It’s safe to say that we’re a little obsessed with Camp Wandawega, a resort in Wisconsin whose location, look and feel are inspiring us to run away and spend a few weeks at camp — whether the season is summer or winter. The camp’s charms are myriad, and lodging ranges from a treehouse to historic cottages, tipis and canvas tents — oh, and a treehouse, too. We caught up with Camp Wandawega founder Tereasa Surratt to found out more about the camp in the winter season. Be sure to also check out Tereasa’s two books, A Very Modest Cottage and Found, Free and Flea.
How would you describe the feel of Camp Wandawega?
“Nostalgic. A visit to Camp Wandawega is like walking back in time. Its storied past of speakeasy-turned-church camp combined with the fact that it’s almost entirely original makes folks feel like they’ve entered a time capsule. You find yourself completely immersed in all of the summer camp activities that your grandparents would have taken part in. Time moves slower. Life is simpler.”
How does the property change season by season?
“Every season opens up to an entirely new opportunity to embrace the palette of the gorgeous Wisconsin seasons. From color drives and apple picking to ice skating and skiing . . . it has truly become a four seasons resort. I love to decorate with the hues of the changing landscape, and apparently so did the former owners. (We found a trunk of vintage barkcloth in the attic that was used back in the ’20s to deck out the restaurant . . . gorgeous handmade table runners and chair slips for spring, summer and fall.)”
What inspires you about winter at camp?
“I simply cannot wait for the first snow. We build a huge ice rink on the lake and park an outdoor fire pit on the pier . . . then surround it with outdoor benches and string lights around the perimeter for skating under the stars.”
What are some of your most memorable moments at the camp in winter?
Tethering the innertubes to the vintage snowmobiles and pulling friends around the frozen lake (helmets mandatory) . . . spending the afternoon ice fishing until dark, then everyone gathering around the chili pot to help with our big communal dinners . . . then retiring to the lodge fireplace for cards and spiced mulled cider.”
What is your inspiration for decorating during the winter season?
Simple. Handmade. Minimal color palette. I love to take inspiration from outside the window. Warm vintage woods paired with simple white porcelain dishes . . . and pile on the blankets! (No such thing as too much tartan in our house.) And no room is complete without the orange flicker of a blazing fire in a stone hearth.
What are your favorite decorating tips for keeping winter décor fresh after the holidays?
“I try not to rely on holiday-themed trendy color palettes . . . but I adore the simplicity of a classic, sophisticated palette of white paired with organic woods, and bouquets of fresh-cut evergreen, accented with clusters of berries. I love to cozy up our guest rooms by hanging vintage wool tartan throws at the door of each room. Each guest is greeted with a retro jigsaw puzzle and a stack of old books to peruse. I keep a full coffee bar of Bailey’ and whipped cream at the ready in the main house kitchen for friends to warm up with throughout the day. Folks are greeted at the front door with a basket spilling with handknit wool caps, mittens and scarves.”
How do you make winter stays at the camp both kid- and grown-up-friendly?
“We are built for kids of all ages. Grown-ups seem to relapse into childhood the minute they see the rope swing and ice rink.”
What’s your favorite winter drink?
“Hot toddies. Or hot buttered rum. Or Baileys and coffee . . . I can’t decide!”
What’s your favorite way to celebrate New Year’s Eve?
“Start with a group of a dozen close friends, add a fresh blanket of snow, a big fire, a big potluck dinner and a long night of darts, pool, cards and merriment!”
What would you love to add to the camp in future winter seasons?
“I’m working on customizing a room to stock all winter camp gear, so that it’s brimming with vintage snowshoes, cross-country skis, antique hockey sticks and ice skates. . . . A place for all of my retro Pendleton ski pants and jackets, which guests can borrow from during their visits.”
For more information, check out Camp Wandawega’s site online.
All photos courtesy Tereasa Surratt