FROM AN ICE HOUSE TO A WARM FAMILY RETREAT
By Ann Marie Scheidler
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ZACH PONTZ/NYLON CONSULTING
By Ann Marie Scheidler
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ZACH PONTZ/NYLON CONSULTING
It all started as just an idea from the husband—expanding their longtime country home to accommodate more family and friends. And, while the wife was initially reluctant, the results have engendered no regrets.
“I kind of had to be convinced to do this,” Sue Pajakowski says of the renovation of the Twin Lakes, Wisconsin cottage she has owned with her husband, Jim, since 2005. Pajakowski’s cottage was originally a boarding house for the Lawler-Knobe Ice House, which was part of a major winter industry in 19th-century Wisconsin—harvesting ice to preserve perishable food. When the Ice House closed after the advent of electric refrigeration, the boarding house was divided into three separate homes—one of them now belonging to the Pajakowski family.
“When we bought this property, we did some basic things. We tore off some paneling, opened up a couple of doorways—our goal was just to make it a good weekend place. But because of the history of this house, it had some quirks—lots of little rooms,” Pajakowski says. “We were starting to spend more time here, and our family enjoyed visiting, so we decided it was time to make it nice. It was my husband who said, ‘Let’s shoot this house out to the lake’ and that really was the starting point for this big renovation.”
Knowing an extensive project was ahead of her, Pajakowski understood assembling a strong team was important. After interviewing several candidates, she hired Keith Wisnieski from TriStone Development as her general contractor, Mike Malloy from Live by Design Architects as the exterior architect, and Craig Regnier of Hansen Custom Cabinets as the cabinet maker.
“Keith, our general contractor, did something so smart at the beginning of the project,” Pajakowski says. “He wanted to meet with everybody upfront and that’s what really facilitated the great relationship we had working together. He knew how to get everyone on the same page. When everyone is happy working together, you end up with a better project.”
The final piece to Pajakowski’s project team was bringing on Kathleen Glynn, AIA, from KED Interiors in Barrington. She and Glynn had an almost immediate connection.
“Sue already had the plans ready to go when she hired me, and I thought the plans were great,” says Glynn, an experienced architect and interior designer known for the nurturing design approach she uses to recognize a client’s vision. “I started my career as a junior architect with a historic preservation firm, so when I learned of Sue’s vision of wanting to blend the old with the new in this renovation, it sounded like a lot of fun.”
Construction began in the spring of 2021 and very little of the original home was left untouched—literally doubling the size of the property and taking the home from one bathroom to three and a half baths.
“Even though we were changing a lot, it was important to me to keep some of the pieces that were original to the home,” Pajakowski recalls. “I wanted to keep some of the vintage parts—the wide baseboards, the window frames, an original corner cabinet in the kitchen.”
“I really appreciated where Sue was coming from,” Glynn adds. “We didn’t want to lose the character of the house. So often, we walk into a renovation, and it looks like they parked a spaceship in the middle of the house. Our hope was to continue to have the house feel true to itself, but have it work for modern living. It’s a lot more interesting when someone wants to keep some of the old while adding the new. If you wipe the slate completely clean, it can feel sterile.”
To accommodate their family, an expansive addition was added to the original structure of the cottage. The new addition created an open room with large sliding doors and windows that look onto the lake. The Pajakowskis wanted to be able to see the view from their front entryway but also wanted some separation between the original structure and the new addition.
“We designed a floating bar with open shelves and cabinets that can be opened from both sides—and on two different levels—to define the transition between the old and new, while still providing clear views of the lake,” Glynn says.
The cornerstone of this reimagined cottage—the kitchen—opens into a dining area that provides extra seating for dining, work, or play. “The inspiration for this kitchen was to create a fresh, sunny feel with white cabinets, textured white and elongated brick backsplash, and quartz counters with a mix of natural fibers for the light fixtures and counter stools,” Glynn explains. “We put in a few open shelves to display items and cookbooks but put everything else—including the pantry—behind doors to keep things tidy.”
In the seating area adjacent to the kitchen, colors were chosen to bring the outside in. “We upholstered the sofas in a soft blue performance fabric, the two swivel chairs in a fun nautical stripe, and finished the space with an upholstered faux leather ottoman to provide a comfortable landing for drinks or feet,” notes Glynn.
One of Pajakowski’s favorite spots is what she calls the fireplace room. “Even though the fireplace room is one of the smallest rooms in the house, it has multiple functions,” Glynn explains. “It is a game room—so puzzles and board games don’t need to be cleared for meals, a wine tasting area, and a quiet area. Since this fireplace room was part of the original structure, we wanted it to feel timeless. We used limewashed red brick and a wood mantle around the firebox, with caned chairs and a brass light fixture completing the look.”
The first floor is now also home to a serene primary suite. It features a peaked ceiling and a view of the lake. KED Interiors designed a full wall of built-ins instead of large dressers or a walk-in closet.
“I have a little writing desk in my room, and I love to sit there and write notes,” Pajakowski says. The grass cloth on the front of the desk panels pairs perfectly with the caned chair Pajakowski already had. Glynn reupholstered the cushion and added a lumbar pillow for the back to give the chair new life.
Upstairs, one of the most significant changes was removing the drop ceilings in every bedroom. “People are so struck by this change when they visit,” Pajakowski recounts. “Every bedroom got at least eight more inches floor to ceiling. In one bedroom, we got another foot!”
Thanks to the renovation, the Pajakowskis can now comfortably host 35 guests for an overnight stay.
“Do I wish we had done this renovation sooner?” laughs Pajakowski, repeating the question asked of her. “Of course, I do. It’s now everything I could want it to be.”
To learn more about KED Interiors, visit kedinteriors.com. To learn more about the contracting, exterior design, and cabinet team, visit tristonedev.com, livebydesignarchitects.com, and hansencustomcabinets.com.