Sand, Sun, & Downsizing

WRITTEN BY Emilee Mae Struss | Photographed BY Peter Palony

SANDY BEACHES, YEAR-ROUND WARMTH, AND OCEANIC VIEWS? It’s the description of a place where Tom and Diane Auger would love to have a home…someday. And when that someday comes, one thing is for sure—they won’t give up their spot in Minnesota.

“We want to stay in Minnesota for the change of the seasons; I want to hear the crunch of the snow under my feet and experience the change of fall,” Diane said.

The Augers travel to Florida for a sunshine getaway during long winters but they’re always excited to return to Minnesota. Lake Country is home to them.

Diane and Tom are both sand-and-sun-kissed resort kids. Diane’s family owned a resort on Cass Lake called Trees Resort for eighteen years. The resort is no longer there; however, some of the remanences are. Her memories of growing up on a resort keep her connected to authentic love for water, sand, and time spent lakeside.

“I never tire of being in water,” Diane said, “there’s just something about it.”

Tom grew up playing at a resort his family would one day own. At the time, the resort was called Hought’s Resort. In 1976, his family moved from the Twin Cities to Lake Shamineau to run the resort, which they re-named to Auger’s Pine View Resort.

Tom and Diane owned a home on Lake Shamineau and continued their resort-style childhood lives together as adults.

“We love Shamineau,” Tom said, “the water is very clear.”

There was just one thing missing—a lake spot away from work. Both Diane and Tom expressed that it is difficult to relax where one works.

“We wanted to have a place for our pontoon on Gull because we wanted to be on a chain,” Tom said. “We started looking and discovered there was a waiting list everywhere for the marinas.”

While scanning a Real Estate listing one day, Tom noticed one of the Sherwood Forest Cabins on Gull Lake for sale.

“It sparked our interest,” Tom said.

The Sherwood Forest cabins were built in the 1930s. They’re rustic and very Northwoods-style cabins, which the Sherwood Association wants to remain. The Sherwood Forest Lodge, which is now a gourmet restaurant, was built in the 1920s. There are ten cabins on Gull Lake and ten cabins on Margaret Lake.

The Augers bought one of the cabins in March of 2018. In the spring, they gutted the entire interior of a 400-square-foot cabin and started the remodeling process. To respect the rich history of the Sherwood Forest cabins, the Augers preserved the exterior of the cabin. 

“We changed the interior to be more of a modern cottage and kept the knotty pine ceiling,” Diane said.

They wanted “real-sized” appliances and didn’t want miniature versions just because they were working with a smaller space. The couple began to watch HGTV’s Tiny House Hunters television show for inspiration.

“We didn’t get that crafty,” Tom said with laughter, “not quite like the show but we did spend a lot of time designing the space on a 3D software.”

Tom has a background in software engineering and used a program by Chief Architect called Home Designer Suite. The couple went space by space and reimaged it with multiple 3D models.

When the space was finished, they jumped in with both feet and sold their home on Lake Shamineau.

“We downsized a lot,” Diane said. “It was very freeing because we discovered how much stuff we have that we don’t really need.”

The cabin has a master bedroom with a queen-size bed and two full-size lofted beds. The floor is vinyl laminate with granite countertops in the kitchen and quartz in the bathroom. They found the perfect sectional sofa at Falls Furniture in Little Falls.

Right now, the majority of their belongings are in storage. They live in their neighbor’s home a few doors down on Gull Lake who snowbird to Arizona. The Augers hope to build a custom home of their own one day. For now, they’re enjoying living part-time at the cabin in the summer.

Diane currently works for Grand View Lodge as a buyer and retail manager/merchandiser for both the Minnesota and Arizona locations. She started this position two years ago. Tom continues to own and manage Auger’s Pine View Resort on Lake Shamineau. They both recognize that choosing to move full-time into a smaller home can be quite the life change. How it has impacted them, however, has been nothing but positive. When asked what they would tell others interested in downsizing to a smaller home or cabin is, “Take the leap!” 


Builder: Albrecht Construction Services, Motley, MN
Plumbing and Fixtures: Pine Country Plumbing, Pillager, MN
Electrical: Brichacek Electric, Motley, MN
HVAC: R R Heating & Air, Brainerd, MN
Painting: Four Seasons Painting, Nisswa, MN
Furnishings: Falls Furniture, Little Falls, MN
Granite: Brichacek Stone, Motley, MN
Tile and Kitchen Backsplash: Lone Wolf Tile, Motley, MN