the piece was meant to be a part of this home. As Athans recalls, the family wandered into Revive Studio in Lake Geneva and met the Strengers as they were working on the mosaic. “This was a year before we bought it,” he says. “Scott, my interior designer, has an assistant, Kathleen, who is the sister of the lady that created the mosaic. When we were getting ready to have a big party a couple summers ago, Scott said he had this really cool piece of art in mind for us.”
And so the mosaic found its way to the Athans’ home. It is a beautiful depiction of Geneva Lake created using blue agate slices, hand-cut stained glass, mirror, several feet of stainless ball chain, glass beads, two carved wooden fish, lake stones and a shimmering star marking the Athans’ property.
It’s not the first time that Athans has been drawn to something that would have a greater meaning and eventually find a place on the family’s property. A few years earlier on a trip to Minocqua, he spotted an old truck on the side of the road. It was a 1949 Ford F6, which turned out to be a former Lake Geneva Fire Department truck. Now it is a part of the vehicle collection in the Athans’ stately garage. “I’m a big car guy, so I spend a lot of time in the garage, tinkering around,” he explains.
SECOND STORY SANCTUARY
Back inside the home, the soothing color palette of blues and grays found on the first floor is carried throughout the sleeping quarters upstairs. The master bedroom suite is a charmer with its arched, beadboard wrapped ceiling. Beneath it is a perfectly proportioned arched window sitting atop a set of French doors, which provide a panoramic view of the lake and an entry onto a private balcony. A fireplace, adorned with blue-glazed bricks surrounding the fire box highlights the fabric in an adjacent oversize chair and ottoman and the coordinating area rug and bedding.
The most impressive feature, however, is the 1,200-square-foot master closet, complete with a mini coffee bar, two islands and retail- sized shelving and storage. Originally slated to be a guest bedroom, the exceptionally large closet area is the ultimate indulgence, and the master bath with marble throughout and a large soaking tub complete this one-of-a-kind master suite.
“The switch of the guest bedroom with the current master closet was a huge change that gave them a really world-class master closet,” says Wise. “This afforded a better flow, a much more comfortable dressing space and it’s just cool.”
Down the hall, a bunk room is set up for multiple overnight guests with custom-made ironwork beds crafted locally. A bonus room above the garage is designed with ample space for friends to gather and is equipped with a bar area, popcorn machine and multiple TVs.
GOAL ACHIEVED: A FAMILY-FRIENDLY HOME FOR ALL TO ENJOY
While the process of planning and building involved hiccups, as is to be expected, the overall sentiment from all parties involved was one of overwhelming satisfaction with the end result.
“Our builders were fantastic,” says Athans. “It was a great experience. Our goal was to enjoy the lake, and to keep our son at the house and have his friends at the house. It’s worked. During the summer months, there’s always kids sleeping over.”
Even the interior design planning process, which involved the Athanses meeting weekly for a year with Scott and Kathleen of Toms Price, is remembered positively. “Scott’s firm warehoused everything so that when move in day started, everything was ready — it was a great experience,” says Athans.
“This is an extraordinary house,” adds Wise. “They’re an extraordinary family. It sounds like hyperbole to say that, but it’s not. The house is grand without being ostentatious, somehow still cozy even though it’s huge. It’s a great entertaining house.”
The Athans family has certainly created an elegant yet intimate home on Geneva Lake’s north shore, with various spaces to unwind as well as to gather and entertain — a home that truly represents lake living at its best.