BLOG: Design: Door County Style

"After all, who remembers anything ordinary?" 

It isn’t easy to come up with a simple, straightforward definition of Door County design. If anything, it is too eclectic to define. From vintage to neo-modern, and everything in between, it is this diversity that makes it delightful.

Some say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But that depends on whose eyes are doing the looking, doesn’t it?  Most experts will strongly insist that there are certain standards that must be applied to qualify an object, architecture or interior as good design. Is it both pleasing in form and in function?  Is it gorgeous, or witty or ingenious or useful?

In Door County, good design abounds. It is around every corner. In buildings and bridges, homes and restaurants, shops and motels. It can be a tricky job, because certain images and objects come to mind when thinking about Door County, its history and landscape. So it takes careful thought to design for a legend. But you can convey the essence of a place without resorting to clichés.

What says Door County without shouting it?  An Egg Harbor house in the woods has a master bedroom painted the color of the tree trunks that surround it, bringing the outdoors indoors. The owner says, “It’s like sleeping in a treehouse.”  A boutique uses tree branches, painted gold, for a necklace display. A restaurant in a 1921 lodge sports an eclectic blend of original décor from the 1920’s.

If you are crazy for the duck decoys, ship models, nautical wallpaper borders and carved seagulls, by all means go for it. But in moderation.  Because given some time and reflection, you will discover your own personal definition of Door County design, and it’s likely to stray from the clichés.

In the end, it’s much better to show than to tell. So, here are some examples of the gorgeous, witty, ingenious and useful in Door County design:

WoodwalkGalleryChandelier_KHTree branch chandelier in entry to a barn gallery, festooned with tiny lights, crystals and pearls. Woodwalk Gallery, Egg Harbor.


 Plaids, florals, four poster, vintage radio, log wall. Door County modern Lodge guestroom, Sister Bay.

TrioPhoto_KHCourtyard garden in summer bloom. Trio restaurant, Egg Harbor


EggHarborResidencePhoto_KHStag wallpaper mural with vintage chair reupholstered in Hawaian bark cloth. New and old, color and pattern harmony. Egg Harbor residence.

CeilingFixtureFishCreekShop_KHTwig ceiling fixture, both modern and rustic. Fish Creek shop.

FrenchIronChandelierSisBay_KHFrench iron chandelier, re-imagined in robin’s egg blue. Sister Bay Restaurant.


Blue color and French iron, Sister Bay Restaurant

EggHarborLodgeSunset_KHSometimes, the simplest design ideas are the most brilliant. This pool and garden sited on the bluff delivers a panoramic water view. Egg Harbor Lodge

Here’s the Door County house that defies the clichés. Designed by the owners, it’s perched on a wooded ledge, in harmony with the natural beauty of its surroundings.  Interior and exterior colors and materials echo the trees, stone and sky of the land. Not to mention the fabulous gourmet kitchen with counter seating for 12 and the stainless steel Japanese soaking tub with a woods view!

Residence Cy Tumbladh and Karen Ohm. Owners of Hands On Studio, Fish Creek.