House Tour: Reinventing History | Midwest Living

House Tour: Reinventing History

Three century-old log cabins join together to become a one-of-a-kind lakefront getaway.

Quirky combo

A quirky hallway combines cowhide and modern art with ease.

Historic character

Throughout the house, dense, hand-hewn, square-cut, dovetail-notched timbers—made from huge old-growth trees—offer historic character no modern materials can match. New painted tongue-and-groove pine plank walls conceal insulation, plumbing and other mechanicals. Extra timbers and miscellaneous reclaimed wood pieces were recycled as floor planks, ceilings and stairs. "We tried to be as green as possible," says John.

Left On the screen porch, well-used oars act as art hung on a cabin’s timbered wall.  


Vintage view

A vintage duck boat decorates a lean-to carport/patio. The lattice-style cement-paver-and-grass driveway percolates rainwater and pampers bare feet.

Designed-for-today interior

The new living room section—a glass “breezeway” connecting two of the vintage cabins—lets the family feel as if they are living outside whatever the season. 

Unifying look

Patti handled the decor, blending woods with a neutral palette of cream, “greige” (a beige-y gray) and black. “I wanted a seamless indoor-outdoor flow,” Patti says, “so I looked at the colors in the logs and went from there.” Creamy hues echo the pale chinking and fieldstone. The result is a warm, rustic look that’s a bit more polished and sophisticated than a typical cabin.

John’s artistic skills are also evident: He built several pieces of furniture (the living room coffee table and hallway bench, for example), and most of the contemporary artwork is his.

Left Painted wall planks and reclaimed wood floors establish a look that unites all three cabins.


Open spaces

The kitchen’s character comes from a stone wall and hand-rubbed, stained cabinets.

Design details

Abstract art and an old boat model reflect the compatibility of old and new in the home. 

Restful colors

Gray walls offer a restful mood in the master bedroom.

Photo wall

In the den, family photos record memories.

Quirky combo

A quirky hallway combines cowhide and modern art with ease.

Screen porch pleasures

The Meyers enjoy their home year-round—especially its screen porch, which includes a fireplace. “It’s where we spend most of our time unless it’s winter,” says Patti, pictured here with John and daughter Abby. “There’s just something about the fresh air, the water views and a fire.” 

Ironically, John never found the right cabin for a “sugar shack,” so he built one from scratch. (It’s near the family home in De Pere.) But the cabin hunt paid off in an unforeseen way: John has started a business specializing in that wonderfully aged, reclaimed timber. 

Buying guide

Builder Forestville Builders and Supply, 114 Main St., Forestville, Wisconsin. (920) 856-6460;

Reclaimed timber Beam and Board. (920) 366-2564;

To-the-trade furnishings and accents below available through: Nathan Nichols and Co., 8068 Hwy. 57, Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin.  (920) 839-9779;

Screen porch Teak porch furniture Kingsley-Bate. (703) 361-7001;

Living room Coffee table Beam and Board. Console table Industrial counter. Bobo Intriguing Objects (404) 355-2309; Floor lamp, table lamps Bobo Intriguing Objects  Sofas Baker Furniture. (800) 592-2537;

Kitchen Cabinetry Forestville Builders and Supply. Appliances Dacor. (800) 793-0093; Light pendants Benson. Restoration Hardware. (800) 910-9836;

Master bedroom Bed Savannah. Somerset Bay. (336) 869-9714; Bedding Peacock Alley. (800) 496-2880;

Hallway Wood bench Beam and Board


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