Photos by J. Alan Paul Photography
Just as some songs remain popular years after they were first released, this home on Lake Melissa is a masterpiece of timeless design. Though it was built almost nine years ago, the home of Rita and Dana Tomlinson has a modern mix of contemporary and rustic appeal. With over 5,000 square feet of living space and a 1,300-square-foot home office, this location is currently the headquarters of their business, custom home builders Tomlinson Schultz. Join us as we take you on a tour of their lakeside retreat.
When you are on your way to the Tomlinsons’ house, the turn is easy to miss because it is hidden by trees. “When we bought the lot, it hardly had a tree on it,” Rita Tomlinson said. Now, their home is surrounded by green. “We did a lot of planting. It feels very private and tucked in. We love that it’s off the main thoroughfare,” she continued. To achieve this look, the Tomlinsons worked with Land Elements as their landscape architect as well as Lake Country Gardens of Ottertail Lake, Minnesota.
Featuring dry-stacked Montana Moss Rock and cedar siding on the exterior, this home simultaneously fits in with and stands out from the landscape. When designing the house, the Tomlinsons worked with architect Craig Helenske from Helenske Design Group out of Fargo. “Craig designed and drew the plan for us, but naturally as builders, we had a lot of input,” said Rita Tomlinson.
Tobacco Barn hardwood flooring extends throughout the main level of the home. These petrified planks not only possess character in their grain, but they’re also highly durable.
Stonework – Jeff Paseka, J. Paseka Masonry
When you enter the Tomlinsons’ home, guests are warmly greeted by a great room to the left with an open floor plan that connects the kitchen, living and dining rooms. The living room has two major focal points: a picturesque view of Lake Melissa and a Montana Moss Rock fireplace, which is cohesive with the exterior of the home. Above, native pine timbers serve the space both structurally and visually.
“They’re a unique couple in that Dana is one of the most reputable custom builders in the region. With his attention-to-detail and Rita’s creativity, they brought a lot of positive energy to the table,” said Helenske.
Throughout the design, Helenske strived to present the exposed beams and columns of the home’s structure to define the rooms, their character and scale.
Throughout the great room, the floorboards consist of wood reclaimed from old tobacco barns. These petrified planks not only possess character in their grain, but they’re also highly durable.
This kitchen is understated, yet elegant, featuring an exposed truss system that defines the space. Double dishwasher drawers and an integrated refrigerator offer discreet amenities behind mahogany cabinets. The subtle, inset mahogany drawer pulls are both timeless and functiona. Finally, neutral limestone countertops allow the eye to focus on the custom, tile backsplash from Heath Ceramics, a company based out of Sausalito, California.
Providing a warm glow on the pine ceiling hallway are two stunning antique light fixtures salvaged from the iconic El Zagel Shrine Temple in Fargo. On the left side is a drop zone laundry room with rift-cut oak cabinetry and a powder room. The opposite doorway leads to an adequately-stocked butler’s pantry.
The dining room includes a table that comfortably seats eight as well as a baby grand piano. Music clearly runs in the family. After a 40-year hiatus, Rita Tomlinson is playing her trumpet, while Dana Tomlinson enjoys playing guitar and banjo. Their sons, Austin (35) and Lucas (28) also play piano and the organ.
“It’s a really great space for entertaining. It’s got a nice flow to it. It’s large enough that you can accommodate a big group, but it’s not so large that you feel like you are rattling around when it’s just the two of you,” said Rita Tomlinson.
The Master Suite is revealed by a set of double doors, and 11-foot windows allow peaceful views of the lake and gardens. Like much of the interior of the home, the decor was curated by interior designer Greg Walsh of Martin Patrick 3 in the Twin Cities.
Of their collaboration, Rita Tomlinson said, “We had worked with Greg on several other projects, and when we started our house, we knew that he’d be a wonderful asset to the team. The direction and inspiration that he offered throughout the process was
sophisticated, yet comfortable.”
In the master bath, adjacent vanities are enhanced with custom tile from Heath Ceramics and Lagos Azul quartzite countertops. Mahogany cabinets and a soaking tub come together to create a classic look. These finishes are
complemented by Dorn Bracht fixtures.
This lake home has a true screened-in-porch, complete with a wood burning fireplace, which has been one of the Tomlinsons’ favorite rooms. Even as the Tomlinsons anticipate downsizing, they’re certain their next home will include more space devoted to a screen porch.
In the Jack-and-Jack bathroom, where you’d expect to see your own reflection, is a jaw-dropping view of Lake Melissa. Rita Tomlinson said, “We made a decision that we didn’t want to have a mirror here because we wanted to capture the view.” Instead, the Tomlinsons installed mirrors which open from the inside of cabinet doors attached to the walls adjacent to the vanity.
The second level of the home features a family room and two guest bedrooms that are connected by a Jack-and-Jill, or Jack-and-Jack, bathroom.
The Tomlinsons’ attached, three-car garage has more than enough room for vehicles, as well as hobbies. The Tomlinsons love Lake Melissa because it’s a great lake for windsurfing. Dana Tomlinson is an avid windsurfer who in retirement aspires to help grow this fading sport. Introduced to the sport while living in Colorado 30 years ago, he has been described as a windsurfing evangelist. “If you show even a remote sign of wanting to try it, I’ll have you on a board,” laughed Dana Tomlinson.
Growing up, Dana Tomlinson was inspired to pursue a career in carpentry by his father’s business, Tomlinson Lumber. As a young man, he and his wife, Rita Tomlinson, started a business building spec homes in Northern California. After eight years, they began to miss family and Minnesota. In 1991, the couple moved back to Detroit Lakes where they have had a home office ever since. Today, an annex connects their commercial space to the Tomlinsons’ private, residential property. This 1,300-square-foot office is the headquarters of Tomlinson Schultz, as the couple have brought on a third business partner, Mark Schultz.
Although they have enjoyed having everything in one place for so many years, the Tomlinsons look forward to having more distinction between their home and office. “With the growth of the company, we see the value in separating those two worlds,” Rita Tomlinson said.
Whatever the future has in store, Rita and Dana Tomlinson hope to call Lake Melissa their home for years to come. It’s likely that the late Greg Allman was inspired by a beautiful woman, not a lake, when composing the lyrics to “Sweet Melissa,” but to quote a line in the song “But, back home he’ll always run, to sweet Melissa.”