Repurposed Retreat

Two local designers combine old pieces with new to bring this Random Lake farmhouse to life.


The open concept main living room includes access to this cozy gathering space, which exemplifies the rustic digs that never forgets that relaxation and celebration mix well.

When a professional Mequon couple dreamed of having a more casual lifestyle for family and friend gatherings within an hour drive of their North Shore home, they set their sights on building a farmhouse on an 80-acre prairie next to the Milwaukee River in Random Lake.

Their dream was realized in 2016 with the help of two design specialists: Jessica Forston, co-owner of Fringe Interior Design and Home Furnishings in Whitefish Bay, and Anna Burns, co-owner of The Brookwater Group, a construction project management firm in Greenleaf.

Their clients gave them a blank slate of sorts, having razed an old house, two barns and a shed. What rose in their place is an almost 3,000-square-foot, two-story abode with four bedrooms and three baths. It is designed to be a retreat with rustic overtones and just enough modern convenience to accommodate current and future needs of their grown children, as well as guests.

The stage was set for Burns to help create the interior hardscape plus some accessories while Forston helped select most of the finishing touches. Both designers share a long-term relationship with the homeowners.

“They know what they want and what they don’t,” Forston says. “I got involved after the house was built but the drywall was not up yet. It was ideal for someone like me to help set up the spaces. It was an opportunity for them to create something different.”

Burns said an initial client meeting to plan and carefully position the home’s construction went from a small cabin to an expansive retreat and finally scaled back.

Beamed ceiling, rustic framed floor-to-ceiling windows and hardwood floors frame gray tones in the master bedroom. Rustic meets industrial in this guest bathroom that features
an above-counter rock sink.
The living room, with its vaulted beam ceiling, is filled with comfortable touches accompanied
by just the right focal point – a bright painting of a mallard designer Jessica Forston
brought from her office.
Repurposed stone from previous buildings on-site help create a silo-like wall for the curved
staircase in a new millennium Random Lake farmhouse.

Resource center:
How to re-create the look

While much of this home is customized with repurposed materials, some details can be a guide to create the same or similar look:

» The warm neutral palette painted through much of the home is Popular Gray
by Sherwin-Williams.  

» In the guest bathroom, the custom-made rock sink is from The Tile Shop.

» In the wine-tasting room, the rustic natural-tone field stone backsplash is from MSI.

» The mustard, gray and tan English-style armchairs in the living room were made especially for Fringe Interior Design and Home Furnishings. Other fabrics available.

» The scissor-leg sawhorse table behind the living room sofa is from Charleston Forge. 

“This was to be a family retreat but they also wanted to repurpose parts of the old buildings,” Burns said. “We saved and used floor joists, barn wood and other materials. The whole design theme was in keeping with a farmhouse because farmers are very practical individuals who use what is available around them.”

The resulting look is a layered mix of repurposed and new ingredients, achieving a millennium comfort level utilizing yesteryear’s sensibility

A curved wall lining the staircase to the second floor is built with stone from the foundations of the property’s razed buildings. The addition of white mortar gives a farm silo appearance to the exterior. At the top of the stairs are two new “whiskey chairs” with an exposed raw frame and covered in hand-sewn leather.

Old beams from the previous buildings were used outside over a porch that wraps around the home while more rustic beams frame the vaulted ceiling in the open concept living and dining room that flows at one end into the kitchen.

A guest bathroom features rustic and industrial touches like a stone wall, a large stone sink and caged work lights along one side of the vanity mirror.

The great room is dressed in fine modernized rustic touches, such as English armchairs with a modern mustard, gray and tan print. A sawhorse table behind the sofa has scissor metal-forged legs.

The kitchen gets its own unique twist with a wine barrel sink lined in copper.

All of these details and more have made the homeowners more than content. They say their retreat provides them a perfect way to pursue their passions. They love hosting family, groups from their church and hunting buddies, while also continuing their farm-to-table activities that yield a favorite: salsa. With a home in Mequon, a cabin in Minocqua and now this Random Lake retreat, life, they said, is like a moveable feast.