Photos: Greg Page Studios
You might say Kristie and Keith Harrison have the best of both worlds. At their primary home, the Minnesota couple can swim, water-ski, even cruise the small lake they live on by Amphicar. But when the Harrisons head to their cabin on Lake Superior, their watercraft stay in dry dock. Why? Because the cabin is “all about the forest,” says Kristie. “There’s so many trails right out our door.”
Whenever possible, grown daughters Kali and Kassie join in the fun, making it a family affair. “We love it there in winter just as much as summer. It’s wonderful to go hiking or snowshoeing on a path where the only footprints are made by animals,” says Kristie. Some of those prints are left by deer or foxes. Others are from the Harrisons’ faithful companions: Kloe, a Maltese dog, and Kiwi, a small – but fearless – West Highland terrier. “I was working in the garden between the garage and cabin when I heard a twig snap behind me,” recounts Kristie. “I could have reached out and touched the bear.” To her surprise, Kiwi charged the bear and scared it up a tree.
So what’s with all the K’s? Call it a family tradition. Both Kristie and Keith’s mothers named all of their kids with K’s. “It’s a K-fest when we all get together,” laughs Kristie.
Kristie’s Dream Realized
The couple met when Keith, a New Jersey native, attended college in Minnesota. Cabin living “wasn’t in his blood,” Kristie says when explaining how they came to own a cabin. “But it was in mine, because I grew up with a cabin. All my best childhood memories are of ‘up north.’
For years, the Harrisons visited friends who own a nearby cabin. When the friends alerted them that a log home was for sale, the Harrisons went to see it. The hillside setting was lovely. But the cabin’s original layout was strange. Custom built in the 1990s, it had a 30-foot-long hallway running down the center, with multiple doors on the sides. Good for playing capture the flag, Kristie jokes – not so much for guests trying to remember their bedroom.
But everything changed when Kristie stepped into the great room, with its stone fireplace and stunning view of Lake Superior. She fell in love. “I said, ‘Okay, I get it.’ It was really beautiful.”
A Fresh Floor Plan
As an interior designer who specializes in new construction, Kristie had no trouble picturing a more efficient floor plan
. Instead of a straight hallway with dead ends, the new layout would be open and circular, allowing traffic to flow around the fireplace on both sides into the great room.
Architect Lance Siddens of Duluth, Minn., drew up plans and resolved the project’s structural issues. The Harrisons hired local contractor Dave Geist to do the remodeling. He eliminated 10 doors during the year-long renovation, including two that led from the hallway into the great room.
The plan also included the addition of a lake room. The lake room is an Adirondack-style open-air porch complete with birch tree adornments and a suspended bed, and it ties into the great room, deck and master bedroom.
Except for the lake room addition, all the flooring is original. “You can’t tell where the builder took the doors down – he did a good job of piecing things in,” says Kristie. Where the front door used to be is now a bathroom for one of the four bedrooms. Both Kristie and Keith have extended families and like to entertain friends, so the cabin had to accommodate large groups. Between the bedrooms, sleeping porch, built-in beds in the lake room, and sleeper daybed on the lower level, the cabin can comfortably sleep 18–20. “We’ve had full capacity,” says Kristie.
Bringing the forest in with natural elements and rustic accents was another priority for Kristie. “I like the Adirondack style
,” she says, and her flair for combining texture with pattern and color is evident in the remodeled retreat.
The new front entry leads from the porch into a reconfigured interior with rustic touches. But the great room is still the heart of this cabin. The Harrisons had the original pickled wood in here stripped and restained for a more rustic look. Log beams and an antique sailing canoe that Keith discovered at the Duluth Pack store draw the eye upward.
Furnishings are comfortable and casual, a mix of old and new. “I didn’t want the furniture to date itself,” says Kristie. Her love of Native American art is reflected in upholstery fabrics and throws. The red color scheme extends throughout the cabin, from burgundy exterior trim to a display in the kitchen of red and white campware (also called “enamelware” or “graniteware”).
During the remodel, upper kitchen cabinets were replaced with open shelves. “With so many people using the cabin, they don’t have to wonder where things are,” says Kristie. The Harrisons borrowed space from a half-bath and pantry to enlarge the dining area. The clan gathers for meals around a pomegranate-red table that expands to seat 16. A hanging fixture casts a soft glow of candlelight on the diners.
Outdoors, Day and Night
But mostly, the Harrisons and their guests prefer to gather outdoors. Adirondack chairs
and a wraparound sitting ledge on the back deck make it easy to linger over the view. “We always have people out there, watching the sunrise, the lake, the northern lights,” says Kristie.
The fire pit is another magnet. “We’ve had guests who made a fire at 10 in the morning and didn’t leave it until 9 p.m.”
More energetic cabin-goers play bocce or amble down the path to the lake, 200 feet away. When the Harrisons are not hiking in the forest, they’re hunting for agates on the lakeshore. Favorite specimens enjoy pride of place in the cabin, like the red agate gems Kristie glued around a mirror. “I want to have something in every room to make people smile,” says Kristie. “I smile the whole time I’m there – my face hurts when I leave.” As for Keith? Well, after 35 years of marriage, Kristie is happy to report that he, too, gets the whole cabin thing. And in our book, that’s A-OK.