Craftsman Kitchen by Prairie Woodworks Inside Lake Shelbyville Boat House (Architectural Interior Photography)

This custom craftsman kitchen was designed and built by Prairie Woodworks‘ owner for his parents’ private residence. It serves as a second kitchen inside their boat house near Lake Shelbyville, Illinois. (The owners also happen to be my parents-in-law.) This project was truly a labor of love from start to finish, and it showcases of the skills of Prairie’s gifted artisans, down to the smallest details in the inlay, joints, seams, and finishes.

Nathan and I gave his parents the Lakefront Brewery tap above after we spent a lovely weekend in Milwaukee, during which we visited Lakefront Brewery (highly recommended!). It seemed apropos for a Lake House tap.

Ross, the owner of Prairie Woodworks and my brother-in-law, along with his sister Alissa and her husband Adam, surprised the owners with this one-of-a-kind stained glass window (above) that they designed, stained, and fabricated themselves. (Alissa has experience making stained glass, and Adam has welding expertise. Such a talented family!) Look closely for the black-and-white boat, a tribute to the countless precious hours we’ve spent boating and skiing together as a family.

Ross also made two of these stunning Greene and Greene style sconces for each entryway.

Photographer tip: When shooting a space light this with many different types and directions of light, subtracting (versus adding) light improves the results. Here’s what I did:

  1. I spent about 30 minutes when I began shooting with various combinations of light, until I settled upon the one that did the best job of highlighting the cabinetry and exposing the details in a balanced way.
  2. I typically shoot images like the ones shown here at f/6 – f/22 to get sharpness and starburst effects, which requires 20-30 second exposures on a tripod using a shutter release.
  3. As you can see above, I didn’t turn on all of the light fixtures like I often do in architectural shoots, because they varied in strength so greatly from one another. For example, after the long exposure times I was using, the under-counter strip lights and over-sink double sconce created bright hot spots that distracted from the woodwork and reflected too much off the granite.
  4. I began shooting midday when light was harsh, so I closed all of the blinds, even the ones behind the camera. Later, as the sun sank and the light softened, I opened those inside the kitchen, but left the rest closed.
  5. The side door, camera right when facing the island, has no window treatment, so I couldn’t eliminate that light source with blinds. This was a problem because the bright green grass and blue sky outside cast a wash of green and blue light across the front of the bar (you can kind of see this in the first image above with the bar stools, although I reduced the blue and green saturation in post-production). Fortunately, I always travel with clamps in various sizes to trouble shoot issues like this. So, in this case, I used them to turn floor rugs into a screen. See the outtake below to demonstrate how this worked. Solutions don’t always require fancy gear, just use what’s around you!

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