[from Design Bureau Issue 15]
Once a bootlegger’s getaway that was transformed into a brothel, then a wholesome family holiday spot, and then a retirement home for priests, it’s clear that Camp Wandawega has had many lives. Now it’s been reborn again as a summer camp with grown-up appeal, and it’s proving popular with Chicago-area creative types needing fresh air and inspiration.
Tereasa Surratt and David Hernandez—both creative directors at ad agency Ogilvy + Mather—took over the property in 2003. Surratt, author of Found, Free and Flea (Random House), and Hernandez, who attended a different version of Camp Wandawega as a kid, gave the camp and its furnishings an authentic but curated Americana update. “The aesthetic we are going for is a sort of American historic summer camp of the 1920s to the ’60s with a bit of Wisconsin lodge,” says Surratt. “It’s basic Americana. I try to stay away from anything crafty or kitschy. If you look at any American lake house that has been in one family for several generations, you get this layered effect from the decades they spend their time there.”
Naturally, the camp has become a favorite for fashion editorial shoots, but Surratt says it’s meant to be enjoyed. “Everything is honest to the space, humble and modest, nothing decadent, nothing Victorian,” he says. “You’re not afraid to get it dirty. You can walk in with sandy feet.” Accommodations include a treehouse, a teepee, a log cabin, the lake cottage, and more—all bedecked in junkstore gems, 20th century artifacts discovered by Surratt. It’s far from fussy.