Photos by J. Alan Paul Photography, Chris Hawley Architects and Paul Flessland
As part two of our three-part series on tiny design, Chris Hawley of Chris Hawley Architects takes us inside some of his favorite lake cabin projects with smaller-than-average footprints. See why Hawley believes genuine lake living is best captured in close quarters.
About The Tiny Design Series
If you missed out on part one of our tiny design series in June, Hawley took us on a tour of his favorite, small homes that offer big appeal. Each home proved that a lack of square footage doesn’t have to mean sacrificing great design or efficiency. Read part one now.
Part three in August will take us to the backyard to learn everything you need to know about small-scale designs for sheds, pool houses, backyard office spaces and dreamy playhouses.
Living Large in Tiny Spaces
When it comes to lake living, Hawley believes that cabins should simply be cabins. “For me, being a kid who grew up at the lake, one of my favorite things in life was just having this sort of, nest,” explained Hawley. “The word ‘cozy’ is overused, but I would take an intimate, well-done space over a poorly done, big space any day. If we’ve got family or friends out, I wanted to be able to say, ‘Hey, why don’t you guys stay the night.’ In my mind, the lake is sort of like, beggars can’t be choosers, so if you’ve got a bed, you should feel lucky. I don’t think it needs to be a five-star hotel experience.”
For Hawley, the lake is not the place for dinner parties or stuffy conversation. It is a simple retreat for reconnecting with family and friends. “When we’re at the lake, we want to spend our day outside, maybe ride bike, go for a run, go for a kayak ride, make breakfast–it’s not about having this big building so that we can sit inside all day,” said Hawley.
Build as You Go?
One concept in question seems to be if one should build in the now or for the future, keeping in mind future grandkids and spouses. “As my family grows, maybe our needs will change, but I don’t want to build for something that far down the road,” said Hawley. “I think you just build what’s comfortable to you right now, and if you need to make adjustments, you make those later. I could see with activities and so much going on, at some point maybe not getting out to the lake as much. I don’t feel so bad about that. But, if I had this big house at the lake, I’d feel really guilty if it never got used.”
“The word cozy is overused, but I would take an intimate, well-done space over a poorly-done, big space any day.”
TINY LAKE HOMES
The Hawley’s Retreat
When the Hawleys purchased the property, there was already a 20×28 cabin and 8×14 boathouse on the site. With the square footage grandfathered in, Hawley’s challenge was to rebuild new in the same square footage as the old cabin.
At 560 square feet, the Hawley’s three-bedroom, single bathroom lake home is high on simplistic style and low on maintenance. All three bedrooms are bunk rooms with full-sized beds. “There’s six full-sized beds in the cabin and a queen-sized bed in the boathouse. So, we can actually sleep 12 if needed,” said Hawley. “This past weekend, we had seven out there. For me, it’s really fun to make a list of all of the things that I want to accommodate and find a creative way to do that.”
Located on an isthmus only 80 to 90 feet deep and thinning to around 50 feet, the Hawleys enjoy West McDonald Lake on the front side and Brown Lake on the back side. “Brown Lake is a really pretty, quiet sort of environmental lake that we kayak on,” said Hawley. “The other (West McDonald) is the busier, more recreational lake.” Hawley also designed the colorful neighboring cabin on the tiny isthmus.
“We just kind of reinvented it in this new build. We liked the location, we liked the proximity to the lake, not having a big yard to mow, all of the aspects that made it low-maintenance, but all of the great amenities that come with being at the lake,” explained Hawley. “It’s super tiny, so every space has to give you the most bang for the buck.
“I kind of like all of the spaces for what they are. The kitchen, living room and dining room are pretty amazing because of their ability to transform throughout the day depending on weather, the sun and a lot of other factors,” said Hawley.
“When you’re in the living room with all that glass on a nice day, the whole space feels like a porch. When it’s not nice out, we can close it all up, and it can feel like a really intimate and cozy place to have a fire and enjoy dinner,” he said.
Since the cabin is year-round, the Hawley family spent Christmas there this year. “We go out there mid-winter, watch movies, have dinner, play in the snow–it’s great,” said Hawley.
Inside, the family’s style utilizes a minimalistic, Scandinavian approach. “It’s somewhat subdued and understated. We have this beautiful lake and great views to the west of sunsets through a wall of glass, but there’s this really simplistic attitude toward the other side because there’s a road 10 feet from the back of the house,” said Hawley. “The design is more discreet, which is a response to the site, living in close quarters with other cabins.”
For the exterior, Hawley chose a 50-year metal and natural cedar siding that will be allowed to weather and gray. “I’m just letting it be a cabin. We show up, open the doors and we’re ready to be at the lake,” said Hawley.
The Surf Shack
After rebuilding in the same footprint of the original boathouse, Hawley now refers to this space as his “surf shack.” It functions as storage for the family’s lake gear and serves as a cozy guest bedroom for visitors that can transition to a more private office space.
Retreat with Restraint
For Hawley, this was a project of restraint. “I would have loved to have been able to change the roof shape or do some crazy things with windows and openings, but we also wanted to balance the cost. We could have done a folding wall system across the front for roughly $25,000 or we could go with three individual patio doors that give you the same feeling. So, I was always sort of conscious of the cost of this project,” he said.
“We couldn’t change much about the original space, but I think we got the most project out of it that we could, given the situation,” said Hawley. “But, we really ended up getting everything we wanted too. We knew we were never going to live at the lake, but we wanted to spend some time there when the weather’s great. We didn’t want to be so stressed out with how much money we put into it or feel like we have to go there every weekend.”
Rice Lake Scandinavian Cabin
If you’re on the search for a beautiful lake, don’t just stop at Minnesota. Head to Rice Lake, North Dakota, to find the 900-square-foot cabin of Pam Haugen. Her son Chris Hawley is the architect, and this became one of his first projects while in college. Serene lake views set the perfect landscape for this red barn with a nod to their Scandinavian heritage. “We built this cabin for $45,000 with free labor when I was in college with my buddies. It was mainly paid for with beer and boat gas money,” laughed Hawley.
Callaway Contemporary Cabin
This 1,300-square-foot lake home near Callaway, Minnesota, features main floor living with a master bedroom, kitchen, porch and office on the ground level.
The mono pitch roof was a cost-saving measure to try and get as much home as they could under one, simple roof in most cases with the pitch in the roof I would not have put on gutters but because of the location and the amount of trees, I not only added gutters but I put on gutter screens as well. “The drive for the whole project was really celebrating the views because it’s a really quiet, secluded area. So, we could have a large, lake-facing piece of glass, then in the same breath, we have the simplicity of a really simple shape,” said Hawley.
The owner is a kitchen designer, so she designed the maple cabinetry and island herself. She’s also an avid furniture collector. Concrete floors and exposed ductwork add industrial charm to the gorgeous lake views and natural landscape.
The second floor serves as a loft and den for guests. Designed by Hawley’s team and built by Detroit Lakes contractor Garret Johnson, this home’s design is centered around the serene landscape and tranquil lake view.
“There’s also this idea of porch living. In the summer, that’s the room you mostly live in, and the rest of the space is more for functional needs. It’s adjacency to the kitchen was really important so they could have bug-free cooking and dining inside, but feel like they’re dining outside,” said Hawley. “For them, they wanted main floor living, so there’s a little office as well as a master bedroom and living space on the main level. For those that come to visit, there’s the loft upstairs to accommodate guests as well as some adaptable furniture. It wasn’t built to suit tons of guests, just more of a retreat.”
“This was a nice, large site where they really had the ability to build anything they wanted, with no site restrictions,” said Hawley. “It’s a really pretty, not heavily developed lake and the owners were looking to build a summer retirement house. They grew up in this area, moved away and had been working all over the place for the past 40 years and they decided to build here for the solitude and to be close to family and spend their summers with their kids.”
Blanche Lake Beauty
The original cabin was once part of an old resort with all of the cabins eventually sold off to individual owners. Hawley expanded the original one-room cabin and added the two bedrooms to keep the space open with pitched ceilings.
“The owner had a pretty strong idea of what she wanted and brought in a bunch of photos, so we kind of made them all work together,” said Hawley. It’s even got a small, walk-in pantry and open kitchen area. For a little, 710-square-foot house, it’s a really fun design.”
Hawley’s team helped on all of the selections and finishes with the addition of reclaimed wood siding and reclaimed wood interior details by Grain Designs. The construction was done by S&S Construction out of Pelican Rapids, Minnesota.
West McDonald Lake
Sitting at a mere 1,000 square feet and as Chris Hawley’s neighbor on the isthmus, this vibrant cabin re-design has taken lake living from drab to fab with vibrant color tones inside and out.
Hawley worked with the owners to keep the cabin’s original footprint intact while creating a fun and functional space to enjoy the views. His-and-hers doors into the bedroom make the small space more functional and a screened in porch serves as the summer dining room and occasional camping-out space.
Pelican Lake Cabin and Bunkhouse
This 1,500-square-foot cabin on Pelican Lake is another example of how a small footprint can equal big design. In the main cabin, the fireplace was left to serve as an anchor in the layout’s design, wrapping the living spaces around it for efficient flow.
As a getaway for grandparents, the 160-square-foot bunkhouse was transformed into a charming space with multiple functions.
CHRIS HAWLEY ARCHITECTS
2534 University Drive S. #3, Fargo