When you imagine a log cabin, chances are it's filled with rugged balustrades, red-plaid quilts, a stone fireplace, and a fabulous water view.
Welcome to the Medford Lakes home of Chris and Jim Fretz.
Chris, who hails from a small town in Connecticut, has lived most of her life in New Jersey, a place she once considered the land of highways.
"I didn't really know much about the state, but the parts I'd seen weren't very nice," she says.
Her perspective brightened when she was introduced to Medford Lakes, where waterfront residents such as the Fretzes are rewarded with bucolic vistas of Lower Aetna Lake, one of many defining the colony since 1927.
"Out here is one of my favorite places to be," says Chris, 65, a nurse with Virtua Health, while sitting on her dock.
Husband Jim, 62, a native of Berwyn, stands near the fire pit as the autumn sun bursts through a stray cloud. Vibrant-hued mums decorate the surroundings. A kayak, canoe, and paddle board lie nearby on their small beach.
When Jim's work brought them here 40 years ago, the couple bought a starter home. A few years later, they upgraded to a larger house, but they always had their sights set on one of the 150 log cabins that sit along the borough's trails.
Three proved to be the charm. In 1993, they purchased their 3,000-square-foot lakefront cabin.
Entertaining is a natural part of lake life. The Fretzes' biggest event is in August, when they host 150 during the annual Canoe Carnival, a community tradition in which boaters score prizes for the most decorated, outlandish canoes.
Jim, who's had a long career in insurance, is skilled when it comes to renovations. "I always have a project going on."
Steps from the dock is the adjacent deck, where he built a tiki bar, festooned with fish and chili pepper lights. He customized the cedar dining table and Adirondack chairs to counter-level height and put casters on the chairs' legs, so guests can move easily and enjoy the view.
Cozy banquettes, with red cushions and built-in storage, adorn the perimeter. Nearby are a grill, a sink, Jim's lantern collection, and a hot tub.
This lively hub extends into the adjoining four-season porch and lodge room, where brown leather sofas, love seats, and chairs prevail. Jim installed a wood-burning stove on the porch and reframed the shared doorways with half-log beams. The floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace commands attention in the lodge room.
Jim, along with a carpenter, gutted the compact kitchen but left the footprint and installed granite countertops, custom-made oak cabinets, and new appliances. They incorporated space-saving zones for storage, such as pull-out panels for spices, baking supplies, and the couple's extensive collection of knives. A window seat with storage was installed facing a fish pond. A small flat-screen TV and wine refrigerator occupy a corner alcove.
Cleverly concealed on a lower cabinet is a pet door, allowing access to a dining nook for the couple's cats, Allie and Louis, that's away from the salivating stares of dogs Lito, Bailey, and Emmy.
Adjacent to the first-floor master bedroom, Jim added a 15-by-10-foot walk-in closet and laundry area. He also renovated all three bathrooms with new fixtures and larger-format stone tile.
Throughout the house is a mix of antiques and new accessories. A circa-1800 grandfather clock, a rolltop desk, and a dining table that belonged to Jim's mother pair nicely with log rocking chairs purchased at the Philadelphia Flower Show, family portraits - including those of son Jaime, 30, and daughter Heidi, 32 - and animal horns acquired by Jim, an avid hunter.
Waterfront living can be peaceful, but as the homeowners have experienced firsthand, it also can wreak havoc. A horrific rainstorm during the summer of 2004 caused area dams to break, causing flooding that destroyed their bulkhead, dock, and lower level.
They recently revamped the lower level into a guests' retreat, with a full bathroom and partial kitchen, each with countertops made from tree slabs from Provenance in Philadelphia. An up-flush sewage system was added.
"Adding that system was one of the hardest jobs I've had to do," Jim says.
Chris admits the six-bedroom house often feels too big now. But considering that their main living space is on one floor, they could easily stay in the house as they age.
"We really enjoyed raising our kids here, and we've had so many guests stay with us," she says. "This place is filled with wonderful memories."