THE MID-CENTURY MODERN COTTAGE OF JOHN AND JULIE STIVERS
TEXT AND PHOTOS BY PAM VANDERPLOEG, COPYRIGHT 2016
“Ambition’s Retreat” is John and Julie Stivers unique mid-century modern cottage on Stony Lake. The setting is Turtle Bay, aptly named for the many turtles that sun themselves on the turtle floats John constructs. After you park your car above and behind the cottage you make your way down the stairs to the two-level cottage set snugly into the elevated site. Chicago architect J. Chamberlin of Des Plaines, Illinois designed the cottage around 1959-60, according to the blueprints. The Stivers are only the second owners. The original owner was Elliot Dodge of Chicago and California, known as Ace. Located on a two-track road surrounded by the woods, the pretty cottage is snugged into the elevated site, and once you have arrived at the house, you are not done with steps. Another set of curving stone steps takes you down to the water.
This is a cottage in the round. You enter Ambition's Retreat on the main floor, with the kitchen to the left and the living room to the right. The living room holds vintage modern furniture and a large stone fireplace. The efficient kitchen has a custom designed counter and large sink. Moving literally around through the house from the kitchen, you come to the bathroom and two coozy bedrooms serve both as office and sleeping chambers. Large windows and a deck provide splendid all-season views of Turtle Bay and its wildlife, and other cottages, large and small/new and old, on the lake. Awning windows bring in cool lake breezes. In the core of structure is one of my favorite features, the circular hand-built stairway of gleaming wooden risers that lead to the walk-out level. On this floor you find the screened porch where the Stivers host summer dinners for the many guests who visit to enjoy lake views, good food and conversation.
Ambition’s Retreat was the last cottage of many built by well-known local builder Harold Huey. The Stivers have truly given this Retreat-in-the-round their own personal style. Julie’s love of the arts and mid-century treasures is shown in the decorating. Her knowledge (and appreciation) of native plants is emphasized in her gardening. John’s engineering and woodworking talent can be seen throughout the cottage and in the guesthouse-workshop they recently added to the property. If you make a visit, Stivers’ cheerful dog Bosco will definitely expect you to toss a frisbee his way (Editor's update: Sadly sweet dog Bosco left this world but will be fondly remembered by the Stivers many friends and neighbors.)