Photos courtesy Wild Rice Retreat
When Wild Rice Restaurant, a culinary and architectural jewel of Lake Superior’s South Shore, closed after 16 years, local residents were dismayed. What would happen to the David Salmela-designed structure, with its Scandinavian-inspired buildings and the architect’s signature un-chimney fireplaces?
In stepped Heidi Zimmer, vice president of properties at the nonprofit developer Artspace, who had long wanted to bring her creative approach to a business of her own—and Wild Rice was perfect. “The architecture seamlessly lent itself to becoming a center for arts, well-being, and restoring your spirit in nature,” explains Zimmer.
The center opened in 2018, with classes in culinary arts, jewelry making, painting, yoga, and more. But with zero accommodations on site, Zimmer contacted Salmela about the possibility of enhancing his existing architecture with sleeping quarters clustered in the woods.
The result? A RicePod—“which literally means a ‘container in nature’,” Zimmer describes—featuring light-blond, locally sourced basswood walls, in-floor heating, and nearly floor-to-ceiling windows that offer sweeping views of the surrounding woods. Blu Dot furniture and a tiled toilet/shower area across from a sink surrounded by shelves, cabinets, and mini fridge complete the retreat. “Our intent is that you feel supported, nurtured, and cared for in a powerful and transformative way,” says Zimmer, who says additional RicePods will open this summer. “To hold space for you in nature is our goal.”