It’s the kind of quiet, forested retreat that reveals itself slowly. Nestled into the landscape, the home boasts an earthy-hued exterior and a black metal roof that echo the natural palette all around. “The cabin almost disappears,” says architect Todd Hansen of Albertsson Hansen Architecture in Minneapolis. “It matches the recessive feel of many of the cabins on the lake, looking right at home amongst the trees.”
It’s the dream retreat of Nathan Swisher, who lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Maggie, and their two teen daughters. To escape their busy California lives, they wanted a peaceful cabin in the woods not far from Appleton, Wisconsin, where she grew up. Something that captured the up north spirit they’ve come to love. “It was important that the house blend into the landscape and not trumpet itself across the lake,” Swisher explains. “We wanted a silhouette that appears to have always been there.”
So they opted for a 4,400-square-foot rustic modern cabin with clean lines, making sure to add plenty of porches for long, lazy afternoons. Bands of broad windows bring the outdoors in, flooding room after room with soft sunlight. Most impressive of all, with nearly 600 feet of Katherine Lake shoreline, two full sides of the cabin offer completely different views of the shimmering water right outside. “The lot sits on a slight peninsula,” Hansen explains. “We were able to take advantage of these vistas by placing the house in the low part of the site, which also allows the lower level recreation room to have walkout views.”
Inside, it’s the stellar woodwork that delights. The entire abode is centered around a soaring lodge room, where the walls and vaulted ceiling are splendidly trimmed with knot-free cedar tongue-and-groove paneling, finished with a natural stain. The wood’s warm hue feels like a welcoming embrace. And because the kitchen and dining room open up onto this central space, the whole design of the home makes for simple family living. “Exhausted kids can sprawl out on the couch while a group cooks dinner in the kitchen while others work on a crossword puzzle,” Swisher details. “Everyone is together, but doing their own thing.”
The open kitchen is clad in the same signature woodwork, with lots of ready work surfaces and large picture windows overlooking the tall trees. A duo of clear glass light fixtures brings weightlessness to the space, while plenty of drawers offer ample storage. Best of all, a service pantry sits right behind the kitchen, so all those groceries that come along with big family gatherings can be close at hand yet out of sight. “In the summer, the sun sets right out the kitchen windows, so as we’re preparing dinner, we can watch the light change over the lake,” says Swisher. “Every night is unique and spectacular. I constantly remind folks to make sure to check out the ‘lake show’ this time of day.”
Cherished moments like these are built into the home’s architectural ethos. From perfect window placement to carefully crafted cabinetry, Albertsson Hansen Architecture prides itself on thoughtful design that brings clients daily pleasure and a sense of well-being. The award-winning firm offers a full spectrum of work, from small remodeling projects to generous family homes to complete interior design services. It’s all about functionality and an elevated attention to detail.
That detail is evident in the cabin’s elegant front hall. Here, four windows sit opposite a wood-slatted wall that forms an attractive screen for the staircase. Together, the two elements bring the same architectural weight found in the nearby lodge room. Then to keep the hallway neat, a 20-foot lift-top bench is built into the space right below the windows. “It’s a feature in many of our cabins, where there tends to be a lot of incoming gear, boxes, coolers and luggage when people arrive,” Hansen points out. “We extended the length of the bench to provide storage for the clients’ extensive board game collection and beach towels.”
Up on the second floor, that same rigorous approach extends to a playful bunkroom perfect for summertime hangouts. The room features six recessed bed nooks, each with its own lake view. From a queen to four singles and even a three-quarter-size mattress, every inch of space is utilized. “Each bed then has corresponding built-in drawers for clothing,” Hansen explains. “We love how it became a three-dimensional landscape inside the house.”
Meanwhile in the primary suite, it’s all about peace and quiet. This space provides a refuge for the busy owners at the end of the day. With its simple lines and classic windows, it feels like a modern treehouse. Luxurious touches abound, like a freestanding tub with its very own water vista to enjoy with a warm bath. Throughout the home, Carla Lane of Carla Lane Interiors curated furnishings, fixtures and accessories that offer a contemporary take on iconic cabin style. In the upstairs guest bedroom, for example, white painted woodwork looks serene, while a black-and-white check chair and a striped wool blanket lend a graphic, woodsy vibe.
But in the end, cabins are meant for grand gatherings. This haven has become a beloved destination for family and friends, a home in the Wisconsin woods where new memories can be made. It was built to provide carefree living for this family of four, but when guests drop by for the weekend, it can sleep up to 17. That was the idea all along: to provide a cabin experience to balance the family’s life in Los Angeles. “It has brought me closer to my family,” says Swisher. “I’ve seen them more in the past three to four years than I did in the decade before that. We love thinking about the legacy of this house and that the girls will hopefully continue to enjoy it for years to come.”