By Larry Atseff

In the 1960s the Johnston family began vacationing at Green Lake, Wisconsin. In the late 1970s, Tom and Edie Johnston of Hinsdale, his brother and father and her mother purchased land on the lake. The extended family together built a home where the family gathers every year and where now even great-grandchildren and third cousins get to know and play together. After forty years, the home needed updating and Tom and Edie’s children Beth, Tom and Julie decided to undertake a renovation. The clients’ desire was to create a mid western lake house with a contemporary flair, which was beautifully achieved by the design team. The home needed updates both aesthetically and functionally in order to truly highlight its spectacular location and utilize the expansive space the house offered. With the home being a year-round vacation destination, strategic additions were thought out to accommodate the changing family needs. The clients had worked with Janie Petkus on eight previous projects and so it was natural to start with her. From there, the design team fell into place with Cyrus Rivetna of Rivetna Architects, and Gail Drury of Drury Design. The clients and design team toured Green Lake to understand its character and architecture. They visited homes, peeked in windows, and toured by boat.

They had all worked together on earlier projects and designer Janie Petkus did a good job of coordinating and keeping everyone on task. The team for this project has many ties to Hinsdale: the clients and architect Cyrus all grew up in Hinsdale; Janie Petkus opened up her Hinsdale-based design firm in 1975; and Gail Drury has worked with Janie Petkus since the 80’s to design countless kitchens and bathrooms in the Hinsdale area since opening Drury Design in 1987. The Design Team imagined a mid western lake house, specifically planned for vacation living of a large extended family. Additional bathrooms were added to allow every one of the eight bedrooms to have its own bath. The design team also focused on maximizing the size of the gathering spaces where the family comes together. The kitchen is large to allow for cooking for up to 20, and spacious to allow for many cooks (and cleaners) in the kitchen. Decks are expansive for leisure and play Key design features addressed in this remodel included highlighting beautiful views of the Lake, brightening up the space, and modernizing the design to fit the needs of a family that loves to entertain. According to Janie Petkus, material selection was crucial for this design. All materials chosen needed to be natural but durable enough to withstand the humidity associated with living on a lake and used by a large extended family.


“The home needed updates both aesthetically and functionally in order to truly highlight its spectacular location and utilize the expansive space the house offered. With the home being a year-round vacation destination, strategic additions were thought out to accommodate the changing family needs.”

“Really, durability was of primary importance for this vacation home; people want to relax and not think about their behaviors!” says Gail Drury, CMKBD. Architect Cyrus Rivetna imagined a cathedral to nature. Windows are tall and slender, inspired by the slender trunks of old-growth oaks that dot the site, and they allow views of the lake and the treetops. The forest green siding and bronze details were chosen to situate the house comfortably within nature and not fight it. A low stone base anchors the house to the ground. Expansive decks provide ample space for outdoor living and dining and are designed to bring the family together outdoors. Rather than remove an old-growth oak, it is allowed to grow through the deck, and becomes a focal point. Railings are kept minimal, so they do not obstruct views. The high ceilings and wood paneling were incorporated on all walls and ceiling to give the space a lake house look. The white oak paneling has a hand-applied driftwood wash that allows the character of the wood grain to show through. It compliments with white oak flooring, stained a slightly darker tone.

All of these selections opened up and brightened the space but the original stone fireplace remains a highlight of the design and room. To maximize lake views, large full-length windows were added throughout the kitchen and first floor. An addition gives the Great Room the space needed to accommodate dining/sitting for twenty, and creates a perfect spot for family games and singing. The addition opened views over the deck and out to the lake. The existing stone fireplace was fit with a new stone mantle and stone hearth, and provides the warmth a lake house needs. The Great Room is capped by wood and steel trusses that subtly divide the space into cooking, living, and dining. This home regularly fills with adults and children. The kitchen needed to function well for multiple cooks as well as large family gatherings. Therefore multi-work areas and large expanses of counter top space for buffets were a must. These design ideas paired with lots of seating at the island and the over sized table give enough room for everyone. A multi metal hood with an antique patina was included to add an element of WOW to the space. A large multi burner stove, two large sinks, two dishwashers, and three waste receptacles were strategically located in multiple locations so multiple family members could use the space simultaneously.

An area off to the side in the family room that was designated as a desk was multi purposed to function as a buffet area for the large family dinners. Navy leather sofas and a multi color abstract rug give warmth but still maintain a light feel. Contemporary artwork, lighting, and fabrics kept a fresh new look to the living areas. Three bathrooms were added bringing the total to 8 bedroom suites. Unused attic spaces were opened, and dormers added to the upper floor bedrooms to create taller ceilings that provide fun spaces for kids. “The kid’s bedroom and bathroom are clad in painted bead board, and create a casual bunk room feel, perfect for hiding away”, says Cyrus Rivetna. The new design also included updating a second kitchen with state of-the-art appliances, which offers more room for the growing family to gather and enjoy each other’s company. In addition, an entertainment space was added which included a 121” television so that all family members could congregate for viewing. Making the house accessible to everyone was a primary goal. Discrete and convenient ramps are seamlessly incorporated into the house, and are convenient for not only wheelchairs, but also for strollers, coolers, and luggage. Instead of an eyesore, they enhance the design so that all spaces are accessible to everyone. This beautiful family lake house now serves as both an inviting and luxurious destination for the entire Johnston family and guests to gather all year round.

Design Sources

Janie Petkus, Janie Petkus Interiors
421 West Maple St., Hinsdale, IL 60521
630-272-8585 • [email protected]

Cyrus Rivetna, AIA Rivetna Architects
Inc. 340 E Randolph St Ste 505, Chicago IL 60601
312-341-9006 • [email protected]

Gail Drury, Drury Design
512 N. Main St., Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
630-469-4980 • [email protected]

*Photos provided by the Johnston family