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A Vacation Log Cabin in Northern Wisconsin: Lure of the Lake

A couple draws on their family heritage to build a vacation log cabin on the site of historic Lighthouse Lodge on Northern Wisconsin's Three Lakes Chain.

vacation log cabin

Lighthouse Lodge on the Three Lakes Chain in northern Wisconsin was the vacation destination for city dwellers looking to enjoy the North Woods In the late 1950s, Jim Gross’s paternal grandparents purchased the lodge and continued to operate the business until his grandfather’s death. At that time, the lodge was closed to the public and became a family retreat.

Over the years, the property fell into disrepair until it got to the point where it was too expensive to refurbish. While vacationing in Beaver Creek, Colorado, Jim and his wife, Bridget, stayed in a log resort. The experience inspired Jim to build a vacation log cabin on the site of Lighthouse Lodge. After researching log-home companies, they found Tomahawk Log & Country Homes to their liking. The biggest attraction was the half-log system, which provided the full-log look on the outside but greater design flexibility inside the home.

patio dining area This log home features a unique patio dining area.

Besides providing a turn-key log package, Tomahawk was able to serve as the general contractor—an important consideration as the family lives in Chicago and wouldn’t be on-site during the construction.

“Fortunately, Jim’s parents live just an hour-and-a-half’s drive away,” Bridget says. “Jim’s father, Ray, would visit the site every week and send us photos of the progress so we could have input into each phase.”

Jim and Bridget collaborated closely with Troy Gullo, a sales and design consultant at Tomahawk, to create the floor plan for the 3,200-square-foot home. The main entry opens to the great room and leads to a full bath, laundry-mud room and a master bedroom suite. On the second floor are three bedrooms, a full bath and a loft sitting area.

Due to the lake’s high water table, only a 4-foot crawl space was possible below the home. A screened porch was one of Bridget’s must-haves. She wanted a place where the family could retreat when bugs became a nuisance. They positioned the porch on the side of the house to provide access from both the great room and the master bedroom.

Beaver Creek’s Ritz-Carton Hotel was Bridget’s inspiration as she set about decorating the home. She selected her favorite shade of red as the starting point and found furnishings that would create a warm and lodge-like feel without breaking their budget. She searched the Internet, catalogs and local stores for items that give the desired look.

“Woolrich has a wonderful line of bedding, which I purchased at Target, that is ideal for a lodge,” Bridget says. “Area rugs from Costco and metal drapery rods from Ikea helped me keep down the cost. If you are looking for doorknobs and pulls and shelf brackets that appear old or rustic, I recommend Van Dyke’s Restorers, which can be found on the Internet. That is where I purchased most of the hardware for the cabin.”

dining area

Gingham and an antler chandelier highlight the traditional aspects of this kitchen.

Bridget was adamant that nothing in the house be shiny and glitzy. She selected black matte kitchen appliances and rustic lighting fixtures. She even asked the electrician to take out all of the gold-colored canned lights and spray paint them a flat black tone. Susan Swanson, an interior designer and Bridget’s friend, helped design the kitchen. Bridget’s goal was for efficient use of space with open shelves that are both practical and cost efficient.

“Susan’s philosophy is that anything that you can put in a cabinet, you can put in a large drawer,” Bridget says. “Thus, all of the bottom cabinets are drawers, which is so much more efficient as you don’t have to constantly be bending down and moving things around to find the pot or pan you need.”

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