Featured Cabins
E-mail Article to a FriendPrint ArticleBookmark and Share

Paradise Found: A Stunning Timber Frame Rebuild

One family's dream inspired this project in Minnesota's North Woods
By Christy Heitger-Ewing
Published: May 14, 2010
Sunroom-Edit0906
Photo by Greg Page Studios, Inc. Cabin built by Vermont Timberframes.
It pays to listen to your neighbors. After all, they often offer up great barbeque recipes, fishing tips and advice on keeping the deer out of your garden. And if you’re really lucky, a great neighbor may lead you to heaven on Earth. At least that’s how it happened for the Schmidt family.
   
Back in the mid-1980s, Louis and Carolyn Sue Schmidt and their daughter Kelly listened longingly as their neighbors bragged about the little piece of paradise they owned on Sugar Lake in Minnesota’s North Woods. “They raved on and on about how pristine and beautiful the emerald lake was,” recalls Kelly Robinson, the Schmidts’ now-grown daughter, who lives in Chicago with her husband Scott. “Finally, curiosity got the best of us and we drove up there. Our neighbors were right. The lake was amazing!”
   
As luck would have it, when the Schmidts were visiting with their neighbors on Sugar Lake, the man who owned the cabin right next door approached Louis and Carolyn Sue and said, “I’m thinking of selling my cabin. Would you folks be interested in it?”
Driveway-Exterior0874
Photo by Greg Page Studios, Inc.
Kelly’s mom, who had quickly grown smitten with the area, jumped at the chance for her family to purchase their own little piece of paradise. Carolyn Sue passed away 13 years ago, but Kelly recalls how much summers at the lake meant to her mom.
   
“Mom lived for going up there,” says Kelly. “She loved to fish. And she especially adored the fantastic view of the lake.”

sugarlakeebefore
Photo by Greg Page Studios, Inc.
Same Spot, Fresh Digs
   
A few years back, the 75-year-old cabin’s roof and flooring began to deteriorate. Rather than repairing, the family opted to rebuild and expand the place. Ultimately, they nearly quadrupled the size of the original structure – going from 1,000-square feet to 3,717, complete with an unfinished basement. The thing that most pleased the family was that the builder saved the big trees around the house, enabling them to keep their fantastic view.
   
“We are bordered by trees but still have a clear view of the lake,” explains Kelly. “It’s private but open.”

sugarlakeexteriorbuild
For their rebuild project, the Schmidts decided the new cabin would be a timber frame – a cabin built by creating framed structures of heavy timber jointed together with pegged mortise & tenon joints. The photo above clearly illustrates why this style of construction is called “timber frame” or “post & beam.”
Photo by Greg Page Studios, Inc.
Kelly and her dad had considered building a traditional log cabin but ultimately chose to erect a timber frame home that would provide additional insulation and quiet.
   
For the uninitiated, timber framing is a specific type of post & beam construction in which square timbers are connected with traditional mortise & tenon joinery and secured with hardwood pegs. Louis and Kelly hired Paul Kessler to design the home and Sam Gebhart and his sons Mike and Dan to build it.
   
“Often homeowners choose timber frames because of the beauty and aesthetics of the logs, as well as the structural strength,” says Sam Gebhart, who has been building timber frame homes for over 20 years. “Plus, these [particular] homes are very energy efficient and eco-friendly because of the structured insulated panels (SIPs) and use of native timbers.”

Sugar-lake-Kitchen0006
The owners chose a style that blends rustic and contemporary elements.
Photo by Greg Page Studios, Inc.
Fun & Functional Features of the Home
   
Kelly loves the look and functionality of a timber frame house. “The wooden pegs that stick out of the walls make the place look like a giant Lincoln log set,” explains Kelly. “Plus, I made use of the pegs by hanging pictures on them.”
   
Kelly originally wanted to use reclaimed big-plank barn wood for the flooring, but instead she chose Virginia Vintage hand-scraped hickory flooring, which runs throughout the family room, kitchen and pantry. There are several other unique wood features that do not go unnoticed, including the eastern white pine tongue-and-groove ceiling, the character-rich hickory staircase and the thick, chunky stair railings made of pine. Because so many of the cabin’s timbers are squared, Kelly chose warm, round wood for the railings, as well as the fireplace mantels, to balance out the “squareness” throughout the cabin.
   
The kitchen cabinets are rustic hickory with plenty of organizer shelves and pullouts. The countertops are granite, and a dry stack stone ledge wraps around the kitchen’s island.
Entry0023
Photo by Greg Page Studios, inc.
Just as the family appreciates their open yet private view, they also love the open yet cozy feel of the indoor space. They designed a main floor layout that lends itself nicely to socializing. For instance, the bar that the kitchen and dining/sunroom share is ideal for continuing conversation during meal preparation and clean-up. This feature was much appreciated several years ago when the Schmidts hosted a family reunion at their new place.
   
“We also host a lot of fundraising events and neighborhood potluck dinners,” says Kelly. “And I love the fact that we can carry on conversations in both areas so easily.”
Boat-on-water4553
Photo by Greg Page Studios, Inc.
Living for Lake Time
   
Often conversations center on the area’s beauty – something that everyone in the family appreciates, including Kelly’s two rescue dogs Bella and Gidget, who absolutely live for lake time. And why wouldn’t they? Bella, an American Eskimo terrier, and Gidget, a miniature Eskimo, get to lounge on the front porch, sniffing fresh air and taking in the sights and sounds of northern Minnesota.
   
Of course the dogs aren’t the only ones who jump at the mention of heading north. Kelly, Scott and Louis especially love summers. Louis enjoys taking his small fishing boat out to the deep drop-off situated just a few hundred feet from his dock where he angles for walleyes, bass and perch.
   
Scott chooses to unwind by grabbing his golf clubs and hitting the links. And Kelly loves to write and reflect while sitting in her big, cushy chair at the kitchen’s desk area.
   
The family also has a three-person Sea-Doo for those times when they feel like playing on the lake.
sugarlakedemo
Photo by Greg Page Studios, Inc.
Special Memories
   
Kelly and her dad have many fond memories of time spent at the cabin, one of which is linked to the building process itself. In the old cabin, in Carolyn Sue’s bedroom, there hung a crucifix which the former owner had left. So after the place was torn down, Kelly asked Sam to set the cross underneath the foundation of the new house, right in the center of the home.
   
“What makes this place special is that mom bought the original cabin,” says Kelly. “And it still feels like it’s her home.”
   
Eventually Kelly plans to finish the basement, adding bedrooms and a workout room. But she’s in no hurry. For now, the family is doing just what their old neighbors used to boast about: They are thoroughly enjoying their little piece of paradise on Sugar Lake.

Freelancer Christy Heitger-Ewing has a rescue kitty named “Barney.” At the family cabin, he spends half of his time spying on chipmunks and the other half napping.

Related Issues
User Comments
Only registered members of CabinLife.com are allowed to comment on this article. Registration is FREE and only takes a couple minutes.

Register Today!
 
CABIN LIFE from WISCONSIN said:
Thanks for your feedback, John! We know that floor plans are very helpful to our readers, and we try to include them whenever possible. Unfortunately, cabin owners, builders, architects, etc. are not always willing or able to provide us with the plans. Thanks for your understanding, and for your interest in Cabin Life!
2 stars
JOHN ATWOOD said:
It is a shame that having read this article and understood the background behind the design you fail to let us see the floor plans thereby completing the overall concepts of the owner. This is frustrating to your readers and occurs far too often in your magazine. Every home that is covered in your Cabin Life Magazine should include floor plans.
CABIN LIFE from WISCONSIN said:
I'm sorry, Cabin Life was not provided a floor plan for this project.

Thank you for inquiring.

MEHMET KOCAKULAH from INDIANA said:
We were wondering as well as to where can we see the floor plans?
SHAWN GRADY from MICHIGAN said:
Is there a way to get a floor plan to get a better idea of the total project?
12
SEARCH SITE
Subscriber Only Content
Subscriber Only Content
Look for this icon. This denotes premium subscriber content.  Learn more »
Become a Member
Register online for access to more valuable resource information.
Don't miss your connection to the reader forums, projects, photo galleries, and more.
Not a Member?
Subscriber and Member Login

Free Twice-Monthly E-Newsletter

Receive useful tips & inspiration from Cabin Life

Expand Ribbon
close logo