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Friday, July 29, 2011


In 1879 the town of Spirit Lake was incorporated and was designated as the county seat of Dickinson County.  By 1880 the town had grown to nearly 300 residents.  The citizens of Spirit Lake, now a city of nearly 5,000, have been careful to remember and preserve some of the past while moving forward to expand their city in the important role of a business, cultural and recreational center.

The downtown, surrounding residential areas and parks hold a bit of history at every turn. The Hill Avenue Beautification Project (1995 – 2004) sought to remind us of an earlier era.  Special care has been taken to select street lights, pavers, benches and plantings.

One of the trademarks of the city are the wonderful "Painted Ladys."  The Victorian homes of the early residents.

Besides the colorful Victorian homes there are bungalows, too.

Now when I think of "Okoboji Style" (I am referring mostly West Lake Okoboji), I think of the cottages of the East Coast.  And certainly many people residing on West Lake Okoboji have adopted this style, whether restoring an older cottage or constructing a new one.

There is something comforting about a summer house.  It is more casual and cozy than your year-round home.  You can put your feet up and relax at a summer house.  

Here are some of my favorite older summer homes in the Great Lakes area.  They are the essence of the "summer" cottage, although they may be year-around homes.

This actually may be a guest house.  Notice the outlines where oars used to be attached under the gable.

I love the way ivy covers the side of the garage to this home.

Many of the cottages have white picket fences!

Taupe, gray or any variation of marine blues are the exterior paint selections that are favored.

My friend's house (above) has always looked inviting.  Like a big warm hug!

This house could be yours today!  It is for sale.  I took my husband to look at it several weeks ago.  I would guess it is about a hundred years old, yet the realtor/contractor has done a lovely job bringing it up to date.  (This cottage is not winterized, though.)  The landscaping is gorgeous.

This is one of my favorites.  I hope my husband likes it.  (It is for sale!)  The photo below shows the darling garage and the neighboring gardens.

I also love the cottage style of these home that are NOT on the lake!

I know this is the garage.  This charming house (and garage!)is in Maywood.  Maywood has always been designated with the striking stone pillars.

I found this delightful cottage (totally landlocked!) driving through an alley in Arnolds Park.

Although this summer cottage is not on the lake, to me, this is the quintessential summer cottage!  Below is another view.

And now for some new "cottages."  These are magnificent and lovely.  You could certainly relax or entertain family and friends in these beauties!

How lucky to be Sue celebrating the big 5 0  in this house(above)!

 I found this house so beautiful.(above) 

And the last house for today....

More about this house later.

I hope you have enjoyed the visual tour of some of Spirit Lake's ladies and Okoboji's cottages.  Of course there on wonderful homes to be found on Big Spirit, East Lake Okoboji, Center Lake and the smaller three lakes as well.  

But to me, these examples certainly define Iowa Great Lakes style!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Does The Okoboji Area Have a "Style?"

I was recently reading my favorite internet blog, "Cote de Texas."  The blogger, an interior designer from Houston, Texas asked a interesting question:  "How do you define your city’s style?   Is you d├ęcor typical of where you live, or do you decorate as if you live in L.A. or Atlanta instead of Minneapolis?"

That lead me to ponder our lake style.  I am new to the Iowa Great Lakes Area, having bought a place last summer.  I am anxious to begin the decorating process, but I am sure that coming from Minnesota that I have a clear handle on what I am looking for.  I want comfort for sure.  But I also want enduring style.  I have noticed that Okobojians and other lake dwellers refer to their homes as "cottages" vs. the "cabins" in Minnesota.  

We are not on the beach, but we have beaches and shores.  We don't have lobsters or crabs but we do have perch and bluegills.

So how do you define the "Iowa Great Lake" style?  I am going to attempt to highlight our style through this blog, dedicated strictly to the residents of the Okoboji area, whether you live on Big Spirit, Center Lake, the Gars or the Okoboji lakes.  

I hope you enjoy the ideas presented here every summer.  We will explore all types of "lake style" from food and decor, to fashion, gardens and parties.

Welcome aboard!