Family builds country-style house in township


Kirk and Terry Johnson built their "traditional craftsman" house in Country Lane Acres on NW Koronis Road in Paynesville Township last year. Distinctive style features of the house are the wide, white trim to give the new home an old-fashioned look and feel and the wrap-around front porch, with swing.

Porch with swing
The Johnsons can see Lake Koronis from upstairs and from their front-porch swing.

Living Room
The Johnsons' great room - including their living room - all have south-facing windows, townards a treeline at the back of their two-acre lot. The windows on the east wall, facing the busy road, are higher in the living room to provide privacy and wall space for furniture.

The Johnsons used natural cherry - with only a clear finish, not a darker stain - throughout the house, including for the kitchen cabinets. They also like the contrast of the red cherry with the black countertops and the black and stainless steel appliances.

Den with French doors
White French doors give their north-facing den an old-fashioned feel.

Mud room
The mud room has the feel of a one-room schoolhouse with a cupboard and metal hooks for coats and hats.

Bathroom vanity
To avoid a long counter, Kirk and Teri opted for a raised vanity in the master bath.

By Michael Jacobson
Kirk and Teri Johnson had never built a house before. They had finished a spec home - their first house in Wisconsin - but they had never built one from scratch.

They had plenty of ideas, though, and after a year of renting in Paynesville, they were ready to get started in June 2004. They bought a two-acre lot in Country Lane Acres, a new development on NW Koronis Road in Paynesville Township, and construction began in the second week of June. Their contractors started framing by Fourth of July 2004, and the family of four moved into their new home during the second week of October.

The Johnsons had moved to Paynesville over a year earlier, in August 2003, when Kirk started as the chief financial officer at the Paynesville Area Health Care System. Before that, the Fargo, N.D., natives - the Johnsons met in junior high and started dating in college - and their two kids had lived for six years in Osceola, Wis.

When the Johnsons came to Paynesville, they intended to rent for the winter and build the next spring. They already had a lot of ideas from attending the Parade of Homes, just out of curiosity, for several years. Last year, they attended the Parade of Homes again specifically to get additional ideas for their new house.

They got many of their house ideas from Stillwater, which is only 25 miles from Osceola. They knew they wanted a two-story house in the "traditional craftsman" style, common in a new development near Stillwater that intentionally wants homes to look more old-fashioned with wide, white trim; smaller windows with grids; and with a wraparound front porch.

Building from scratch involved "a lot more decisions," said Teri. But it went pretty well, better than they expected. They had heard some horror stories but were very pleased with how things went for them.

"We had moved into a spec home that was being built, but we had never built before," explained Kirk. They got to choose some of the finishings of the spec house in Wisconsin, the color of stain, etc. But because they had rented for nearly a year, "We were motivated because we were in temporary housing," said Kirk.

They had rented by the lake for the first winter, so they were familiar with the area. They purchased the third lot sold in Country Lane Acres, a 16-lot development (one lot contains the existing residence). "We liked this area because we were close to the lake," explained Kirk. "We can actually see the lake from this lot."

Their two previous houses - both in Osceola - had both been out of town, too. And in the woods. This two-acre lot has a treeline behind the house but is more open, which the Johnsons hope will reduce the bugs and make it more enjoyable to use their lawn. They just wanted to try something different, they said, in explaining their choice of the lot closest to the road instead of one more in the woods.

From the traditional-looking houses by Stillwater, the Johnsons got a host of ideas, from the cupboards and hooks in their mud room to the plate holder in their kitchen to the raised vanity in their master bedroom. The ideas started, though, with the decision to have a true two-story house, rather than a split-level design.

They wanted the coziness of a true two-story house, they said. But they also wanted an open floor plan. On the main floor, they have nine-foot ceilings for openness. They had had vaulted ceilings in their previous houses, which they liked, but a vaulted ceiling was not possible with a stacked two-story house. They compromised by having higher ceilings, nine feet on the main floor and eight feet upstairs.

Because they wanted an open floor plan, they designed their great room (a living room, dining area, and kitchen) to flow. They thought about an island in the kitchen, for instance, but did not have enough space, opting for peninsula counter instead. It defines the kitchen while allowing it to remain open to the rest of the great room. "It still has the openness," said Teri, "but there's a feeling of separation."

Plus, they had a peninsula counter in their previous house and found it very useful. "The kids like to eat their breakfast and noon meal there," explained Teri, now a stay-at-home mom.

The kitchen and dining area have maple flooring, but they switched to carpet for the living room. This again provided definition without walls. They thought about having an archway or half wall between the dining area and the living room but decided against it.

Common themes run through the great room... and the rest of the house.

Such as, the use of natural cherry - for the kitchen cabinets, for the mantle around the gas fireplace in the living room, and for the end posts and banister on the staircase. They saw natural cherry, with only a clear coat, not a darker stain, in Stillwater. The cherry will turn darker over time, they said.

Such as, shaker-style, recessed panels, used for the kitchen cabinets and used on the three-panel white closet doors throughout the house.

Such as, oil-rubbed bronze for all hardware (door handles, kitchen cabinets, etc.). These look dark and old but will fade.

Such as, the white trim. Originally, they planned to use the wide, white trim - giving the house an old-fashioned look - only on the exterior and upstairs; they planned to use maple trim on the main level. But they liked the contrast between the white and the natural cherry, so they decided to use white trim throughout the house.

The contrast of white and natural cherry is possibly most evident on the staircase, which has thick, white spindles and natural cherry end posts - made by their cabinet maker - and natural cherry skirt board.

Their plate holder - vertical slats to store plates, part of their kitchen cabinets - offers another contrast between white plates (some are red) and the natural cherry. They also saw a plate holder at a house in Stillwater. "I liked the look of it," said Teri, "plus it's handy to have the plates right there."

In addition to the contrast between the natural cherry and the white trim, the Johnsons liked the contrast between the cherry and darker colors. So they chose black for the peninsula counter in the kitchen and they chose stainless steel and black appliances. "We like (the cherry) accented with the darker countertops," said Teri.

To make the white trim stand out, they chose a darker neutral color for most of the walls. They wanted a neutral color and made it darker to provide better contrast with the white trim. They also picked a dark blue for the exterior to provide greater contrast with the white trim.

For siding, they chose cement board, which offered relatively easy maintenance - it holds paint better so it needs to be painted less frequently - yet the color can be changed.

To make the great room, their main living quarters, face south, which gives them privacy from the road and plenty of southern sunlight in the winter, they flipped the orientation of their house. Originally, it was planned to sit in the opposite direction. The final orientation also faced the main living quarters towards the nearby treeline.

The only drapes they need are on south windows, to block the sun when it's bright, not for privacy. The only windows on the east wall on the main level, facing NW Koronis Road, are higher. They raised these windows in the living room to provide wall space for furniture, but it also gives them privacy.

The Lake Koronis Recreational Trail runs by their lot, and Kirk and Terry like to run on it, and their kids - Keaton, almost 6, and Kassiday, nearly 4, like to bike on it.

Their house has 1,150 sq. ft. on each level. So far, 2,300 sq. ft. is finished on the main level and upstairs. Another 900 sq. ft. could be finished in the basement (plus utility space).

In addition to the great room, the main level also includes a three-car garage, with a sink for Kirk, who likes to hunt and fish, to clean his game. The garage also is insulated, complete with an electric heater, so it can be used as a workshop, even in winter.

They have a separate entrance from the garage to a mud room, past the guest bathroom and laundry room, into the kitchen and dining area. The mud room is designed to look old-fashioned. Instead of a closet, it has a white cupboard and drawers - nice for the kids to store their outside clothes - with a facing wall - white bead board (like you'd find in an old school house) - with metal hooks for coats and hats. Kirk and Teri saw a similar design for a mud room in Stillwater, and Teri found the actual design in a magazine.

The laundry room is small, but it has a laundry chute from upstairs, so dirty clothes can be stored in the wall, not on the floor. Kirk's family had a laundry chute in their house when he was growing up; luckily it just worked in their floorplan.

The other entrance to the house is the main front door, a old-style wooden door that the Johnsons saw a lot in Stillwater. Once inside the front door, they wanted the den on one side and the staircase on the other. The den has white French doors to give it an old-fashioned feel and a wooden bench seat under the window. The den is painted a deep terra cotta color (orange-brown). Teri wanted an earth tone for the den, too, but she also wanted something different than the rest of the downstairs.

Right now, until their basement is finished, they use the den as a small family room, with an extra TV. It will become more of an office/den when they finish the downstairs in a couple of years.

The basement is unfinished, though they roughed in the heating/cooling, plumbing, and electrical. In the next couple years, they plan to finish the basement, adding a family room, another bedroom, and a bathroom. At the moment, said Kirk, they don't need the living space, but as their kids get older they will.

Upstairs, the Johnsons have three bedrooms, including the master bedroom with a walk-in closet and master bathroom. The kids have a separate bathroom upstairs.

The master bedroom includes a cherry bedset, which helped the Johnsons pick that wood for their house. They always liked the color, they said, they wanted a different look than oak, which they had for trim in their previous houses, and they saw a lot of cherry, and liked it, in houses in Stillwater.

The master bathroom has checkerboard tile (to match the cherry), a separate tub and shower, and two sinks. But Kirk and Teri did not want a big, long vanity, so they had a raised vanity built between the sinks. They also saw this design in a house in Stillwater, and it provides lots of storage in extra drawers.

At the top of the stairs, the Johnsons have their view of Lake Koronis, facing east down Crest Ridge Road. They also can also see the lake from their swing on the front porch, which has cedar flooring, white posts, and white bead board on the roof, to give it an old-time look.

This spring and summer, the Johnsons have a few things to finish on their new house. They want to build a deck or patio on back, facing south, from the French doors in dining area. They are still deciding on the specifics of the deck or patio. Eventually, they might want to enclose this area - making it into a screen porch or three-season porch - to expand their living space. They also want to finish landscaping this year.

In a few years, as their kids grow, they would like to finish the basement.

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