Twin Lakes Home Gets a Picture Perfect Lake-House Upgrade

As much as they love their stylish Chicago lakefront condo, the pandemic, an expanding family and recollections of raising children on a lake in Southeastern Wisconsin made Jill and Steve turn their attention toward a second home in Wisconsin. “I have great memories of summers on a lake,” offers Jill, “and we wanted a place where we could have our whole family under one roof.”

Twin Lakes offered the perfect setting—close enough to Chicago to keep the drive short and encourage brief getaways, proximity to family in Wisconsin, and a house that backs right onto stunning Lake Elizabeth.

The house had been used for vacation rentals, and the couple could tell from the VRBO site reviews that it could easily accommodate large groups. “But it was basically all square,” notes Steve. “It was simple and clean,” notes Steve “but it didn’t have any charm at all.”

They knew they wanted to give the home a lake house, family feel. “The most fundamental changes,” describes Steve, “were to the lake-facing portion of the first floor. There was a smaller kitchen with no island, a wall breaking up open space, and a fireplace taking up a corner.” These rooms were fully reimagined to flow together and extend the lake view throughout the common areas.

Walls were removed at the top and bottom of the stairs, and doors with glass panels were installed, to let light stream through and impart an airy feel. In addition, carpet and fixtures were replaced throughout, giving way to wood plank flooring, custom painted cabinetry, beadboard accents, and updated stone and tile. The impeccable taste that defines their city condo comes through, but with a more casual, weekend interpretation.

A few other changes have had a big impact. Beams added to the ceiling, for example, transform the look of the living room. “The beams are a game changer,” adds Jill. “It wasn’t easy finding materials that were long enough to span the whole room, but the Pickell team made it happen.” Steve also appreciates the access door in the garage wall that allows him to pass the car charging cable through to visitors. “It’s a small thing, but it makes a difference. We have other family members who need to charge, and we can only charge one car in the garage.”

Jill is also happy with the decision to include two washers and dryers. “When you have a lot of people, you have a lot of linens at the end of the weekend. Having two sets of everything makes a lot of sense.”

Designed for use year-round, the family hosted last Thanksgiving there. The huge island is perfect for gathering around, grandkids love the built-in window seats, and there’s storage for everything—including toys stashed in drawers under the television.

“Pickell did an amazing job,” comments the couple. “After our last experience, we didn’t even talk to anyone else. We used a designer/architect that we really like, and they worked very well together and made a good team.”