Custom Made –
A Spacious Lakeside Retreat
on Big Pine Lake

WRITTEN BY JODIE TWEED
PHOTOGRAPHED by RICK HAMMER

WHEN RYAN AND JULIE BUILT THEIR LAKE HOME IN AITKIN LAST YEAR, they wanted a place up north that their three children, ages 12–14, would love to travel to on weekends and summer months, even as they become teens, busy with friends and sports.
Their new lakeside retreat on Big Pine Lake has a hot tub, gym, an arcade with a pool table and a poker room, along with boats and other water activities available on the lake. They also built a horse barn jointly owned by their good friends from the Twin Cities, who purchased a cabin next door a few years ago. This allows both families to bring their horses up north to go riding together.

Their planned worked. When the house was finished last year, their kids told them they didn’t want to leave.
“They looked at us and said, ‘Can we move here? We don’t want to go back home,” Julie says with a laugh. “They were excited and they loved the space.”
The couple had previously owned a cabin on Big Pine Lake, but it was built into a 70-foot hill. After 20 years of a steep walk to the lake, they wanted a change. Fortunately, land became available nearby and they were able to build a new home on more level ground on the same lake.
Julie says she and her daughter enjoy riding horses and her husband and their two sons enjoy four-wheeling, something they can all do on their property, along with boating and swimming. It’s the best of all worlds.

The couple interviewed four builders, and ultimately hired Baratto Brothers in Crosslake. Ryan says they felt the company had the expertise, flexibility and creativity they were looking for in a builder. They also hired Travis Miller, architect/owner of TWM Architecture, in Nisswa, to design their home.
Ryan and Julie hope to keep their property in the family for generations to come, so they built with the future in mind. Their master bedroom suite is located on the main floor, along with the kitchen, dining room and a great room for entertaining. Downstairs are three bedroom suites designed for each of their children and future spouses. A bonus space upstairs can sleep nine guests or future grandchildren. There are four built-in bunk beds, complete with mounted televisions for each bunk bed, and a daybed. Another guest room offers a king bed with a couple of couches that have pull-out beds. Their home comfortably sleeps 16 people without the use of the pull-out couches.
“We have a large family so it was important for us to have space that our family could grow into,” Julie explains.
The entire family likes to work out, so the fully equipped gym was a nice addition to their lake home.

“We leave the lake feeling better than when we arrived at the lake,” explains Ryan. “We feel refreshed and ready to go.”
After many years of spending time at their lake cabin filled with family and friends, they also knew what features were must-haves in their new home. A tankless water heater means they never run out of hot water, no matter how many showers their children or guests take. They also have a whole house generator, so they never lose power. Laundry facilities on each floor mean no running up and down stairs with laundry baskets. Julie also wanted a mudroom, so when the kids come up from the lake or in from four-wheeling, they can leave their dirty or wet clothing at the door and clean up in the tub.
Their cabinets and appliances have all been customized to fit their home. A microwave drawer allows them to push a button to access the microwave, and then bump it with your hip and the microwave conveniently retracts back in place. The built-in cutting boards are strategically located above garbage cans built into the cabinetry. Furniture was also custom made to fit the style and spaces within the home.
“The builders were fantastic to work with, super accommodating. There are things that come up and you work through it. It wasn’t seamless, but the fact that they were so wonderful to work through things, it made it fantastic,” Julie says.

Who Did What?

  • General Contractor: Baratto Brothers Construction, Crosslake, MN
  • Architect: Travis Miller, TWM Architecture, Nisswa, MN
  • Interior Design: Brittany Wille, Redstone Interiors, Inc., Minneapolis, MN
  • Plumbing: North Country Plumbing, Crosslake, MN
  • Heating: Crosslake Sheet Metal Inc., Crosslake, MN
  • Painting: Geo’s Paint and Finish, Brainerd, MN
  • Cabinets: IvyWood Craft, Inc., Merrifield, MN
  • Granite: Capital Granite, Backus, MN
  • Electrical: Vision Electric Services, Inc., Baxter, MN
  • Security/Audio Visual: Vision Technology, Baxter, MN
  • Shower Doors: Brainerd Glass Inc., Brainerd, MN
  • Construction Materials: Simonson Lumber, Crosslake, MN