Photos by David Bader
Longing for a home away from home, a family of four began working with Wade Weissmann Architecture to create a large, shingle-style lake house in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. This initial project went off without a hitch, and after the home was complete, the clients purchased additional acreage next door. The land held empty pockets with ample room for opportunity, so they called on Weissmann yet again to take on a second assignment.
When he sat with the clients to brainstorm ideas for what this accessory structure could possibly become, he paid close attention to who they are, their commitment to a healthy living, and their passion for a biodynamic life. “They became very interested in developing what was becoming their lifestyle,” Weissmann says. Taking all of the above into consideration, he crafted a unique pitch: an ultimate sports barn.
Weissmann laid out the concept for the 7,500-square-foot space, complete with a half-court gym, rock-climbing wall, volleyball net, and batting cage; a cold-dip pool and sauna; and a loft with a shuffleboard, arcade games, and eagle’s-nest views of the lake. The clients fell in love with Weismann’s pitch, trusting Weissmann’s vision for the recreational outbuilding. “It may seem indulgent,” Weissmann says, “but when you actually look at how all of the components came together on the site, it was not to make it seem indulgent—but to make it seem like it was somewhat indigenous and repurposed.”
With the go-ahead from the clients, Weissmann’s team began building the barn. The clients were very eco-friendly and expressed their concerns about altering the land during the building process. “for understanding how we could do this in a way that was harmonizing with the environment,” Weissmann says. But quickly, he and the team ran into a challenge—the building site was sloped on a hill, where summer storms sent streams of water rolling downward. Civil engineers on the project were tested by the slant, but Weissmann says the team worked through the obstacle day by day, keeping the land as natural as possible.
Once the rain had ceased and the foundation was laid, Weissmann turned his attention to the exterior. Weathered board-and-batten siding and timber porches were some of the repurposed materials used on the Midwest-style barn, giving the space a natural presentation. Other earthy pieces were also incorporated, including exposed-stone foundations and a copper roof. All these elements culminate into a client-centered space. “The project itself is a reflection on a very interesting, dynamic client [who] has all these personal interests and these beautiful pursuits that we were able to embrace and incorporate as motivation for an aesthetic,” Weissmann says.
That aesthetic, spearheaded by Tina Simonds of Simonds Design, is carried inside, where a fireplace reminiscent of a silo emphasizes the scale of the two-story gathering room. The half-court gym on the first floor allows the clients’ family and friends to enjoy all their sporting interests without ever leaving the comforts of home. Reclaimed pieces make an appearance inside, too, including an ornate iron gate that allows open-concept views from one sports space to another.
For the not-so-busy-bodied, there are spots throughout the barn for rest and relaxation. On the other side of the gym, cozy couches sit beside an antique bar with dozens of barstools, perfect for parents to mingle while their kids are at play. A reclaimed staircase whisks guests upstairs to a loft area, featuring a shuffleboard table, Skee-Ball, and majestic views of the lake, with a fun “arcade” feel. In this ultimate sports barn, there is something to meet everyone’s needs.
The clients host family and friends in the barn often, gathering for birthday parties and other celebrations. Weissmann still keeps in touch with the clients has even completed projects with them outside of the Midwest. As for the future of this recreation retreat, Weissmann dreams of long-lasting fun that withstands the test of time. “We hope that our properties become heirloom-type properties that really become this backdrop for a rich life lived over decades and decades and generations,” Weissmann says.