This Couple's Weekend Home in Wisconsin Hums with Creativity and Can-Do Spirit
When David Benrud and Greg Foster went looking for a weekend place 11 years ago, they set their sights on Pepin, Wisconsin (pop. 805), 80 miles from their home in the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis. They envisioned lazy afternoons boating on Lake Pepin, the large lake on the Mississippi River, and picnicking on its sandy beaches. But that's not all they wanted to do. So instead of a waterfront cottage, the couple purchased a 150-acre farm that Foster, a personal financial adviser, describes as "an incubator for hobbies we'll have in our retirement."
However, that's putting it mildly. Since buying the property they dubbed Lost Creek Farm, he and Benrud, a stylist for Pottery Barn, have become stewards of an apple orchard that has expanded from 15 to 100 trees, keepers of a million bees, and serious farmers, overseeing an organic vegetable garden, a large raspberry patch, and 20 acres of wildflowers. If the guys aren't outdoors, they're probably in the Gothic-arch barn they use as a workshop and party space. Every June, they host a get-together called Mancraft, and a dozen or so friends convene to make pottery, textiles, and leather goods.
The barn, built in the 1970s, soars over a 120-year-old two-bedroom cabin 150 paces away. The place captivated the pair with its passive-solar upgrades, particularly the greenhouse spanning one side. "The previous owner was a hippie University of Minnesota professor who grew orchids," explains Foster. Working on a tight budget, they made modest renovations, including turning one section of the greenhouse into a spa shower and another into a reading room. Both talented woodworkers, they crafted many pieces themselves. Foster became an accidental apiarist after he went to a beekeeping class in Benrud's place. Now they tend the hives together and harvest 10 to 20 gallons of honey a year. In the fall, they also make apple cider and vinegar.
But on summer evenings, they soak in their wood-fired hot tub or head to the lake, less than a mile away, and hop into their boat—the one part of their original vision that stuck. "We'll grab a few beers or a bottle of wine and water-ski or swim," says Benrud. "It's the perfect way to end a day."
Styling by Melanio Gomez.
The Water's Fine
After a full day on their farm, Benrud and Foster take friends for a spin around nearby Lake Pepin in their wooden motorboat, Lucky Dogs, which was made at the Landing School, a boat-building academy in Maine. The lanterns on the dock are vintage Smith & Hawken.
Benrud, Foster, and their Portuguese water dog, Franke, stroll through borders of native prairie grass and late-blooming sedum.
The kitchen shelves are made of black walnut that was harvested and milled with a portable sawmill; they hold Heath Ceramics dishware and a collection of vintage bottles.
Style for Days
In the living room, an antique fishing net hangs over a rocker built by the couple's friend Chris Reardon. They stained the antique table black with aniline dye to modernize it. The leather armchair is from Room & Board; the throw on the vintage ottoman is by Wallace & Sewell.
Out of the Blue
An antique Henredon sofa picks up the deep blues in a throw from Cultural Cloth. The side table was a Mancraft project friend Bryson Gill sculpted with a chain saw; the rug is also from Cultural Cloth.
Foster built the dining table, chairs, and bench. The oil lanterns are by Firelight Glass, and the pillows are from Room & Board. Overhead, there's an Ian K. Fowler for Circa Lighting light fixture, and underfoot, a Cultural Cloth rug.
What's Old Is New
Benrud made the wall art from scraps of an older barn on the property.
Room to Relax
A reproduction of the classic midcentury Spanish chair by Danish furniture designer Børge Mogensen cozies up with a Pendleton throw and a vintage leather pouf, offering a quiet place to read and enjoy views of Lost Creek and the bluffs of the Mississippi River. The lantern is from RH, the wall sconce is by Ian K. Fowler for Circa Lighting, and the glass bottle vase is an antique.
The barn's enormous iron chandeliers were commissioned from Wayne Prokosch of River City Welding in Stockholm, Wisconsin. Here, Foster takes a break from working on a pair of Adirondack-style chairs.
The floor and window trim in the screened-in porch are painted Benjamin Moore "Old Claret." The daybed is topped with an indigo-dyed kantha quilt from Cultural Cloth and pillows from Room & Board and Erin Keller Home.
The couple tends about a million Italian bees.
On the Scent
"There's a fragrance to a hive that's extraordinary—a combination of fresh beeswax and honey, with a hint of pine," says Benrud, shown in his suit.
The couple gives jars of their honey to friends and clients. The label always features a fox (they spotted a white one the first time they looked at the property), but a different friend designs it each year; this one is inspired by Mexican otomi textiles.
A Dream Steam
The couple relaxes with their friend Natasha Liegel, a stylist from San Francisco, in their wood-fired soaking tub; they assembled it from a kit made by Snorkel Hot Tubs.