Savor the Falls

A Wisconsin retreat offers a mix of Old World charm and Northwoods serenity.

Don Ritter and Jeff Kleven now have their getaways down to an exact science. Whenever things get hectic, they simply retreat to the woods. Located near Wisconsin's Black River Falls, their new 2,500-square-foot home (not including the walkout basement) sits where a 1930s cabin once stood."

We purchased the property in 1993 for the cabin," says Jeff, explaining that the site is a convenient 45-minute country drive from their garden business in LaCrosse. After renovating a 150-year-old barn for the business, they lived in the adjacent farmhouse. But they needed a getaway, a place where they could escape their frenetic business. And after five years of enjoying the property, they loved Black River Falls enough to build their home nearby. "

We’ve always been fascinated by the simplicity of log homes," Jeff says. The homeowners had visited relatives in Norway where they were impressed with the craftsmanship and charm of the cottages and ancestral buildings. Don, in fact, describes the interior design as "Old-World Scandinavian," an eclectic mixture of antiques, family heirlooms, casual furnishings and hand-forged iron and mica fixtures. "We wanted to avoid the typical Northwoods look," Jeff says. After nine months of construction, the two-level home, crafted from red pine, stands amidst a 100-year-old forest and overlooks the meandering Clear Creek. Don and Jeff's masterpiece was handcrafted by Michigan-based Maple Island Log Homes and River Valley Contractors of LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Here are some of the other ideas and materials that went into creating this home:
  • Full logs, chinking and handcrafted construction that included logs that are handpeeled, scribed and notched;
  • Large windows to take advantage of their property's natural slope that allowed views of the creek, pond and wildlife;
  • An open floorplan to entertain friends;
  • An efficient use of space: "We wanted large rooms but not too big to lose the coziness of a log cabin," Don says; and
  • Preserving their home site as much as possible?especially the statuesque pines.
Home Details:

Square footage: 2,500

General contractor: River Valley Contractors

Log dealer: Pioneer Log Homes

Log producer and architect: Maple Island Log Homes  

To read the full story of Don Ritter and Jeff Kleven?s building project, check out the April 2005 issue of Log Home Living.