An Illinois couple expands a lakeside home.

Story by Tracy Maruschak Ruff
Photography by Roger Wade

Since 1963, Sandy and Marty Wambsganss have vacationed near lake Minocqua in Northern Wisconsin.  Their daughter and son-in-law carried on the tradition by building their own log vacation home on the lake in 1992.  A few years later, they decided to sell the house. “Our daughter’s house got an offer put on it by another family,” Sandy says, “but we decided that we wanted to keep it in our family.”

Even though the retreat is five hours away from their primary home in Elmhurst, Illinois, Sandy and Marty were elated to purchase the lakefront house. The only concern about the cabin was its small size. 

“As a family, we get together at the log home between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays,” Marty says. “Our oldest daughter and her family would sleep next door, but we would all be together during the day and evenings in our home. Needless to say, an addition was a must, or we would not be able to assemble as a family.”

Packed into 950 square feet, the original 1-1/2-story retreat included a great room, loft, kitchen, two bedrooms and one bath. “After much planning and perspiration and with one major inspiration, we came up with a plan for a 24-by-24-foot addition that met all of our requirements,” Marty says. The couple designed the addition, which would increase the total square footage to 2,225, to be in proportion with the original home. The addition includes a master bedroom, bath, kitchen with an island, office, second entrance and a full basement.

Sandy and Marty’s goal was to create comfortable sleeping space for a large group during the holidays, but maintain privacy for themselves when the house was filled with family or friends. “We determined that a master bedroom with a bath was something we wanted,” Marty says. “This was to facilitate entertaining weekend guests and not having to share a bath.”

To create more living and sleeping space, the area under the addition and the crawlspace under the existing home were dug out to create a finished basement. A log staircase leads down to the bunkroom for the grandchildren, full bath and recreation room in the lower level.

When the couple designed the addition, their only dilemma was how to access the addition from the original home without sacrificing a bedroom or losing the charm of the original home. They decided to move the kitchen from the existing structure into the addition, creating a traffic pattern that would lead from the original great room, which would be greatly enlarged, into the new kitchen.

Above the French doors that connect the two areas, a large transom window was installed after construction. The couple felt that they were too closed off from the rest of the home and added the window to extend the lake views from the new kitchen. Also, above the sink, a large window with a sunburst motif was added to capture the glorious views. “We added transoms above as many windows as possible,” Marty says.

The addition was built with conventional stick-framed walls. The couple took steps to ensure that the interior of the old section would mesh seamlessly with the new. The cathedral ceiling in the kitchen matches the high ceiling in the great room. Hardwood floors, pine paneling and 8-inch pine baseboards carry the look of wood into the addition.

A northwoods-themed decor was used throughout the home with a consistent color scheme of hunter green and burgundy. “We maintained a continual color scheme to maintain balance between the two areas,” Sandy says.

To complement their lakeside theme, Marty and Sandy continually collect eclectic pieces to add to their vacation home. Rustic wooden ducks and geese decoys, artwork and throw blankets are spread throughout the home. In the kitchen, a chain-saw carved bear, locally handcrafted, sits on a ledge overlooking the small island. For a slight change, Sandy selected bright blues and yellows for the master bedroom.

Outside, Marty designed and handcrafted the adirondack chairs and green shutters with pine-tree cutouts.The same shutters are used on the log-sided garage to tie the two structures together.

To keep the integrity of the exterior, Marty and Sandy enlisted the expertise of builder Ken Wickman of Wickman Construction in Woodruff, Wisconsin. Ken built the original home using 7-inch, full-round Swedish cope logs from Neville Log Homes, a manufacturer based in Victor, Montana. For the exterior of the addition, the Wambsgansses selected half-logs. “We went with half-logs to have a different texture on the interior and to control costs,” Marty says.

Ken purchased the matching siding material at a local lumberyard. At first there was a noticeable difference between the new log siding and existing full logs, but after time, the difference is only slight. “There’s a nice patina and hue on the wood features. The new is blending in more with the old,” Sandy says.

To make the most of their lakeside home, the couple added on to the existing deck that runs the length of the original home. “We extended the deck so it’s like another room,” Sandy says. Marty also did extensive landscaping to make the backyard useable by terracing the land and adding stone retaining walls. “We call it our front lawn now,” Marty says.

The renovation was completed in two years and the Wambsgansses fulfilled their goal of accommodating family and friends. They appreciate the home now more than ever. “Visiting the cabin has become a way of life,” Sandy says.



Log producer and architect: Neville Log Homes
General contractor, architect, cabinetry and masonry: Wickman Construction
Antler chandelier: Twisted Root Emporium

Bed and dining room furniture:
Minocqua Furniture Co.
Carved wooden bear: Stoney Creek Gardens.
Fireplace: Majestic/Vermont Castings
Interior decorator: Northern Woods Floral and Interior Design
Landscaping:  Benjamin’s Greenery

Windows and doors:
Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co.

For contact information, see Resources.


Benjamin’s Greenery, 10771 W. Highway 70, Minocqua WI 54548; 715-356-2766

Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co., 1323 S. 11th Ave., Wausau WI 54401; 715-842-5666

Majestic/Vermont Castings, 1000 E. Market St., Huntington IN 46750; 800-227-8683

Minocqua Furniture Co., 8536 Highway 51 N., Minocqua WI 54548; 715-356-2500

Neville Log Homes, 2036 Highway 93 N., Victor MT 59875; 800-635-7911

Northern Woods Floral and Interior Design, Highway 51 N., Minocqua WI 54548; 715-356-4499

Stoney Creek Gardens, 7658 Highway 51 S., Minocqua WI 54548; 715-358-7090

Twisted Root Emporium, 207 Front St., Minocqua WI 54548; 715-356-5179

Wickman Construction, 330 Highway 47 W., Woodruff WI 54568; 715-356-2744