House Tour: New Cottage with Vintage Style | Midwest Living

House Tour: New Cottage with Vintage Style

An Illinois family looks to the 1920s to give their new Door County, Wisconsin, lake home vintage charm.
  • Instant classic

    This cheerful green cottage high on a Wisconsin bluff overlooking Green Bay was built in 2005 — but looks very much like one that the owner's grandparents once lived in nearby.

    When Melissa and Andy Mather enlisted local architect Virge Temme to design their four-bedroom summer getaway, they asked her to duplicate a 1920s Door County cottage. So, in keeping with the local architecture, they built charming gabled roofs with dormers and large overhanging eaves supported with brackets. Even the wood siding's grass green color is homegrown. The Mathers fell in love with the hue after spotting it on a vintage structure in nearby Fish Creek, so Virge marched up to it with paint chips in hand to find a match.

    Click ahead to read more about this Door County cottage. A resource guide is on slide 12.

  • Authentically old

    The Mathers went to great lengths to make the cottage feel authentically old, as if it had already weathered many summers of wet bathing suits and the sandy feet of their four children and six grandchildren. "Andy said something to me like 'It needs to feel believable,'" Virge says. "I started thinking about actual building practices and materials that were used in the 1920s."

    Early Door County residents would have gotten their home building materials locally, so that's what Virge did. The team excavated stones from the property to build the fireplace, outdoor walkways and stairs. All the timber used—in beams, columns, exposed rafters and interior walls—was harvested within 30 miles of the house. Virge took Melissa and Andy to visit the local sawmill supplying the wood. "They met the guy who was going to take down the trees and mill their wood. That gives you a strong sense of history and community."

  • All abloom

    A mix of low-maintenance native and heirloom flowers, including Oriental poppies, iris, Trillium, day lilies and lady's slipper, dots the front yard and back bluff.

  • Inexpensive treasures

    To continue the "age-old" style inside, Melissa hit flea markets, yard sales and vintage stores to pick up inexpensive treasures in her favorite hot pinks, periwinkle blues and whites. "No worries" is her decorating mantra. Wood floors sport easy-clean scatter rugs. Windows are bare or wear minimal coverings. In the entry (pictured), a hand-me-down wicker tea cart and flea market mirror anchor the space.

  • Enjoying the outdoors

    For all the charms inside the 3,200-square-foot house, Mother Nature lures the family and guests outside for swimming in Green Bay, walking a mile into town for ice cream, roasting marshmallows at the fire pit the Mathers' sons built with stones from the shore or enjoying the gorgeous view from the back porch (pictured).

    Wicker porch furniture, repainted several times, is more than 100 years old and came from Andy's parents' cottage. "We live out on the porch," says Melissa. "The water, the breeze—it's spectacular!"

  • Kitchen charm

    A local carpenter built in new paneled cabinetry and open shelving. Pine planks cover the walls and ceilings, and - just as in 1920s cottages — knotholes in the floors provide perfect spying spots for youngsters above. "The grandkids can look through the cracks and holes in the bunk room floor and see us in the kitchen," says Melissa.

  • Old detailing

    Workers scuffed up raw pine floors (later sealed) for a naturally aged look.

  • Master bedroom views

    Transom-topped French doors in the master bedroom open up to a private deck outfitted with hot-pink Adirondack chairs. "The room gets a ton of light," says Melissa. "At night, it's gorgeous with the moonlight coming in."

  • Sweet dreams

    All six grand-kids can sleep in the bunk room, with plenty of room left for play, too.

  • Updated cottage style

    Colorful, nontraditional bedding updates a cottage-style bed. A clip-on lamp and a painted child's chair eliminate the need for a bedside table in this guest bedroom.

  • Light and bright

    All ceilings in the second-floor bedrooms in this home open to the rafters. The blue dresser in this guest bedroom is vintage; old and new quilts dress the queen bed.

  • Resource guide

    ARCHITECT Virge Temme Architecture (920/824-5746;

    LANDSCAPE DESIGNER: Cliff Orsted, Door Landscape (920/746-9770;

    CARPENTER: (kitchen cabinets) Dennis Laaksonen, Laaksonen Builders (920/421-0371).

    KITCHEN: Appliances Dishwasher. Miele (800/843-7231; Built-in refrigerator. Sub-Zero (900/222-7820; Range and range hood. Thermador (900/735-4328; Undercounter refrigerator. U-Line (800/779-2547; Apron sink Kohler (800/456-4537;

    LIVING ROOM: Slipcovered sofa and chairs Crate and Barrel (800/323-5461;

    DINING ROOM: Chairs Village Grigio side chair. Crate and Barrel (800/323-5461;

    MASTER BEDROOM: Paint color 2052-70 Ice Blue. Benjamin Moore (

    BUNK ROOM: Paint color 2055-70 Innocence, Benjamin Moore (

    Pictured: A peg rack in a hallway outside the kids' bunkroom has enough space to hang baseball caps and beach towels for all six grandchildren.

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