Family Traditions Going Strong
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Family Traditions Going Strong

They didn’t start out as friends.

Lizette had been coming to this spot on Schultz Lake in northern Minnesota since she was 8 years old. From the weekend after the school year ended to Labor Day weekend, her family would spend their summers at their A-frame cottage. And in the winter, the cottage hosted weekends of family snowmobiling.

Two doors down, an 8-year-old boy, John, frequently visited his grandfather’s cabin.

Little Lizette and John weren’t exactly buddies. In between the two cabins lived a boy, Mark, who was a close friend to both Lizette and John, but the two pairs of friends rarely morphed into a trio.

But as John and Lizette grew into their teen years, they saw more and more of each other as they and the other teens along Schultz Lake gathered for long summer days of water-skiing, evening driveway dances and nightly 10 p.m. boat cruises. “There were a lot of kids here in those days,” recalls Lizette. Most of the activity seemed to revolve around her family’s cabin. As an only child, she thrived on inviting her lake friends over for days and evenings of fun.

It took a hyperextended knee to bring the two together once and for all one fateful summer. John’s bum knee meant no summer camps, no water-skiing, just a quiet summer on Schultz Lake. Lizette recalls with a chuckle, “John then had nothing to do, so he hung around me.”

And 26 years later, they’re still together – and they’re still enjoying the lake of their childhood.

Too Many Memories to Say Goodbye
John and Lizette Lawien have two sons, 22-year-old Christian and 17-year-old Corbin, and the Lawiens have an easy time making it to the lake. “The drive is 25 minutes from driveway to driveway. We can come out here any evening we want,” Lizette says.

However, “out here” no longer includes the old A-frame cottage that Lizette inherited. A few years ago, the Lawiens realized it was time to either rebuild or sell the property entirely. “It was musty, caving in and tilting to one side,” John said.

And space was an issue, Lizette added. “It was just too small for us to live in. One of the little closets was made for me when I was 8 years old, and you could tell. And we were tired of fighting with our sons for years about where they would sleep in the small cottage. The boys hated sharing a bed and would fight in bed, making me want to go home.”

It was quickly decided that selling was not an option. “The lake is near and dear to us. There are too many memories here for us to sell my parents’ property,” Lizette says. So in the fall of 2007, demolition of the A-frame and construction of the new cabin commenced.
A Nod to Dad & Mom
It’s not that letting the old Aframe go was an easy decision. After all, for many years, Lizette’s parents held on to the lake property for their daughter and her family. “Dad said, ‘As long as you use it, we’ll keep it.’”

But Lizette says she can now take solace from a conversation she had a with a neighbor during construction of their new cabin. “The neighbor said to me, ‘I’m so glad to see what you’re doing over there.’ The neighbor was a good friend of Dad’s and talked to Dad many times about the A-frame. The neighbor said to me, ‘Do you know how many times your Dad and I talked about that place and how it had to go? But he didn’t think he could convince your mother – for what he wanted to put in its place was a log cabin.’”

Walking through the new cabin with the Lawiens, there are many nods to Lizette’s father, his tastes and his desire for a log cabin, as well as to her mother, her tastes and her love of the old A-frame.

When you first drive or boat up to the new cabin it’s obvious Lizette’s father got his wish: A beautiful log-sided structure now graces the property.

Inside, brightly colored furniture is mixed into the living room and colorful, whimsical light fixtures adorn much of the new cabin – a tip of the hat to the lively décor of the old Aframe cottage and Lizette’s mother. Also carried over from the A-frame are the cabin’s skylights.

A grand elk mount overlooks the family room. Taxidermy typically does not play a part in John and Lizette’s decorating style, but “it was Dad’s,” Lizette says, so it has a place of honor in the new cabin.

Outside, there are two prominent reminders of the old days – one practical and one recreational.

The practical: The original garage still stands, but it’s been re-sided with half-log siding to match the new cabin.

The recreational: The standalone gazebo and large deck on the lake side. The gazebo, like the garage, is a re-sided carry over. The deck is new, but it reminds Lizette of the days when “Dad loved to sit on the deck with his feet on the railing, drinking a Scotch, watching the boats on the lake.”
What’s New
Along with the many reminders of what was, the Lawiens’ new cabin definitely has a personality of its own.

The single roofline of the original A-frame has given way to multiple roof angles. The Lawiens’ builder was a cooperative named Builders Commonwealth. “They said our place had the most difficult roof angles of any place they’ve built,” says Lizette.

For architect Hugh Reitan of Builders Commonwealth, the difficulty of the project is what made it rewarding: “Working on an interesting roofline and form was the most rewarding part. The owners wanted a very distinctive form with a lot of gables and visual interest. The log details of a more complex form like this are challenging but all of the carpentry turned out very well.”

Modern touches include in-floor hot water heat on all levels of the home and a master bedroom suite.

In the master bedroom, the Lawiens can enjoy two views from bed: one of the lake through huge windows, and one of starry night skies through a skylight above the pillow end of the bed. A master walk-in closet – complete with a vanity – ensures Lizette is no longer restricted to a cubby fit for an 8-yearold. A pocket door from the master bedroom leads to the second floor bathroom. The expansive shower is for today, while the soaker tub is for tomorrow. “You need a tub for kids,” Lizette explains, looking to a day when she’ll have grandkids visiting.

Christian and Corbin are no longer dealing with cramped sleeping quarters, with each having a bedroom to call his own.

For overnight guests, sleeping options include a day bed on the balcony that overlooks the open living room and an inflatable bed in the ladder-accessible loft.

At the behest of the only woman in the house, the main floor bath included a shower and was strategically placed near the back door of the cabin. The idea was that her husband and sons could immediately hit the showers when entering the cabin after doing yard work. Another sensible feature missing from many cabin bathrooms: There’s a full window that actually opens.

This bathroom isn’t entirely utilitarian, however. Design touches include a glass bowl sink and a twiggy mirror.

Building a home is a major stressor for some people. Not so for the Lawiens. “It was a lot of fun to go through the process,” John says. He and Lizette were comfortable with the contractor, Builders Commonwealth, because the company had built an addition for the Lawiens on their primary home.
Fun at Schultz Lake
With the building project done, the Lawiens are free to focus on fun. In the winter, the recreation is simple. This is a snowmobiling family. From the cabin, they’ll travel hundreds of miles on the trails. And once every winter, the family drives to West Yellowstone for a major snowmobiling adventure.

Summers on Schultz Lake are all about water-skiing, wakeboarding, tubing, knee boarding and riding PWCs. But if you don’t see the Lawiens on the lake, you may find them cycling down the road to the nearby ice cream shop.

It seems John and Lizette’s Schultz Lake tradition will carry on for years to come. John certainly has a legacy to live up to. His grandfather recently turned 91 years old, and still lives in the cabin two doors down. “He water-skied until just a couple years ago,” John says of his grandfather, who can be spotted on the lake country roads riding his new Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Editor Mark Johnson hopes he’ll still be enjoying the cabin when he’s over 90 years old.
Both winter and summer, the Lawien family makes frequent trips to their new lakeside getaway.
Mark R. Johnson
Tanya Back
The ski boat is ready to go for the Lawiens, who have a long history of enjoying watersports on Schultz Lake.
Tanya Back
In winter, the Lawien family takes to their snowmobiles for recreation.
Lizette inherited the lakefront property from her parents. Her father's prize elk overlooks the family room in the new cabin that Lizette and her husband John recently built.
Tanya Back
Tanya Back
Tanya Back
Lizette’s mother decorated her A-frame in lively colors. Even though Lizette and John’s new cabin is log-sided and not an A-frame, Lizette is keeping her mother’s decorating tastes alive with bright colored fabrics, dishes and light fixtures.
Tanya Back
A daybed on the balcony provides sleeping for guests, as does the daybed in the loft -- accessible by the ladder in the foreground.
Tanya Back
The Lawiens’ gazebo brings the family a little closer to the lake, while protecting them from evening mosquitoes.
Tanya Back
The Lawiens' new cabin has great curb appeal on this side, and great dock appeal on the other.
Tanya Back

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