Tereasa Surratt has always had a thing for neglected old buildings. So she knew she was likely headed for trouble when she went to look at a foreclosed cottage about a mile from Camp Wandawega, the nostalgic Wisconsin summer camp Tereasa and her husband own. Instead of falling for the house, though, her eyes went to a roof poking up between trees in the backyard. It was the shack of her dreams—a small structure that held potential as a daytime family hangout and, in winter, an ice-fishing hut or shelter while ice-skating. “It didn’t even look salvageable and was probably going to be kindling, but I will always try to save a building,” Tereasa says. A few months and $300 later, the shack was all hers. After moving it an shoring it up, the structure was ready for Tereasa’s signature vintage touches. The shack reminded her of an old Scout cabin, and she knew that at one point it was a fish-cleaning house, so she brought in bargains that speak to those past lives. Even though Tereasa admits the shack was a “ridiculous investment,” she has no regrets. “I have a strange emotional attachment to it because it was so far gone,” she says. “It deserved to be saved.”
TUCKED AWAY. Tereasa Surrat’s rehabbed shack perches near the shore of Lake Wandawega in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. The 10x10-foot shack sits on a raised wooden deck—a setup that provides flexibility to move the building to a different spot.
LURED IN. Gathered wildflowers fill an old fishing creel and decorate the front door. Old lures hang from hooks in a vintage key box. Tereasa collects inexpensive ones, paying as little as a quarter for them.
FLEX TIME. Cots that serve as sofas fold up when the shack is used for other activities. Vintage trunks store outdoor gear, and are also easy to transport.
A PARTICULAR CHARM. “I’m a maniacal freak about things looking authentic,” Tereasa says. “The little details make a difference.” Accordingly, the painted floor is National Park Service Brown, a standard federal government color. When she’s in the cabin, she rocks out to 8-track tapes on a portable player from a yard sale. “It sounds terrible, but that thing was high tech when it came out,” Tereasa says. An industrial metal cabinet is stocked with first-aid items decanted into vintage containers.
GAME ON. Retro candies serve as game pieces on a crudely made checkerboard. “It was so ugly, I had to have it,” Tereasa says.
THE LOW DOWN. A fish-cleaning board is repurposed as an artsy postcard holder. The plaque on the door inspires the kids to try typing different knots.
SERVICE WITH A SMILE. A framed paint-by-numbers of a fishing scene is used as a tray—much to the delight of kids and guests.
OUTDOOR ADVENTURE. The cabin’s hillside foundation left room at the back for a ledge just deep to store fishing rods and associated gear.
“If you’ve ever dreamed of your own little cabin or retreat, look for a structure that other people have left behind.” —Tereasa Surratt