Lakeside Cottage Kitchen, Bath Get Best of Show Nod


While this three-bedroom cottage measures only 4,000 sq. ft., it certainly cannot be described as a “little house on the prairie.” Rather, it is more of a “little house on the lake” since it sits here in this very upscale community on a one-acre lot – which includes 40 ft. of lake front.

And because of all of the simple, yet whimsical details custom builder John Engerman and architect Jason Bernard, AIA, added to the home’s new, non-linear interior, it was deemed Best of Show by Mosinee, WI-based Vetter Windows & Doors.


Out of a field of 70 entries in six categories, the judges of the 2004 Vetter Inspired Project (VIP) Awards for architects and custom builders were impressed with Engerman and Bernard’s ability to transform such a tiny home into something so special. They were also impressed, of course, with the use of the windows, which were supplied by Sterling Building Systems in Wausau, WI. They further noticed the way Engerman amped up the design by adding what he calls “cross hatches” to all of the windows in order to create some “spatial stimuli” throughout the kitchen, bath and rest of the home.

“What a dramatic transformation,” says Gerard D. Frank, AIA, president of Bechtel Frank Erickson Architects, Inc. of Boston, MA and VIP judge. “It’s lovely, very humane.

The windows really open up the home, and hold the home’s design together well.”

“They definitely add to the whimsical feel that we gave to the entire home,” adds Engerman, who owns Engerman Contracting Inc., located here. It is part of Engerman Companies, which does design, development, contracting and building.

That “grill” detail Engerman applied to each window also helped to carry the casual cottage style throughout the home, add to the period, shingle-style exterior, and tie back to some of the same design elements inside the home, such as the railing and trim, notes Bernard, whose own firm, Jason R. Bernard, Inc., is based here, too.

Having worked together before on similar projects, both large and small, Engerman brought in Bernard, and the two collaborated on the project, which involved re-working the kitchen and creating a new master bath. It also involved creating a bath that serves as a powder room, a bath for a spare bedroom and an area to shower and change after enjoying the nearby lake.

The duo accepted their Best of Show honors for their efforts at the VIP Awards reception held earlier this year in Orlando, FL at the International Builders’ Show.

Vetter’s design competition, now in its fourth year, is designed “to recognize creativity and ingenuity in architecture and custom design,” according to contest organizers.

“[In particular], this renovation is really breathtaking,” offers Jeff Kibler, Vetter brand manager. “The design is striking and well executed. It’s a perfect example of a VIP winner – a project that uses Vetter windows and patio doors to enhance a home’s design while inspiring others toward great design.”


The project was not an easy one for Engerman and Bernard. Their main obstacle in transforming this period shingle-style spec home was its size – or, more specifically, its narrow width of a mere 20'.

“That narrow width made it a challenge to design this home so that it did not feel like a bowling alley,” says Bernard.

However, Bernard and Engerman made sure the home did not flow linearly. Instead, after gutting the house, they turned everything on an angle and geared the proportions to make sure it comfortably fit between two and five people.

As Bernard points out, the overall exterior design was inspired by book ends. “I was inspired by a set of them on a shelf at a local Starbucks. I created two cross-gabled areas at either end of the home, which are essentially what I call this home’s ‘book ends,’” he says.

The next challenge was to meet the request of one of the neighbors, who also happens to know Engerman, notes Bernard. “He owns the property to the west, so he wanted no views from this house to his property. That made positioning the windows a little tricky,” he recalls.

To meet this request, Bernard and Engerman positioned the kitchen windows so that they capture more of the foreground. In the master bath, the windows were placed higher to maintain privacy for the neighbor.


Given the tight space of the home’s footprint and the casual feel of the local lake properties, Engerman and Bernard combined the kitchen and dining rooms into one larger area instead of creating a separate formal dining room.

In the kitchen, Bernard’s layout gave Engerman just enough space to design a small work triangle for one cook, install informal seating around a large island, and put a large window above the main Shaw’s Original sink.

In terms of style, Engerman stuck with the casual theme, adding whimsy that’s evidenced by simple details which harken back to the home’s period, shingle style. He started with the cabinetry, designing the bulk of it himself.

“I designed a lot of the beaded cabinetry, and we built it in our shop, applying a glazed finish in a sage green color. On a few of the cabinets, we inserted textured glass panels that had a leaf pattern. We also custom-built the hood to match, as well as created an island that has a stone eating area and maple butcher block work top,” says Engerman.

“For whatever we didn’t build, we used natural maple cabinets from Plato Woodwork,” he adds.

He hung two simple pendants above the island and strategically placed recessed cans throughout the small space to enhance the natural light from the window.

For function, Engerman speced a 36" Wolf range, a Sub-Zero 650 built-in unit with matching cabinetry panels and handles, a Bosch dishwasher with a matching cabinetry panel, and a microwave, which was installed at knee-height in the island.


Engerman and Bernard then turned their attention to the bath on the main floor.

According to Bernard, the challenge was to design it for three distinct functions.

“It serves as the powder room, so it needed to look really nice. It also needed a separate water closet and shower because it was serving the adjacent spare bedroom, and it was first receiving the wet and dirty traffic from the lake,” explains Bernard.

The duo also chose a bath vanity that Engerman had designed from an antique Irish pine hutch. The unique piece features a Kohler raised-bowl sink and brushed nickel, wall-mounted faucet.

Using hand-glazed, ceramic tiles, they also created a small alcove to the side of the vanity for the water closet and shower.


The next challenge came with the master bath. “It was hard to create a master bath that you couldn’t see directly from the master bedroom, and vice versa,” relates Bernard.

The duo’s solution was to configure the lines of sight so that a person can’t see directly into either room. Inside, they had the right idea by turning the Jacuzzi whirlpool tub on an angle and installed a wall-size mirror behind it. The mirror opens up the space and adds interest to the tub area, asserts Bernard.

For a cohesive look, Engerman again built a double vanity in maple, complete with two Kohler raised-bowl sinks with matching wall-mounted faucets.

Engerman continued the Carrara marble theme from the tub deck onto the floor and into the shower using 4"x4" tiles. To complement this, he carried the subway tiles from the tub surround on the shower walls.

A separate toilet area sits hidden behind a glass-insert door next to the shower, completing the eye-catching look.