A north Minnesota lake house is a comfortable getaway for family and friends
Interior designer Michelle Fries grew up vacationing with her family along Minnesota’s Whitefish Chain of Lakes and wanted to create a welcoming lake house that would bring everyone together. “The overall design goal was to create a Minnesota farmhouse-cottage,” she says.
Crisp white board and batten siding, black metal roofing, classic brick accents and a wraparound porch create a pleasing simplicity on the exterior, while antique finds and warm wood provide a comfortable ease inside. Extensive porches and a rehabilitated boathouse overlook the lake, and there’s plenty of room for family and friends.
Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here: Michelle Fries of BeDe Design; her husband, David Fries; their children, Declan, 14, and Betsy, 12; and their two dogs, Jimmy and Cookie.
Location: On Cross Lake in Crosslake, Minnesota, about a 2½-hour drive from St. Paul-Minneapolis
Size: 4,200 square feet (390 square meters); five bedrooms; five bathrooms; plus boathouse
Designer: Michelle Fries
“My family went up to the Whitefish Chain of Lakes every summer and rented a cabin in one of the many small, quaint resorts. Some of my favorite memories of growing up were fishing and swimming off the dock with my sisters and friends,” Fries says. “Both my sister and uncle have cabins on Cross Lake as well, so it’s always a built-in party.” Fries’ parents and another sister and her family visit frequently.
A corrugated metal fish greets guests at the end of the driveway. The designer commissioned local artist Tim Kulseth to craft the gate. He added a giant fishhook that serves as the latch.
To get the Minnesota classic farmhouse-cottage look, Fries went with board and batten siding painted with Benjamin Moore Simply White. Black metal roofs and barn lights add to the vernacular farmhouse feel, and a low porch wraps around the house. “The porch offers shade and interesting transitions to the interior,” she says. Classic red brick is used on the chimney and fireplace.
The couple designed a house that can accommodate visits from family and friends. The green Dutch door on the right is the entrance to a separate one-bedroom, one-bathroom space with a small kitchen. “We needed to contain the guest quarters under the same roof as the cabin but chose not to connect the two sides through the interior,” Fries says. “Instead, each side of the cabin is entered through exterior doors for added privacy.” This also means they can shut off the heat and air conditioning in the guest area when it is not in use.
Fries’ extended family has a strong connection to the lake. “Every Fourth of July my uncle Donny throws a big party on his beach for family and friends to watch the huge fireworks display put on by the town of Crosslake. Over a hundred boats pull into the bay in front of his cabin to see the show,” she says. And while she loves spending time with her family up here, her friends get a turn as well. “I’d have to say one of my favorite traditions is my college girlfriends’ weekend. We do one in the winter and one in the summer. Lots of laughing and dancing and good wine and food,” she says.
Photo by Rick Hammer
Over the fireplace, matching board and batten doors conceal the TV. The brick fireplace surround maintains the farmhouse simplicity. A window seat on one side and a bar on the other add all the creature comforts anyone could want in here.
The kitchen is a balance of rustic and refined. Wood mullions, a butcher-block counter, board and batten siding, a farmhouse sink and iron-cup drawer pulls bring in the farmhouse style, while honed Carrara marble countertops, amber glass knobs and the snazzy range add sophistication.
The screened-in porch provides a breezy eating spot. Sunbrella window treatments block the wind and rain when needed.
“The lounging porch is probably everyone’s favorite part of our cabin,” Fries says. “Family and friends usually grab a drink on their way through the house and head straight to these chairs to watch the kids fishing off the dock or pontoons driving by.” On hot, buggy nights, ceiling fans provide a breeze and keep the insects away. She dresses the chairs with Minnesota’s Faribault Woolen Mill Co. blankets on chilly nights.
The last of the project was completing two bedrooms on the lower level for overflow overnight guests. Fries covered the walls in nickel-spaced butt boards and the ceilings in stained pine boards like the ones used throughout the rest of the house.
“I used a mix of textures and colors, with fabric and furniture I found in antique shops and funky local stores,” she says. Finds include a Jenny Lind bed and an antique blanket. Accent pillows from Anthropologie add whimsy.
When the lake becomes a skating rink during the winter, the boathouse becomes the warming house. The couple strings holiday lights over the area so everyone can enjoy the winter wonderland at night.“There are never enough days in the summer in Minnesota. We feel really lucky that when we go to the cabin, we get to be with extended family. In fact, we see them far more ‘Up North’ than we do when we are home throughout the rest of the year,” Fries says. “I get to go to that place that is so nostalgic for me and experience it again and again with my kids.”
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