Retired sales and marketing executive Sam Skobel had a plan in mind for a peaceful retirement home on a northern Wisconsin lake. We interviewed him to learn about his design inspiration for the home, specifically the kitchen, and the process to create this idyllic retreat.
SRFD: Tell us about this home.
Sam: This is a rustic-style (not rustic in the roughing-it sense) home on a lake with 500′ of frontage on a very private five-acre parcel of wooded land at the end of a dead-end road in northern Wisconsin. So very laid back and peaceful. We purchased the home in 2001 with the plan to totally remodel it prior to retirement, and then live there full-time. Over the last 17 years, we have remodeled, replaced, renovated and/or upgraded virtually all aspects of the home – only the original walls remain in place. For example, we upgraded the existing floors by replacing them with 110-year-old reclaimed pine and Douglas fir wood from a grain elevator in northern Minnesota. Very dramatic and a wow-factor of the first order.
SRFD: What was your inspiration for the kitchen remodel?
Sam: Being in the the northwoods of Wisconsin, loving the casual lodge-style type of decor and wanting to remain consistent with the design throughout the rest of the house, we chose the casual-but-elegant barn-board based style inspired by books, magazines, internet searches, model homes and retailer displays. It was very important to us to have the kitchen look high-end with a casual/informal feel, but without the typical minimalist look of many higher end kitchen designs. It’s the style of the whole house, and it’s the way we live.
SRFD: Tell us about the kitchen remodel.
Sam: The kitchen renovation began in March 2018 and, as planned, was the last step in the 17-year remodel plan. Similar to the reclaimed floors in concept and style, the custom cabinets are also reclaimed barn-board, very nicely complimenting but not imitating the floor. The countertops are exotic-grade, book-match granite with “rock-edge.” The sink and range hood are custom hammered-copper, as are the lighting and switch plates. The backsplash is 2″x4″ travertine brick-style tiles with hammered copper accent tiles. All cabinets have custom above and below cabinet lighting on dimmer switches allowing the mood to be fine-tuned.
SRFD: Can you walk us through your design process?
Sam: The design process was very difficult – mostly because of our location in extremely northern WI and the minimal availability of licensed and/or certified kitchen designers. As such, we tackled the design process ourselves. The process started with appliance selection, as those items dictated many of the cabinet/other dimensions and configurations. Regarding appliances, we chose Monogram appliances because we felt they had the best available features and benefits, and they far-and-away provided the best value. We included the 36″ panel-ized fridge/freezer, panel-ized dishwasher, wall oven, Advantium oven, 36″ rangetop and panel-ized wine refrigerator. Now that they’re in place we absolutely love them – especially the panel-ized refrigerator/dishwasher/wine refrigerator. They look great! After choosing appliances we selected our cabinet manufacturer, followed by the sink (a 30″ apron-front single bowl hammered copper) and matching 40″ hammered copper range-hood. Granite countertop selection followed next, with backsplash and lighting last.
SRFD: What was the most challenging piece of the renovation?
Sam: Without question, the most challenging part of the renovation was personally coordinating all aspects of the tear out-to-completion process. We were let down many times by various suppliers who just did not deliver as promised, both time and/or quality-wise. As a result the original time line (agreed to by all) of six to seven weeks turned into about 11-12 weeks. While in the long run the additional four weeks is not a huge deal, it did cause us to live in a “construction zone” for an extra month and, more importantly, was wholly avoidable.
SRFD: What part did you enjoy the most?
Sam: The part we enjoyed the most was, as I’m sure with most renovations, was watching the space come together and seeing the finished product. Because we totally owned the project from concept to design to execution to completion, seeing the transformation become real before our eyes was most rewarding. I guess I’d put it this way – it’s very satisfying to see an image in your head become tangible and real, and be the place you stand back, admire and live in.The finished kitchen is absolutely beautiful and is everything we could have wanted….and more!