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One of Michael Mercil's main summer projects was to replace his deck with maintenence free decking. The deck features a spot for a future hot tub.

Modern aesthetic in the woods

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Detroit Lakes,Minnesota 56501
Detroit Lakes Online
Modern aesthetic in the woods
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

In a cedar house nestled in the woods near Muskrat Lake lives Michael Mercil and his eclectic modern style -- and that's just the way he likes it.


The owner of the Speak Easy restaurants described his style as industrial, "but also contemporary with a splash of rustic, since it's a cedar house in the woods."

Mercil has been working on little projects throughout his house all summer long, but it's no surprise that his first big project after he purchased the home seven years ago was to overhaul the kitchen -- he is a chef, after all.

The renovation was done two years ago and resulted in a kitchen probably familiar to many Detroit Lakes residents, since it's where he films his public access cooking show.

Original oak cabinets still remain, but granite countertops with a raw edge were put in, as well as new appliances, like double ovens and a large stovetop and hood, dishwasher drawers, and a faucet that looks like what you'd find in the kitchen at Speak Easy. He also added a wine refrigerator in the peninsula and a pot rack above a butcher-block island.

An Italian glass tile backsplash adds a little color, and he pulled the brownish-red color into the rest of the main floor, some on the walls, and highlighted by plush brown leather chairs and new floor tiles that are a mixture of black, red, silver and bronze -- a palette that goes with practically everything.

The dining room table is a custom designed square piece with a stainless steel top, and above is a very modern-industrial chandelier and pressed aluminum tiles on the ceiling.

Open silver shelving behind the table highlights his industrial design aesthetic.

"You would probably see those in the kitchen at Speak Easy, in fact, I think we have the same ones there," he said.

Around a corner of the kitchen toward the garage are French doors leading to a walk-in pantry.

In the main living area, an extremely tall A-frame section of the house is highlighted by tall windows and high-backed chairs attached to the walls as glorified shelves, and instead of couches, Mercil chose four single chairs arranged in a square -- more appropriate for conversation, he said. These surround a one-of-a-kind locally designed conversation table.

Through the next doorway is the master suite. One side opens up to the large wrap-around deck, and one side features built-in oak armoires instead of a closet, leading into a bathroom with double sinks and a sizeable bathtub. This bathroom also connects back around to the front entrance.

The deck space was one of Mercil's larger summer projects. He said the old one was about the same size, but was just getting ready to fall apart, so he redesigned it and replaced it with maintenance free decking, including built-in benches and a spot for a future hot tub.

A stone platform on one side is completely new, however, and features a large outdoor barbecue station and fire pit.

On the deck railings, posts are topped with stained glass solar lights.

The backyard deck offers a view of wooded land -- Mercil said he owns two acres here, a section that backs right up to the campgrounds of Soo Pass Ranch.

Although he doesn't live directly on Muskrat Lake, he said, he does share 50 feet of lakeshore with a neighbor, so he's within walking distance of his dock.

Back inside, a curving staircase leads to another two bedrooms and a bathroom, but the basement is the real masterpiece.

The main living space on the lower level is like cinema central -- Mercil has black and white furniture, which helps highlight the popcorn machine, candy bar, movie posters, and industrial shelves stacked with more than 1,000 DVDs.

Movie madness doesn't stop there -- through a door near the mechanical room is a theater with, Mercil said, better picture and sound than what you'd find in town.

Black fabric on the walls help keep the 7.1 surround sound from bouncing around too much, and cushy black theatre seats, a large screen and high-definition projector will keep his guests entertained.

All his movies were downloaded to a computer, he explained, so he doesn't even have to mess with picking out a movie and putting the DVD in a player -- his many titles are all accessible with the click of a handheld mouse.

Clearly, Mercil has put together not only a modern living space upstairs, but a modern place for entertainment -- all tucked behind some trees outside of town.