A lake house nestled into the regal Wisconsin Northwoods was a dream project for Nate Berkus Associates’ Lauren Buxbaum Gordon.
Designer Lauren Buxbaum Gordon is familiar with the allure of the Wisconsin Northwoods. “The air smells different there. The pine trees are extra tall,” she says. “It’s just magical.” The serene setting has long been a gathering place for her clients and their large family, but also holds significance for the designer—she grew up going to summer camp in the area.
Which may explain why Lauren has for years collected inspiration images of lake houses, even though it’s far from the typical work she does as principal designer and partner at Nate Berkus Associates. Suffice it to say, downhome elements aren’t often in the mix. For example, Lauren says with a laugh, “We never pitch rocking chairs. We also installed a large dinner bell—and they use it! I checked.”
The dinner bell comes in handy for her clients; it summons their grandchildren from their canoes to the table, which is placed in the large sunroom that serves as the primary dining location. An equal number of hungry diners can fit around the kitchen island and adjacent dining table inside.
Much of the first floor is dedicated to large, open spaces for the family to gather. But there’s also a primary suite that comes in handy when the grandparents need a retreat within their retreat.
The palette also took her out of her comfort zone. “My client loves bright colors,” says Lauren, who typically works in muted hues. “So, instead of tapping into what I typically gravitate toward for interiors, I tapped into fashion and mixing patterns and colors in the way I would assemble an outfit more than I would typically assemble an interior.”
No rooms embrace color more than the six guest bedrooms, designed to accommodate any and all visiting family members. (The walk-in closets even double as mini nurseries with room for a crib!) Each was given its own personality, incorporating classic lake house elements with unexpected color choices and modern features. Case in point? Note the woven leather bench that sits at the end of one bed.
Each bedroom also has its own bathroom, eliminating squabbles over who gets to shower next. The bathrooms also serve as visual connectors. “I felt like there needed to be like a common denominator among all of these rooms,” Lauren says. So, she applied the same vertical molding in all bathrooms but selected a different paint color to complement the adjoining room.
The home was designed to look rooted to the shoreline, but in reality it’s new construction. From breaking ground in September 2020 to hanging beach towels on the racks in August 2021, the project had all the typical building-during-COVID issues; a myriad of out-of-stock items, shipping delays, and items arriving broken. But Lauren credits the snags for fueling the team’s creativity. For instance, they constantly sourced six other options to ensure the project stayed on schedule. “There were many iterations, but I think we landed right where we needed to be. It was all a blessing,” Lauren says.
Perhaps equally challenging was the fact that Lauren completed the design while working from home, never seeing the lake house until it was time for installation. “When we approached the home, even just driving up the road, it’s just so nostalgic for me,” she says. “The opportunity to help one of my favorite clients build a home ground up—up there—was truly a dream.”