"The Modern Tradition"Design Guide 2008, Custom Wood Homes
In 1972, Al and Kathy Nagy were married outside of the Nagy family vacation cottage on Marion Lake in Minocqua, Wisconsin. They returned often to the cottage for summer vacations and even other weddings.
Al and his sisters inherited the land, and Al and Kathy decided to establish a more permanent home on the property – one where the family could gather for holidays, while retaining some of the history and memories that the original cabin provided. The Nagys decided a unique hybrid home would create the perfect atmosphere for their new retreat.
"My wife and I wanted to recreate a cabin-like home using logs," says Al. "However, the more we looked into these [hybrid] homes, the more we knew a mixture of materials would give us a more authentic look."
The couple sought a traditional look – square logs and dovetail notching to reflect the craftsmanship on old. Stone was to be used on a few walls, as was cedar shake on gable ends.
On the inside, they wanted more plaster and less wood to allow for decorating options and extensive insulation. Their search ended when they discovered that PrecisionCraft Log & Timber Homes could supply them with squared cedar half-timbers that could be made to look like full square hand-hewn timbers and could easily be affixed to 2-by-6 construction.
Before they were sold on the look and purchased the total package, they decided to visit PrecisionCraft’s headquarters in Meridian, Idaho, to tour the mill and visit a few finished homes in the area. They were impressed by the company policy that includes a site visit by a company technician to assist the contractor during construction of the exterior.
"The Nagy home was one of many projects where PrecisionCraft provided onsite technical assistance," says Jim Banner, vice president of PrecisionCraft. "Today, we go one step further, providing full installation of log and timber products. From custom design to high quality manufacturing to construction, PrecisionCraft provides a Total Home Solution."
Wickman Construction, of Minocqua, Wisconsin, has been building homes in the area for over 33 years and came highly recommended and was enthusiastic about the job. "We love people to ask, 'Can you do it?' says Ken Wickman. "We never say no. This type of custom work is what keeps our jobs interesting."
The floor plan evolved over a period of months and took a bit of redesigning to satisfy the requirements of both the Nagys and the county ordinances. First, they wanted the doorway to be in about the same location as the original cabin (which had been moved to another part of the property), but set back from the shoreline. Then they wanted a buffer on the north side of the home to break the cold north winds. The solution came in the form of a long corridor that doubles as an art gallery. The 40-foot corridor has two sets of windows for light, but plenty of wall space for their modern art collection.
Next came the need for every room to have a view of the lake. Being on a peninsula helped. The open floor plan and a few special openings also fulfilled the need. For example, in the Kitchen (which has a view of the lake through the dining room), an arched pass-through was cut from the north wall to look into the art gallery and through one of the hall windows.
The layout and exterior was to resemble what looked like an old cabin structure that had been added onto over the years: a main rectangular "box" with many smaller "boxes" and porches jutting from each side. With the help of longtime friend and local architect Ed Carlson, they accomplished this aged look that even fools many locals.
"They had a stock builder plan they had purchased and brought it to me for my suggestions," says Ed. "My contributions included tweaking a few cosmetic items along with altering the front entryway roofline and opening the loft space to take advantage of the northern windows and gallery below – basically, turning a stock home into a custom home."
Each room had to depict the look of days gone by – with a modern twist. Gray tile was chosen to resemble the old dirt floors that were found in primitive cabins. The true masonry fireplace is made of split Wisconsin fieldstone. Windows have divided panels instead of wide-open panes. Walls are covered with Venetian plaster with a yellowed glaze to give the interior an aged look.
The square log siding, found on both the inside and out, is finished with a dark stain and contrasting white chinking, similar to log cabins of the 1800s. Special attention was paid to the front entry porch, which has two oak log pillars and is topped with a gable porch rooftop with a king post truss. Stonework surrounds the arched plank front door with oiled brass hinges and handle.
The Nagys wanted to preserve several clumps of birches and two pines, more than 100 year old, on the site – no clear-cutting like the neighboring loggers used to do.
The final concern was the height restriction. They had originally wanted nine-foot ceilings in the lower level, but to accommodate the 24-foot cathedral ceiling on the main floor, they had to lower their expectations and their ceiling height. The smaller ceiling height has resulted in a cozy cabin atmosphere with reclaimed barn wood walls and local antique accents.
Niches and nooks can be found throughout the home to provide little retreats within the larger space of the main room. One is a bump-out of the great room that overlooks the lake. Kathy selected an octagonal table and cowhide covered club chairs that fill the sunny area for a lively game of cards or a light breakfast. "We designed this space in remembrance of the earlier days with my parents and playing pinochle at the kitchen table of the old cabin," says Al. "We wanted to make sure we had a place to preserve traditions."
Another retreat is the loft area where a mini-library and comfortable chair are available for a good read or meditative moments. Views of the lake can be seen from both the north and south side windows "Overnight guests consider the loft a little getaway," says Al. "Kathy has made sure every corner has a purpose."
The décor was an exciting challenge for Kathy, who brought many ideas to the table and then directed the craftsmen to create. She eventually elicited the help of a local decorator to aid in the selections of key furnishings. "I had a binder full of magazine clippings that I could show the builders and finishers exactly what I was looking for," says Kathy. "Good communication is key to getting the finished product you want and a picture or drawing really helps."
She had drawn out her ideas for the railings on the stairway and loft area for the carpenter to follow. "I had three designs I liked, but when our carpenter found some reclaimed barn wood for the lower level walls, I came up with a shape that would utilize that wood." The triangular balusters add a casual feel and introduce more wood grain into the space.
The majority of the interior is Sheetrock covered with Venetian plaster and finished with a tinted glaze for an aged look. "We love wood, but wanted it as an accent – not something that would overwhelm the room," says Kathy. "The walls keep the rooms bright and actually accentuate the wood and stone so it’s noticed."
The Nagys try to get to Wisconsin as often as possible and enjoy the changing seasons. "Our favorite season is fall. We love the red and yellow leaves, the crisp temperatures and the peacefulness that comes during September and October," says Al. "This peace allows the memories to return and the joy that those days brought with them."