Restoring a Relic
A rebuilt resort cabin preserves Gull Lake’s historic charm
Among the showy, colossal rebuild properties that dot the shoreline of Gull Lake near Brainerd, Minnesota, some vestiges of the quaint summer escape of yesteryear remain. One of the most charming elements of Gull’s vacation legacy was founded in 1912—several years before the venerable Grand View Lodge and Madden’s resorts sprung up—when a local businessman named Charles Anderson began constructing 19 cabins at Rocky Point, on the lake’s west bank.
The Rocky Point Resort subsequently became a summer staple for several families, many of whom purchased cabins when the resort was sold in 1957. Randine Pastrovic’s grandparents, the Tenolds, scooped up Cabin #7, which is now owned by Pastrovic’s aunt. Her parents bought the property next door and built a cabin on it in 2001. In 2007, Pastrovic jumped on the chance to purchase Cabin #10, originally owned by her grandparents’ friends, the Ensigns.
She then set out to make a few updates. “I always liked the setting and the character of the Ensign place, so the initial plan was to simply remodel it,” says Pastrovic, who grew up in the Twin Cities and spent many carefree childhood summer days at Rocky Point. But when she learned the cabin wasn’t structurally sound, the project evolved into a rebuild that would maintain the original structure’s charm.
Pastrovic, who does marketing for the furniture manufacturer Herman Miller, had some contacts with architects and an eye for key design elements. She enlisted the help of Kristine Anderson, then a Project Designer with Domain Architecture and Design (after the project was completed, Anderson became an Associate at Peterssen/Keller Architecture), and builder Craig Johnson of Johnson Smaby Homes, who had previously built two homes for Pastrovic´s parents. The original cabin lacked a foundation, as was typical of buildings of its ilk. Everyone agreed that the cottage was cramped, dark and dated, in addition to being in structural disrepair. “We kept the same footprint and character of the cabin, but were able to completely modernize it,” says Johnson.
Years earlier, a guest cabin had been added on to the original cottage, connected by a breezeway. It proved to be in good shape structurally, so the decision was made to save the guest cabin’s shell and tear down the entire main house. The new Cabin #10, which was completed in 2010, has an updated cedar-shake exterior, a deeper roof to accommodate a loft, and more square footage. But it still maintains the spirit of the original picturesque cottage.
The interior of the main house presents a complete departure from the old Ensign place: the clean, modern lines and whitewashed, tongue-and-groove paneling offer a decidedly open, airy feel. “It’s a little more New England than Up North,” Pastrovic explains. Not surprising, given that Pastrovic and her husband are residents of New York City and spend much of their time there. “It’s where I recharge,” she says of Rocky Point.
Pastrovic worked with Anderson to incorporate her “must-have” design features. “It was really important to me to keep it small,” she says. “I didn’t want it to be an overpowering mansion like you see all over the lake. I wanted it to feel modern, but not cold.”
A nautical blue front door welcomes Cabin #10 visitors, introducing a repeating design element that adds a colorful accent to the otherwise spare aesthetic. The entrance leads to the kitchen and main living space, with whitewashed, vaulted ceilings heightened by dark-stained beams built to look like railroad ties. Oak flooring and wall paneling from Minnesota aspen also warm up the space.
The anchor piece of the kitchen, a silver-and-black Bertazzoni range, is capped with a simple, stainless-steel hood and accented with a backsplash of white Moroccan tiles set in a diamond pattern. Another primary design element, the large farm sink, is built into white wainscoting cabinets topped by smoky-gray granite countertops. Adjacent to the kitchen island, the dining room table is illuminated by romantic, charcoal-colored dome lights that Pastrovic purchased on a trip to Paris.
Just off the dining room, an open stairway leading to the cabin’s new unfinished basement is illuminated by a mod George Nelson white paper ball lamp and oversized window. The master bedroom extends beyond the dining room, framed in light pewter-colored walls, with a bank of windows and sliding glass doors that open out to the pristine Gull Lake views. The master bath pulls in the wainscoting treatment from the kitchen and pairs it with white subway tiles.
The great room’s focal point is a fireplace insert housed in sleek slate tiles, which sits adjacent to built-in shelving and a dry bar for entertaining. The Moroccan theme carries through both the dining and living spaces, with a vintage Berber rug under the dining room table and black-and-white chair upholstery that mimics the diamond tile motif. A porthole window above the living room pulls in another nautical note while adding light. Pastrovic wanted ample windows to open the space and draw the eye upward, evident also in the row of windows in the loft.
A sliding glass door divides the living room from the breezeway that connects the main house to the guest cabin. Walled by screens, the wide breezeway is the perfect location to enjoy cooling lake winds on hot summer days, and incorporates more North African design elements: a scored-and-stained cement floor that mimics rich tiles, bright print chair covering, and a metal cut-out light fixture that Pastrovic bought on a trip to Morocco, which drenches the space in warm golden hues. The breezeway’s slanted tin roof was another important architectural component for Pastrovic, for its ability to turn rainstorms into symphonies. “That is my favorite part of the house,” she says.
The two-room guest cottage brings in many of the design elements of the main house and breezeway: blue doors, a nautical window, stained cement flooring, and whitewashed woodwork. Every room in Cabin #10’s main and guest areas offers a view of the lake, but for a closer look, Pastrovic also landscaped the outdoor space with a cozy stone patio extending off the breezeway, a gas fire pit, and indigenous plantings that border the 20-foot banks.
Pastrovic’s father, who passed away before the rebuild was complete, had insisted the new cabin include two elements. One was a steel-sided Bilco door to allow access to the basement from the outside; the other, a sign he painted himself, announcing the resurrection of Cabin #10. Today, Pastrovic displays the sign at the end of her driveway—a nod to her dad, and the Rocky Point history she is proud to preserve.
Kelly O’Rourke Johns is an Eagan-based freelance writer.
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