When you invite yourself into people’s homes for a living, you never know how it’s going to go. Sometimes during a shoot, it’s all you can do to stop yourself from sprinting out of there. Other times, you fall in love, and you’re ready to move in. But generally, it’s all business — the unfailingly polite homeowners are just as ready for you to get in, do your thing, and get on your way as you are. So it was a bit unusual when homeowner Karen Lobdell invited our stylist, our creative director, two photographers, and me to have a sleepover in her East Texas lake house for our recent shoot. Maybe she figured the extra hours of time spent in the charming cabin set among rolling hills and wildlife would get our team extra excited and inspired. Perhaps she hoped one of us would be so inspired that we would buy the place. (It’s currently on the market.) Whatever the case, we declined.

Big mistake.

We realized our error as soon as we drove through the gates of Safari Waters Ranch and arrived at the charming lakefront abode. (Although the community is only an hour from Dallas by car, it’s quite possible we drove its entire 1,800 acres before we found the right house. Directions are not our strong suit.) The home is tucked behind a wall of pines on a double lot and boasts an ornate wooden gate, a wraparound porch with game tables and a fireplace, outdoor living spaces with a fire pit, and a dock. Oh, and a herd of zebras just happens by every now and again. It’s basically the best place ever.

“You feel like you’re in a different part of the country with these surroundings. You feel like you’re by yourself.”

- Chad Rohde
The house was built in 2007 by father-and-son team Travis and Chad Rohde of Rohde Construction and Millwork. Travis actually introduced Karen to Safari Waters. “I bought property out there when we were doing a job for Karen on her house in Lakewood,” he says. “She’d asked me about my weekend, and I told her about my place.” Travis says something about the quiet community, with its rows and rows of pine trees, rolling hills, three lakes, aforementioned zebras, and other wildlife must have clicked. “She and her husband went down there and looked and bought a couple of lots.”

With the land secured, the Rohdes and Lobdells began to tackle plans for the house. The original concept was more of a shotgun-type style, but it quickly evolved. “Karen had a great vision,” Chad says. “She wanted a fish camp with a screened porch. Inside, she knew she wanted a loft for the kids, so we talked everything over, made decisions, made changes, and then she had plans drawn by an architect.”

Construction lasted about nine months, and the Rohdes say practically everything inside and out is custom. “A lot of the materials came from a local yard. The metals came out of Colorado. The floor is reclaimed chestnut,” Travis says. “A lot of the pieces that are in the house, we had to rework because they weren’t a standard or ‘regular’ size.”

“This house, by far, has some of the most character out here.”

- Travis Rohde
But make no mistake, despite the rustic setting and reuse of materials, this is a very sophisticated lake house, full of high-end appliances and luxury finishes. It’s certainly not fancy—this is a family-friendly lake setting, after all—but here, you can cook a heck of a meal on the restaurant-grade stove, relax in one of the spa-like bathrooms, or take a load off after a day of fishing in the media room and extra sleep quarters located in the basement.

The Rohdes are proud of the finished product. “This house, by far, has some of the most character out here,” Travis says. His favorite thing about the house? “I like everything about it. I really like the big porch—it’s nice being able to sit outside in front of a big fireplace.” Chad adds, “I like the overall feel of the home. You feel like you’re in a different part of the country with these surroundings. You feel like you’re by yourself.”

The homeowner was happy, too. “I remember the first weekend that they were out there as a whole family,” Travis says. “It was so nice. I had lunch with them.”

Sadly, all good things come to an end. The Lobdells put the house on the market this past spring. Alas, I can’t buy it. But I have a plan: I’m working on my boss to buy it. Stay tuned.