Strom Architecture | Form & Function: Jackson Strom | Design and Living Magazine

Form & Function with Jackson Strom: Creating Your Waterfront Retreat

Design and Living Magazine
Jackson Strom
May 6, 2020

Architect Jackson Strom of Strom Architecture dives into a different, important design discussion each month. This month, Strom conversed with highly regarded custom home builder Mark Schultz of Tomlinson Schultz to share insight into what makes a lake home design successful.

As summer approaches, the anticipation of lakes, boating and campfires are upon us. Whether spending time at the family cabin each weekend or visiting a cabin once a summer, the memories made at the lake linger long after summer passes. As an architect, the opportunity to work with a client to design and build a cabin where these memories are made brings an additional level of excitement to the project. The design and build of a lake cabin is a personal journey that often results in a project that will be handed down for generations, and because of this, clients tend to bring a flare and interest that may not exist in other projects. 

We had the opportunity to sit down with one of the area’s premier custom residential builders, Mark Schultz, a partner at Tomlinson Schultz, to get his expertise on two important elements that go into the planning of a successful lake cabin design and build.

Establishing Your Design and Build Team

Establishing your design and build team early in the process is critical, and with a lake cabin, this is no different. The most successful cabins have the owner, builder and architect on the same page as early in the process as possible. As the team develops this relationship, it allows the builder and architect to learn more about the client and establish a trust that will continue throughout the project. “We want to spend time understanding how you live and how you interact at the lake,” said Mark Schultz. For example, is your vision traditional or contemporary? Cozy or grand? Do you want it to blend in or stand out? Do you plan on hosting friends, family and kids or will this be your personal place of refuge? We often see cabin owners focusing a large portion of their energy ensuring they are providing family and friends with great hospitality.

Rec rooms, bunk rooms, screen porches and additional bathrooms are becoming more common as cabin owners want to treat their guests to an experience that may rival resorts. Small, yet comfortable bedrooms allow more time, energy and square footage to be spent on the common living spaces where friends and family will gather. “People realize the memories you make at a lake cabin are more important than a lot of things – these memories with our kids and grandkids are really priceless,” said Schultz. There is a lot that goes into the planning to create these meaningful spaces. 

What does this planning look like? Upon attaining the lake lot, the team works alongside the client to help start realizing their vision. “We often tour past projects with new clients to help them visualize similar features, size and feel,” Schultz said about this step in the process. In terms of design and style, anything goes at the lake and it’s often where clients feel they can have more design freedom. But with this freedom we also want to eliminate surprises. 

Before the builder lifts a hammer, they ensure the vision can be built as intended and within the planned budget. Schultz said, “You want the whole team to sit down to bless the design, site layout and budget.” The builder will provide an estimate once the floor plan and exterior 3D model have been approved, but also long before the final construction documents are completed. “The client needs to know that we are in this to give them what they want, for the price they want,” he said. 

The quality of the relationship between the client, builder and architect is often what drives the success of the project. Between phone calls, emails and meetings, you often spend much time with the project team, and this level of communication in a project is often directly related to the project’s success. “I can honestly say that I am still friends with all of my past clients,” said Schultz. 

Developing Your Site Design 

Understanding the exact details and conditions of your site is the second critical component. What are the minimum setbacks? What is the maximum impervious surface percentage of the lot your new cabin can cover? What are the existing soil conditions? How high above the ordinary water mark should you cabin sit? The builder and architect play a pivotal role in reviewing, documenting and providing direction to ensure the new cabin is in line with the county ordinances. 

A site survey and soil testing are two upfront investments that are paramount in assisting with developing your site design. The site survey will document the exact property corners and existing topography. The soil testing details the soil conditions, informing the team of what resources they’ll need to properly execute the excavation and foundation. Schultz said, “You do not want to be building on unstable soil when you’re making a substantial investment into your new cabin.” 

“The site layout needs to account for the well and septic, in addition to the cabin and garage,” continued Schultz. It is important to have the cabin owner, builder and architect on the site during the design and development process to ensure everyone understands the layout. A site visit allows the team to walk the site to discuss specific views, trees or elements that the client may want to maintain. “These are the details that we want the client to feel comfortable with prior to proceeding with the work,” said Schultz. 

Loving the Final Product 

“You’re investing a lot of hard-earned money, and our goal is that you love your cabin”, said Schultz. The process of planning a lake cabin can be fun, rewarding and engaging. If you have thoroughly reviewed your site and have the right team in place, you’re ready to start this exciting journey. And if you haven’t? Let me know, I’d be happy to help start you down this path. 

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