“Found, Free & Flea” Author Tereasa Surratt’s Rustic Camp

updated Dec 19, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Image: Bob Coscarelli for CS Interiors magazine

Name: Tereasa Surratt and David Hernandez
Location: Wandawega Lake Resort, Elkhorn, Wisconsin
Years lived in: 8

Author Tereasa Surratt (A Very Modest Cottage) and her husband David Hernandez know about reusing and recycling with style. In Tereasa’s new book, Found, Free & Flea: Creating Collections from Vintage Treasures, she shares her style advice, using the couple’s idyllic lakeside getaway as a setting. The retreat, dubbed Camp Wandawega, is itself a tribute to repurposing. Built in the 1920s, it has enjoyed life as a speakeasy, an organized crime hideout, a house of ill repute, a legitimate family resort (hang in there, almost done), a retreat for Latvian priests from Chicago, and finally, a Latvian church camp. Today it’s a vintage-inspired escape that captures the casual bliss of summer camp, all decorated joyously with bargains found at local flea markets or at the camp itself.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

1 / 33
Welcome to camp! (Image: David Robert Elliott) (Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

How do busy ad execs from Chicago come to buy a former-brothel-turned-summer-camp? It turns out husband David and his family were regular visitors to the camp during the 1970s; he spent his summers there swimming, hiking, and fishing. When he discovered the property for sale, it was his fond memories that helped him convince Tereasa they should save it from developers. With a little love, the rustic site seemed like it could be the perfect antidote to the couple’s busy, modern life in the city. They bought the camp, planning on using it as a getaway for family and friends.

The property included an old lodge, a small hotel, several tiny cabins (all in various states of disrepair) and beautifully quiet lake views. Tereasa and David have added a grouping of Boy Scout tents they call Tent Hill, a large teepee they found on Craigslist, and a grown-up treehouse, seen here on Apartment Therapy. The couple now rents out a few cabins and Tent Hill, but only to people willing to sign the Camp Manifesto: If you require sheets with a thread count higher than 50, a concierge, new box springs and the like, there are dozens of lovely options in the area. . . . We are not for the meek, the squeamish, or any other folks who don’t like roughing it.

When they bought Camp Wandawega, the couple inherited 90 years worth of items found inside. Tereasa knew these once-loved possessions could bring the place back to life. For furnishings and accessories she vowed to rely on the camp’s own history, plus items that she either found, negotiated to the price of $0, or discovered at flea markets. The end result is a place where everyone can unplug, exhale, and celebrate simplicity.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Re-Nest Survey:

Our style: original camp/cabin/cottage

Inspiration: 1950s summer camp. Dirty Dancing. Embracing retro cabin life as a whole.

Favorite Element: the hilltop lake view from the Boy Scout tent village

Biggest Challenge: maintaining (and keeping the chipmunks out of) the 67 rooms

What Friends Say: “It’s camp for adults.” “It reminds me of my childhood.” “I feel like I’ve just stepped back in time 70 years.”

Proudest DIY: roofing the log cabin

Biggest Indulgence: the Sioux-style teepee on its hilltop perch

Best Advice: anything is possible as long as you are not afraid to get your hands dirty (and handle a nail gun). If you don’t know what you’re doing, consult your best friend: Google.

Green Elements/Initiatives: Essentially, everything…from a three-story treehouse made of reclaimed timber to all of the room interiors. Every room was furnished via the “found, free and flea” rule, saving some space in the landfills by reuse.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)


Furniture: a great mix of pieces that we found at the camp when we purchased it (furnished), mixed in with my found, free, and flea finds.

Lighting, Accessories, Hardware and Appliances: To keep with a historically accurate look, we sourced almost all of these via thrift stores, barn and yard sales, and flea markets to find the right vintage period and worn patinas.

Rugs and Carpets: Most of the rugs are vintage, but there’s a range from rag rugs to some newer sisals.

Tiles and Stone: In the main kitchen we used retro subway tiles to coordinate with the prohibition-era restaurant kitchen.

Window Treatments: The forest-themed curtains in the “modest cottage” were made from a roll of discarded barkcloth I found in the attic.

Beds: Most bed frames are original to the camp. Those that we had to add were sourced “found, free, and flea” style.

Paint: We kept to a historic 1920’s-1940’s color palette, varying by room and building.

Flooring: all original 1920’s pine in main buildings

(Thanks, Tereasa and David!)
See archives of past Green Tours here!

Interested in sharing your home with Re-Nest? Contact our editors through our Green Tour Submission Form.

(Images: Compilation image above the jump: bedroom-Bob Coscarelli, pitchers-Jacob Hand, bar-Matt Gore; all other images Bob Coscarelli, David Robert Elliott, Matt Gore, Jacob Hand, Aimee Herring, Bjorn Wallander, and Therese Maring)