Storied estate: Sprawling Wymer Lake home transforms into unique rental property designed with books in mind
Editor's note: This article originally appeared in our Summer Home magazine, published Sunday, June 23. See more stories like this one, as well as many more photos and sneak peeks of several of the rooms in Karinall Estate, in Summer Home, out on newsstands now.
"I don't think there's any place like it in Minnesota," says Heather Ware, gazing at Karinall Estate on the Lake with pride.
As the leader behind the property's recent major remodeling project, and having done much of the interior design work herself, Ware knows the estate like the back of her hand. And that's saying something: most people practically need a map to navigate this sprawling 9,400-square-foot home.
Chock-full of winding hallways, unexpected rooms, and hidden nooks and crannies, the property has always been uniquely designed. But now, after the recent remodel, it's even more so. The longtime family home has been transformed into a one-of-a-kind rental space for group gatherings, with every room in the house named and themed after a classic book.
There's the main floor living and entertainment room, for example, designed in homage to F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby." With ornate antique furniture, a sparkling chandelier and lavish decorative touches, the room is reminiscent of a mansion in the Roaring Twenties.
Leading into that room from the main entrance off the driveway is one of the property's most unique and impressive spaces — a two-story atrium with live fig trees, a rocky waterfall feature, bistro tables and a complimentary coffee bar. The light and bright, sun-soaked room has been named after Ernest Hemingway's novel, "The Sun Also Rises."
Upstairs, there's "The Rocky Room," an exercise and hot tub room named after the famous book (and later, film starring Sylvester Stallone) about boxer Rocky Balboa. That's next to "The Hustler Room," a game room with a pool table, designed with the book "The Hustler" in mind. "The Hustler" tells the story of a young pool hustler who challenges the legendary Minnesota Fats, "so there's a little Minnesota flair there," says Ware.
Many of the property's eight bedrooms are also upstairs, and they're all themed after such famous classics as "Gone With the Wind," "Little House on the Prairie," "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," and "Alice In Wonderland," and others. The six bathrooms range from "West Side Story" to "Mary Poppins" and beyond.
On the lower level of the house, there's a theatre room named after Shakespeare's "The Globe Theatre," a children's play area inspired by Dr. Seuss's "Oh, the Places You'll Go," and a second living room with a library that contains floor-to-ceiling bookshelves full of books old and new.
In all, there are 18 beds at Karinall Estate, and the property sleeps up to 24 people. The "Great Expectations" dining room can also accommodate 24.
Every room in the house contains at least one copy of the book it is named after, and is marked outside the door by a handmade sign with the name of the room on it. The signs were made by Sharon Trieglaff Jons, Ware's mom and fellow remodeling and interior design partner. Jons also made many of the window hangings in the house.
Ware, Jons and almost everyone else who worked on the remodel is a friend, neighbor or associate of the property's longtime owner, Marlys Jacobson, and many of them donated their time or talents for this labor of love.
Jacobson and her late husband, Ken, have always been admired in the community for their kind hearts and generous nature. They bought Karinall Estate in 1973 and made it their family home for decades, raising not only their own five children there, but also fostering more than 50 troubled teenagers.
Both of them enjoyed long careers in education at local schools, including teaching English courses, which served as the inspiration behind Karinall Estate's literary design concept.
When the Jacobsons first bought the house, it was about a third of the size it is today. Ken drafted the additions himself, creatively adding onto the home as he saw fit over the years, and he loved his creation.
After Ken passed away in 2017, Marlys decided the home was too big for just one person to live in, and put it up for sale. But soon after that, Ware proposed another idea — turning it into a rental home. Jacobson liked the thought, and agreed.
"This house was made for people," she says, though she admits that the remodeling project has been "a very, very big venture. It's been scary and exciting."
With a limited budget to work with, and lots of updates and changes that needed to be made, Jacobson and Ware have been shopping and designing on a dime. Ware has been finding antiques and vintage furnishings at area thrift stores, and seeking volunteer help whenever possible.
That help hasn't been hard to find. Scores of local folks who know and love the Jacobsons, and even entire groups of people, like groups from Frazee-Vergas High School and the local Knights of Columbus, have stepped up to contribute to the remodeling project. People from the Catholic churches in Frazee and Callaway, where Marlys serves as church secretary, have been integral to the project.
Marlys says if Ken could see it all today, "he'd just grin."
The remodeling process has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Ripping out decades-old carpeting, painting and redecorating every room in the house, and of course running into all the usual snags that go along with remodeling an older home have caused setbacks and delays. Ware says they've replaced probably 7,500 feet of flooring, and have filled four dumpsters full of garbage.
Then there was the fire over Memorial Day weekend. No one was in the home at the time, fortunately, and the fire was spotted and reported by a passerby in its early stages, so the damage could have been a lot worse, Ware says.
Still, it ruined the main entryway and Jacobson's apartment above that, requiring reconstruction of that whole area. A strong smoke smell permeated the entire house, which then needed professional restoration and cleaning, top to bottom. That meant taking apart and then reinstalling many of the decorations that had just been so painstakingly put together, and replacing all the linens.
"We both just felt sick after the fire... We were both so disappointed, after all the hard work," says Jacobson.
The ordeal set the estate's grand opening back, but at the time of this writing, Ware thought it wouldn't affect any of their summer bookings, which were set to start June 21. Thanks to the help of local businesses and volunteers, she was optimistic that the property would be whipped back into shape before long.
Overall, "it's been a really fun project to do," she says of transforming Karinall Estate. "We've gotten to be very creative."
Karinall Estate on the Lake: The CliffsNotes version
WHERE IT IS: 51097 East Wymer Lake Road, Frazee, Minn.
WHO IT'S FOR: Ideal for family reunions and other family gatherings, business or group retreats, celebrations or special events, etc.
WHAT IT OFFERS: 9,400-square-feet of unique indoor living space plus 300 feet of frontage on Wymer Lake and a sprawling deck that overlooks the lake. There are eight bedrooms that sleep up to 24 people, six bathrooms, a large kitchen and dining room, two living rooms, a theatre room, exercise and hot tub room, and more. Fishing, swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding and other lake activities. Complimentary coffee in the atrium bistro, and popcorn/candy in the theatre room. Yoga, massage, flowers, catering and other services are available by appointment.
WHAT IT COSTS: Rates vary depending on the time of year and how many bedrooms are used.
WHEN IT'S AVAILABLE: All year long.
WHY GO?: Karinall Estate is a one-of-a-kind property with hidden nooks and crannies all over the house — there's even a hidden room accessible only through a movable bookcase. Every room is designed after a classic book, ranging from "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" to "Great Expectations" and everything in between. The estate is known and loved by all the locals, as its longtime owners were respected educators and dedicated foster parents for decades, and the community came together to help remodel the estate to turn it into a rental property. It's seated on the beautiful Wymer Lake, making it an ideal place for relaxation and recreation.
HOW TO MAKE A RESERVATION: Visit the Karinall Estate website, karinallestate.com, call 218-234-9513, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Bookings may also be made through airbnb.com or vrbo.com.