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Lake Home with Modern Elegance

Drawn in by a kitchen redo, Mick de Giulio reimagines an entire Minnesota lake house with fresh, modern elegance

Written by Sally Finder Weepie
  • Werner Straube

    Cabin kitsch, you’ll always have a place—but not at this North Woods getaway. Here, with internationally known kitchen designer Mick De Giulio at the helm, lake house style has entered uncharted realms of sophistication. And, not surprisingly, considering De Giulio’s pedigree, it all started in the kitchen.

    “It wasn’t working for the way I live,” says Fargo, North Dakota, businessman Ace Brandt, who wanted his Minnesota lake house to be as sociable and entertaining-minded as he is. “When you have people over, they always migrate to the kitchen.” Ace’s kitchen, however, with its single run of knotty-pine cabinetry, undersize island, and limited seating wasn’t up to welcoming a crowd.

    “My interior designer suggested I call Mick De Giulio,” Ace says. “I thought, who in Chicago is going to want to work on a house in Detroit Lakes? But the next thing you know, I’m meeting with him. He’s showing me pictures. I’m realizing my kitchen is going to be stunningly beautiful—and the rest of the house is going to look like I ran out of money.” Ace laughs heartily. “I begged, ‘Mick, will you please do the whole house?’ He said yes, and I was pretty pleased—a guy with so much horsepower redoing my house.”

    Before De Giulio added anything to the house, though, he took some things away, starting with superfluous ornamentation on the exposed interior beams. “We removed extraneous pieces that made the house look like a Swiss chalet,” the designer says. “The idea was to make the house more modern.” To that end, De Giulio also covered the orangish-red beams with an ebonized finish that visually connects them to new flooring, a dramatic hand-scraped ebonized walnut.

    See the landscpaing of this lovely home here.

    Photography: Werner Straube  
    Produced by Hilary Rose

    Architectural and kitchen designer: Mick De Giulio, De Giulio Design, 1121 Central Ave., Wilmette, IL 60091; 847/256-8833, and 222 Merchandise Mart Plaza, Suite 121, Chicago, IL 60654; 312/494-9200,
    Architect: Mike Abraham, Michael Abraham Architecture, 148 Burlington Ave., Clarendon Hills, IL 60514; 630/655-9417,
    Interior designer: Joan Hebert, JH Design, 412 15th Ave. N., Fargo, ND 58102; 701/729-1714.
    Landscape architect: Frank Mariani, Mariani Landscape, 300 Rockland Rd., Lake Bluff, IL 60044; 847/234-2172,
    Contractor: Tomlinson Schultz, P.O. Box 1808, Detroit Lakes, MN 56502; 218/847-3092,

    Stonework: blend of Montana and Oklahoma moss rock fieldstone.
    Siding and trim stain (“Burnt Hickory” semi-solid stain): Cabot,
    Slate roofing (Evergreen 18-inch random-width Unfading Gray Vermont slate), metal roofing (Pac-Clad “Weathered Zinc” standing seam metal roofing): Tomlinson Schultz,
    Front exterior door: Pine Door Manufacturing;
    Door hardware (“Rectangular Cremone bolt set” in Bronze Dark): Rocky Mountain Hardware,
    Planter to right of front door (Newport Accent Decor): JH Design, 701/729-1714.
    Stone flooring at entrance: Mariani Landscape,

  • Werner Straube

    Welcoming Area

    De Giulio then removed chunks of interior cabinetry that blocked traffic and views through the house to the lake. “The whole vision from the beginning came from the views,” Ace says. “We wanted to be able to see the lake from the moment you walk in the house.”

    “Now, when you step into the foyer, the room explodes to views of the lake,” De Giulio says. “The height expands. It’s a soaring space, but it still feels intimate. There’s a fire going. There are a couple of chairs right there—it sets the mood right away.”

    For some guests, the lake can wait a moment. They’re tempted by the upholstered wing chairs that interior designer Joan Hebert has cozied up to the fireplace, its white quartzite surround glowing against a wall of reclaimed French oak. “Everything in the house is natural—wood, stone, glass,” Hebert says. “I wanted the furnishings to have that same organic feel. It’s a sophisticated look, but suitable for a lake house. You can still sit down in a bathing suit.”

    Columns of Midwest-quarried stone frame the foyer, where a cozy conversation area welcomes guests. Striéd fabric on wing chairs repeats the tones and lines of the wood fireplace wall.

    Wall paint (“White Dove” #OC-17): Benjamin Moore,
    Flooring (Legacy Hardwood Floors hand-scraped walnut plank in random width): Tomlinson Schultz,
    Shelves (de Giulio Collection in matte ebonized walnut, hand-scraped character walnut); fireplace (reclaimed French oak panels with satin Iceberg quartzite): De Giulio Design,
    Chandelier (dark bronze finish): Gibson & Gibson Antique Lighting,
    Wall lamps (“Alaya,” discontinued): Terzani,
    Wing chairs (“Sienna”): Oly Studio,
    Wing-chair fabric (Great Plains “Changing Current” #4607-03), coffee table (“Tudor Cocktail Table”): Holly Hunt,
    Vase with flowers and small vase on coffee table (by Jeremy Bridell): Costello Childs Gallery,
    Area rug (Nepalese wool and silk): David E. Adler Fine Rugs,
    Wine refrigerator; throw on wing chair: owner’s collection. 

  • Werner Straube

    Soaring Kitchen

    Flowing like water, the reworked floor plan now spills smoothly from the foyer past the double-sided fireplace to the kitchen. “Previously, the kitchen was set back—tucked into a corner and away from the windows,” De Giulio says. “We wanted to connect it with the living areas and give it views of the lake.”

    Flooring (Legacy Hardwood Floors hand-scraped walnut plank in random width): Tomlinson Schultz,
    Cabinets on range wall (de Giulio Collection in brushed stainless steel with polished stainless-steel-faceted trim and polished-nickel hardware); cabinets in coffee server area (de Giulio Collection in Eucalyptus with matte finish and polished-nickel hardware); refrigerator armoire (de Giulio Collection in Eucalyptus with gloss finish and bronze-finished hardware); island (BeauxArts in Sterling Grey gloss, de Giulio Collection in Eucalyptus with matte finish and polished-nickel hardware); countertops on range wall (Angel-hair brushed stainless steel with polished stainless-steel edge); countertops on coffee server area (brushed Iceberg quartzite); range-wall backsplash (polished Iceberg quartzite); perimeter and coffee-server backsplash (brushed Iceberg quartzite); sink (de Giulio Collection in Iceberg quartzite and stainless steel with sliding teak cutting board, sliding colander holder and flatware tray, and Dornbracht faucet in Platinum); range hood (de Giulio Collection in Angel-hair brushed stainless steel with polished stainless-steel trim); plate rack (de Giulio Collection in bronze finish and glass with ebonized walnut serrated bottom shelf); fireplace (reclaimed French oak panels with Bronzo quartzite and polished stainless-steel trim), wall sconces above plate rack (de Giulio Collection sconces in polished stainless steel); hanging lights around perimeter: De Giulio Design,
    Refrigerator and freezer (by Sub-Zero); range (by Wolf); microwave drawers (by Wolf): Sub-Zero/Wolf,
    Coffee maker (“Belle Epoque Coffee Machine”): Elektra,
    Dishwasher: Miele USA, Counter stools (“Madigan Backless Counter Stool” #5750-07): Hickory Chair,
    Pendant lights over island (“The Outsider”): Jacco Maris Design,
    Tile behind coffeemaker (Textured Metal Series in Silver): Urban Archaeology,

  • Werner Straube

    Accommodating Island

    Opening up the space provided plenty of room for a high-function galley-style work zone. A double range in brushed stainless steel sits beneath a coordinating hood and next to a refrigerator armoire paneled in eucalyptus with a gloss finish. A spacious island offers a work surface and sink on one side and bar stool seating on the other—just a step from a breakfast/coffee bar.

    De Giulio crafted  a kitchen made for entertaining. Beneath a dramatic beamed ceiling, a center island with a eucalyptus base and Iceberg quartzite top serves both the work zone on one side and the breakfast bar on the other.

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    Sleek Cabinetry

    “In this vaulted space, the trick was getting good lighting,” says De Giulio, who devised a suspended metal rack that rings the room and holds a series of black pendants. “They became a design element unto themselves.”

    A Wolf range, Sub-Zero refrigerator, Elektra coffee machine, and custom cabinets, including De Giulio’s signature “Metal Boy,” ensure perfect function.

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    Shiny Espresso Machine

     “The lighting is spectacular,” Ace says. “Really, the entire kitchen is a piece of art. It’s gorgeous, and at the same time, it just feels good.” 

    An Elektra espresso machine nestles into its own special niche on the kitchen counter.

  • Werner Straube

    Dining Room

    Guests can chat, help with meal prep, or grab a drink at the bar built into the dining area off the kitchen.

    A custom Gibson & Gibson chandelier repeats the shape and elegance of a De Giulio Collection table with a hand-rubbed bronze base and cottopesto (fired terra-cotta) top. 

    Wall and ceiling paint (“White Dove” #OC-17): Benjamin Moore,
    Flooring (Legacy Hardwood Floors hand-scraped walnut plank in random width): Tomlinson Schultz,
    Dining table (de Giulio Collection in hand-rubbed bronze finish with cottopesto top): De Giulio Design,
    Chandelier (custom): Gibson & Gibson Antique Lighting,
    Dining chairs (Atelier collection): Hickory Chair,
    Chair fabric (“Linen”/Antique Beige #11-15): Link Outdoor,
    Glass vase on table (Cyan Design “Large Alistair Bowl” in blue/black glass); pedestal holding large bowl sculpture (custom): JH Design, 701/729-1714.
    Bowl sculpture on pedestal (by Darcy Badiali): Lacoste Gallery;

  • Werner Straube

    Glimmering Bar

    A backsplash crafted of antique mirror tile glimmers in the light pouring through a wealth of picture windows and sliding doors and contrasts with the rich tones of eucalyptus cabinets.

    Cabinetry (de Giulio Collection in Eucalyptus with matte finish and polished-nickel hardware); bar backsplash (antique mirror tile); bar sink (de Giulio Collection in distressed, polished stainless steel); dining table base (de Giulio Collection in hand-rubbed bronze finish); dining table top (cottopesto); countertop (brushed Iceberg quartzite); display cabinet (matte eucalyptus cabinet with ebonized walnut drawers and interior side panels, mirrored interior back panel, eucalyptus lower shelf, floating glass shelves with polished stainless-steel trim, hand-rubbed bronze-finished framed glass doors and bronze-finished hardware), all de Giulio Collection; wooden pedestal sink base (de Giulio Collection in Teak with dark walnut finish): De Giulio Design,
    Faucet (“Pull-Down Kitchen Faucet”/Nickel Silver #P25200-00 AD, One Collection): Kallista,
    Dinnerware in cabinet; gold-and-stone bowls in cabinet; pitcher, bowls, and tray on counter: owner’s collection.
    Glassware on shelves: Riedel,
    Vases on counter (by Jose Sierra): Costello Childs Gallery,
    Flooring (Legacy Hardwood Floors hand-scraped walnut plank in random width): Tomlinson Schultz,

  • Werner Straube

    Comfy Living Room

    More spectacular scenery—along with sink-in-soft seating—beckons in the living room behind the kitchen and in the glass-framed sunroom. 

    Architecture plays to views of lake and sky, with a vaulted ceiling that allows for an abundance of windows. Geometric pendants echo the shape of window frames, while a sectional and armchairs soften the space and provide comfortable spots to take in the lake view. 

    Wall and ceiling paint (“White Dove” #OC-17): Benjamin Moore,
    Hanging lights (Eric Cohler “Caged 1-Light 16-inch Bronze Foyer Pendant” #SC5159BZ): Visual Comfort,
    Area rug (Nepalese wool and silk): David E. Adler Fine Rugs,
    Sectional sofa (#2672, discontinued); lounge chairs (#694, discontinued): A. Rudin,
    Sofa fabric (“Across the Horizon” in Sandscape #207/06); coffee table (“Ingot” #INGO-CT); chair fabric (“Tahoe” 2300/13); floor lamp behind side table (“Bar Reading Lamp” #BAR-FL-GB): Holly Hunt,
    Pillow on sofa at left (custom with Holly Hunt Great Plains “Palazzo: Blu Notte” 3202/08 fabric); small square pillow (custom); pillows in corner of sofa (custom); pair of tall sculptures by window (Phillips Collection “Skinny Male Sculpture” in bronze #PH57487 and “Skinny Female Sculpture” in bronze #PH56284): JH Design, 701/729-1714.
    Large bowl sculpture on coffee table (by Brenda Holzke): Costello Childs Gallery,
    Side table between chairs (9.91081): Global Views,
    Tall floor lamp (“Hannah”): Visual Comfort,
    Top windows: Marvin,
    Other windows and doors: Unilux,

  • Werner Straube

    Contemporary Fireplace

    A de Giulio-designed fireplace warms the living room.

    Fireplace (Bronzo quartzite and polished stainless steel; de Giulio Collection Eucalyptus with a matte finish, polished nickel hardware): de Giulio,

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    Interior designer Joan Hebert chose neutral colors for upholstery to marry with ebony wood tones and let outdoor views remain the primary attraction.   

    Wall paint (“White Dove” #OC-17): Benjamin Moore,
    Flooring (Legacy Hardwood Floors hand-scraped walnut plank in random width): Tomlinson Schultz,
    Top window: Marvin,
    Other windows and doors: Unilux,
    Area rug (Woodland natural hemp from India): David E. Adler Fine Rugs,
    Sofa (“Gotham I” #2511); sofa side tables (“Elgin” #3265); coffee table (“Laurent” #3717); pair of ottomans under coffee table (“Etienne” #5582); pair of lounge chairs (“Andriessen” #5598): Gregorius Pineo;
    Sofa and ottoman fabric (Great Outdoors “Vinyasa” Greystone #125/07); lounge-chair fabric (“Narcissus” leather in Greystone #9902): Holly Hunt,
    Pillows on sofa (custom); throw on lounge chair: JH Design, 701/729-1714.
    Table lamps with stone slice (petrified wood): Palecek,

  • Werner Straube

    Sunroom Storage

    “With these open living spaces, people can hang out and feel comfortable,” De Giulio says. “The vaulted areas make the house feel spacious, but there’s still an intimacy.”

    A wall-mounted shagreen console provides sophisticated storage.

  • Werner Straube

    Master Bedroom

    Setting such a mood was important to Ace. “I’ve been in homes that feel too large—kind of cold and lonely,” he says. “Here, every room is warm and inviting.” That includes Ace and wife Brittany’s renovated master suite, where De Giulio linked bedroom and bath spaces. Now an ebony-framed bed curls up next to a fireplace.

    Wallcovering (Kneedler Fauchere Wallcoverings #FH-505): Dering Hall;
    Ceiling paint (“Seapearl” #OC-19); trim paint (“White Dove” #OC-17): Benjamin Moore,
    Flooring (Legacy Hardwood Floors hand-scraped walnut plank in random width): Tomlinson Schultz,
    Area rug (Nepalese wool and silk): David E. Adler Fine Rugs,
    Bed with side tables (custom): Janet McCann,
    Headboard fabric (“Luxe Calf” marble #LU46): Edelman,
    Duvet and pillow shams (SDH “Kara” ); bed cover (SDH “Koi”); small pillow with herringbone pattern (SDH “Aiden” 17-inch rectangle): JH Design, 701/729-1714.
    Table lamps (“Venus” and “Mars”): Corbin Bronze;
    Fireplace and surround (brushed Iceberg quartzite): De Giulio Design,
    Artwork above mantel (by Bill Gingles), pair of vases to left of mantel (by Loren Yagoda): Costello Childs Gallery,
    Chairs (“Hemp Sail Club Chair” #HSO-CC by John Hutton): Holly Hunt,
    Chair fabric (“Smash” #51803): Nobilis,
    Side table by chair (Global Views “Artisan Square Peg” accent table #8.81015): Interior HomeScapes,
    Stone slab behind bed (custom): JH Design, 701/729-1714.
    Faucet in shower behind bed (#P24402-LV-AD/nickel silver, One collection): Kallista,
    Window and door to patio: Unilux,

  • Werner Straube

    Sleek Tub

    Behind the headboard, a sleek freestanding tub sits beside a Zen-like shower shaped from glass and quartzite.

    Linen-look grass cloth wraps the master bedroom, which adjoins the master bath, home to an Agape “Spoon” tub with a Kallista “One” tub filler. The shower wall and floor are brushed Iceberg quartzite. 

    Tub (“Spoon”/Matte White): Agape,
    Bath fixtures (“One Floor-Mount Bath Filler”); towel hooks (#P34406-00-AD/nickel silver, One collection): Kallista,
    Stone panel behind bathtub, flooring, shower bench and wall, tile wall and bench in front of shower (brushed Iceberg quartzite): De Giulio Design,
    Glass shower enclosure (Fargo Glass and Paint Company): Tomlinson Schultz,

  • Werner Straube

    Gleaming Vanity

    A high-gloss vanity adds an extra dose of shine to the master bath.

    Cabinetry and finish (de Giulio Collection high-gloss silver sucupira, polished stainless steel hardware); countertop, backsplash, sink, and flooring (brushed Iceberg quartzite): de Giulio,
    Faucet (“One Decorative Sink Faucet”): Kallista,
    Mirror cabinet (“Plain Edge Mirror cabinet” #MP-20/24-D6FP-RL.-LL); wall sconces (#MPFL3.5T5PPC in Polished Chrome): Robern,

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    His Closet

    In the nearby master closet, wood—in this case African sapele—reclaims the spotlight in a space where custom cubbies and racks organize clothing, cuffs, belts, and boots. “You can never have a closet too big,” Ace says. “I love how Mick put so much thought into every square inch. This entire house functions so well.”

    A skylight in a dormer showers light into the windowless master closet. 

    Closet dressers and walls (de Giulio Collection matte sapele, polished stainless-steel hardware): De Giulio Design,
    Ceiling paint (“Seapearl” #OC-19): Benjamin Moore,
    Indirect lighting (LED Flexible Lighting tape): GM Lighting,
    Bench (2504); bench fabric (Arctic Suede): Global Views,

  • Designer Portrait

    De Giulio, though, shrugs off the praise. “Ace knew what he wanted. He’s very traveled; he has sophisticated tastes,” the designer says. “And that’s what this house is—sophisticated, yet also extremely comfortable. After all, it’s still a home on the lake.” 

    Designer Mick de Giulio

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    Happy Homeowners

    Ace and Brittany Brandt, along with canine companion Zoe, arrive in style in their 1977 “Bandit” Trans Am.

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    Architect Michael Abraham reworked the exterior of the house to imbue contemporary sophistication, while Mariani Landscaping added beauty with plantings and a new pool and patio area.

    Click here to see more of the gorgeous landscaping done at this lake home. 

    Lounge chairs (Bleau “Deep Seating Lounge Chair” #BL2100L); chaise longues (Bleau “Deep Seating Stacking Chaise” #BL7190W): Inside/Out Showrooms,