Home Design

On Lake Time: Not Your Grandmother’s Lake House

This month, we paddled out to some of Minnesota’s lakes and explored their finest homes. Living on what used to be Lauren Zima’s grandparents’ lake cabin, Lauren and Steve Zima have custom built their very own lake home

Photos by Hillary Ehlen

Sometimes it takes living in a few other regions to know what “home” is. Lauren and Steve Zima and their four sons have found this home on the Lake Sallie shore where Lauren’s grandparents used to live. 

The Zimas make for a great pair when it comes to creating the perfect custom home. Steve is a carpenter and Lauren owns Detroit Lakes shopping destinations, The Nines, The Nines Kids and Lit. Although Steve’s background is in large commercial projects, he and Lauren have made four residential homes and are happy to settle in this house as their forever home. With Steve’s building experience and Lauren’s eye for decor and style, it’s only natural that their home on the water is picturesque.

The Nines and Lit

Since 2013, Lauren has owned and operated downtown Detroit Lakes shopping destinations The Nines and their youthful counterpart, The Nines Kids. In November, they will be launching Lit, a home decor shop. Lauren noted that after opening The Nines, opening a home decor store has been something she always wanted to do. She said, “We slowly added decor items in The Nines and people just kept asking for more. So I felt like it was a sign that we should do the other store, too.” 

Throughout their home, many, if not most, of the decor is from The Nines or will be held at Lit once it opens. From trips to market and years of experience in stocking home decor goods in the shop, the Zimas have a perfectly curated selection of pieces throughout their home. 

To describe the style of both The Nines and Lauren’s own tastes is to recognize the combination of being both modern and cozy. The high contrast of black and white marries with warm touches of color and complementary textures throughout. 

Family Home

Lauren grew up in Fargo-Moorhead and spent summers on Lake Sallie at her grandparents’ cabin. After joining the army and then spending time living in Dallas and Los Angeles, she returned to Detroit Lakes nine years ago to settle in. 

“I look outside and I have the best childhood memories with my grandparents here. Even my neighbors are the same neighbors I’ve had since I was five years old. So I’m back home now. I love it here,” said Lauren.

After her grandfather passed away and her grandmother aged out of the small lake cabin Lauren was so used to visiting as a child, the family decided to put the home on the market. It had always been the Zimas’ dream to settle in at the Lake Sallie property and they knew this was their chance to do just that. They had just purchased the building in downtown Detroit Lakes where The Nines would go and the timing wasn’t ideal to be purchasing a home as well, but they knew they wanted to make this work. After purchasing the home, they let it rest for two years before breaking ground, as they were busy launching The Nines.

The cabin on the land was tiny, the whole thing could have fit in the kitchen and dining area of the Zima’s new home and the demolition of it only took a day. Lauren joked, “Back when I was little it was probably the ugliest cabin at the lake.” Holding onto the memories made there, they decided to turn the land this tiny cabin was on into their dream, custom home. 

Nationally Inspired

After having lived in Los Angeles and having been a Realtor in Dallas, Lauren has had years of drawing inspiration from national resources. When she was a Realtor, she got to see a variety of nice homes and she tucked away design aspects from these to use on flip home projects and, eventually, her current home. 

One of these features can be seen in their front driveway. Instead of a solid concrete driveway, they have a grid of concrete with grass diamonds. Lauren said, “Mark Cuban’s Dallas yard is a giant version of that. I used always loved that idea, but then never thought twice about doing it.” However, when the Zimas began building, they were informed that a standard concrete driveway wouldn’t be allowed in their plot of land, thanks to the impervious surface. With some creative problem solving and previously tucked away design inspiration, they were able to create a front entrance to the house that is both practical and stylish.


While most of the build was Steve’s own handiwork, the Zimas expressed enthusiasm about working with local companies for certain aspects of the home.  

A focal point of the first floor is the kitchen. Working with designer Aubrey Costello at Showplace Cabinetry, they opted for white cabinets that complement white quartz countertops from Spaulding Stone. A Wolf gas rangetop and complementary stainless steel appliances make for a sophisticated and clean cooking space. The kitchen island has four barstools, ideal for seating for each one of their four sons. Oversized black pendant lighting selected from a market trip hang between Dakota Timber beams on the ceiling, adding an industrial touch to the otherwise crisp, modern kitchen. 

Showplace also did their sons’ navy and brushed gold bathroom, including a cabinet hiding a laundry shoot to the first-floor laundry room. “One issue we had in the last house with all the kids was the amount of laundry. So in their bathroom, there is a shoot,” said Lauren. 

Other collaborations include a heated driveway by Tweeton Refrigeration and Heating Inc., exposed brick walls by Hebron Brick Company, reclaimed wood on ceiling beams and mantels by Dakota Timber and landscaping by Rock & Water Creations.  

No Blocked Views

Describing her love of the land they are on, Lauren said, “The sunsets are so beautiful and it’s so peaceful. Here is definitely my happy place.” 

With a master bedroom with views of the water, maintaining this view of sunrises and sunsets was important to Lauren. She said, “I told Steve I didn’t want a TV in here because I didn’t want it blocking my view.” So they once again got creative.

They considered getting a television consul station where the TV comes up from a chest, but that still would have blocked too much of the water view. To solve this problem, Steve reverse engineered the mechanism of a consul cabinet and now the television comes down from the ceiling at the foot of their bed. Innovative aspects like this go to show that this is no standard house, but a home that was custom designed and well-thought out.

Kitchen and Cabinets Throughout: Showplace Cabinetry
Countertops: Spaulding Stone
Flooring: Detroit Paint & Glass
Shiplap: Simonson Lumber 
Brickwork: Hebron Brick Company
Live Edge Wood: Dakota Timber
Landscaping: Rock & Water Creations 
Heating and Air: Tweeton Refrigeration and Heating Inc


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