Summer Tradition: An Island Retreat Log Home

Honoring a 150-year-old family tradition, a couple builds a summer sanctuary on a Lake Superior island with their children in mind.

Tradition is everything. Especially to Joe and Fran Seiler. They wanted a place that would give their two children the kind of summers that Fran experienced as a child on Lake Superior's Madeline Island. Since the 1850s, Fran's family has called the northern Wisconsin destination home for the summer, and she and Joe wanted to continue that tradition.

Summer memories are created on the screened-in porch of this utterly inviting retreat where not a speck of fussiness gets in the way of simple pleasures. The design and decor are clean, basic and the perfect conduits to the good life.

Initially, the idea was to find a cabin. What they found, though, was an acre overlooking the 17th-hole on the island's golf course. The only question was what kind of home to put on it. The Seilers, whose primary residence in Stillwater, Minnesota, is four hours away, hadn't even considered building with logs until they saw signs for Strongwood Log Homes in Waupaca. "We toured a bunch of their homes and thought, 'This is something we could make more contemporary,'" recalls Fran, who wanted to avoid what she calls "Laura Ingalls Wilder style." Joe and Fran modified Strongwood's three-bedroom, three-bath Onaway floor plan and went to work, with Joe serving as the general contractor. Despite needing a ferry to deliver all the construction material, the 2,270-square-foot beauty was done in eight months and became an instant family treasure—no surprise, considering its masterful use of space and noteworthy decor.

The main-floor master suite leads to the home's deck. Fran selected the ceiling fan for its rich, elegant look. 'I wanted to keep things simple throughout the home and didn't want a lot of furniture,' she notes.

The clever use of windows, including the bay windows in the great room and kitchen, also contributes to the open atmosphere while adding an unexpected element to the home's design. "You might expect to see trapezoid windows in a house like this, but the square windows Joe and Fran chose gave the home almost a Craftsman-type feel," says Bob Marcom of Strongwood.

A set of French doors leads from the deck into the great room with a ceiling that soars 23 feet. The butter-toned couch was the impetus for many of Fran's design decisions on the main level. 'We wanted to keep the rich, neutral colors but add splashes of reds and other tones,' she says.

The Seilers made a bold move by forgoing a large stone fireplace in the great room, which features four skylights and golf-course vistas. "We chose a black wood-burning stove because a fireplace would take away from the windows, the view and the gorgeous French doors," Joe says. Adjacent to the great room is a screened-in porch, another enhancement the Seilers made to the original floor plan. Fran counts this oft-used space on the back of the home as her favorite. "In the morning, I take my coffee to the porch," she says. "We play chess and watch the deer run around. And because it's right off the kitchen, we'll light candles and eat dinner out there, too."

The gorgeous pine logs of this home are warm and inviting when summer calls the Seilers back to the lake.

Whether they're enjoying the intimacy of their home in private, entertaining close relatives who live on the island or watching their own children forge lifelong friendships just as Fran did in her youth, the Seilers have created an inviting summer home that gets better with each visit. "I love being here no matter where I am in the house," Joe says. "It's open and quiet, and the smell of pine is always in the air. When you're here, you know you're home."

Home Plan Details:

Square footage: 2,270

Log provider: Strongwood Log Homes