Photos by Troy Thies
While Anna Achtenberg was growing up in western Wisconsin, she couldn’t wait to escape small-town life. Now, every weekend, she can’t wait to go back. After living in the Twin Cities for many years with her husband, Dave, raising two children who are now adults, and wrangling 14-year-old twin boys, she says, “We realized how quickly the kids grow up.
My husband and I own businesses. We’re super busy. We needed an escape, a getaway, where the whole family can be together.”
The Achtenbergs found their dream spot on a lake in Burnett County, close to where Anna grew up. The property had two small cabins, which the family enjoyed for several years. But what they didn’t particularly enjoy were noise and intrusions from the big campground next door. The couple wanted to expand the property and build new, so Dave negotiated with the campground owner and bought the land. Soon after, they hired Lands End Development in Crosslake to design and build their rustic, North Woods-style lake home.
Meanwhile, Anna’s dream lakeside getaway included a variety of outdoor living spaces for cooking, entertaining, family time, and play all focused on a central hub—the outdoor kitchen. After meeting with landscape contractors Southview Design, she says, “I realized that what they could do for us would be solid and long-lasting, with beautiful landscaping that didn’t require a lot of maintenance.”
Southview began by fixing a main concern on the property: a crooked shoreline eroded from frost heaving and boat wakes. “We tackled that issue by straightening more than 400 feet of shoreline and stabilizing it with rip-rap boulders,” says designer Mack Sutphin. Then, Sutphin and Anna went to work on a design for the landscape plan.
Southview and Lands End ended up collaborating on the construction of the outdoor living areas. “They are two great companies that communicated and worked together beautifully,” Anna says. The Southview team designed a central outdoor hub that Lands End constructed beneath a rustic gable roof. A pizza oven, clad in a stone veneer that matches the stonework on the lake house and garage, anchors one end. Stonework also grounds the hub’s horseshoe design which, Anna says, allows “20 to 30 people to mill around but not feel crowded.”
The horseshoe’s curved bar counter comfortably seats 18 via attached stools that swing out, “which is practical—Dave and I don’t have to haul chairs around—and maximizes seating,” she adds. The hub’s kitchen also includes a refrigerator, dishwasher, Traeger wood-pellet grill, and an island with a sink. “From this hub,” Anna says, “I can have a pizza baking, have the barbeque going, watch the jet skiers, keep an eye on the kids, and hang out with our guests. It’s perfect.”
Next to the outdoor kitchen and attached to the porch is a massive double-sided stone fireplace with a comfy couch. Beside the porch is an outdoor sitting area with an awning that rolls out for shade. On the other side of the kitchen is the game room, which keeps guests busy with a bar, pool table, games, and a large screen TV—not to mention a hot tub just outside. To make the backyard living areas more private, Sutphin designed a small lawn area next to the game room. There, plantings screen the outdoor kitchen and hub from the driveway.
Just below the kitchen hub, a recessed Iron Mountain flagstone patio with Stonebridge Ledgerock steps surrounds a wood-burning fire pit 6 feet in diameter. Accent lighting throughout the outdoor spaces can be adjusted via phone or tablet, and the irrigation system keeping flowers and shrubs watered is controlled via Wi-Fi.
Because the house and foundation were built 5 feet higher than the lake’s high-water mark, Sutphin says, Southview incorporated a stone retaining wall that not only fits within the lake setbacks but also frames the outdoor areas and steps down to the shoreline via a manicured lawn. “We have so many different visuals, such wonderful eye candy, as we step out of the house toward the lake,” Anna says. “There’s a bit of elevation with pine trees and rocks, then the eye travels down to the water. With all the timber and stone construction, it’s just gorgeous.”
Last Christmas season, the Achtenbergs hosted a large family gathering with most of the celebration taking place outside. “We had the fire pit going, the pizza oven going, people in the hot tub,” she says. “The entire space was used.”
But with summer here, the whole family is enjoying time at the lake house. “We go every weekend,” Anna says. “Friends come. Their friends come. The kids come. It has kept our family together like glue.”