Lynn McDonald flipped when she saw the house for sale on Harbor Springs’ Main Street. After vacationing four times a year up the road at the Veranda Bed and Breakfast, she and her husband, Greg, were in love with this Lake Michigan harbor town. The traditional white clapboard house and its distinctively Harbor decor had the genteel, early-1900’s feel they wanted.
The sellers, Mary and Rick Carpenter, had fastidiously restored the home with its graceful wraparound porch, built around 1904 by lumber baron E.G. Carey. Over the years the home had been many things – the last, a rental with dark walls whose third floor was swathed in nasty brown shag. But the basement was dry, and the bones were sturdy.
Builder Jamie Martin had gutted most of it, leaving the built-in cabinets, drawers, wood floors and a stylish claw foot tub. His seamless 9-foot addition to the back of the house doubled the kitchen space and the master suite above it. Interior designer Ronn Serba had also gone to work, giving the rooms a “sophisticated cottage look with happy colors.”
Indeed, throughout this flowing, sprawling space, which boasts five exterior porches from which to view the harbor, Serba’s mix of vivid solids, stripes, prints and plaids in high-end period fabrics and wallpaper is a palette found in lofty places like the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia or Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel.
Because several types of wood were used for the original flooring, Serba painted the floor in the foyer and an upper bedroom in a harlequin pattern. Serba added a tin ceiling to the foyer and the adjacent piano room, and took out the old tin ceiling in the living room, adding beams and beadboard in its place.
Upstairs in the cozy bedrooms, custom bedding coordinates with the wallpaper. One former bedroom is a huge walk-in closet. The third floor is a shotgun room with beadboard walls and ceiling and enough beds for a small dormitory.
Which brings us back to the beginning of this tale. After four days on the market, the house sold to the McDonalds, furnishings included, and the Carpenters built another home in Harbor on the bluff. The McDonalds hung their artwork on the walls, added personal touches, turned one bedroom into an office and had Harbor Springs designer Lori Seltenright redo another bedroom in masculine colors for their grown son.
Now when the McDonalds drive up from their home in Grand Rapids, their stays are never long enough, and they dream of living here permanently. They love the slower pace, their walks and bike rides, their big front porch and the friendly town. Someday soon, they vow, Harbor Springs will be theirs forever.
Patty LaNoue Stearns is a regular contributor to Northern Home & Cottage. [email protected]
Note: This article was first published in September 2007 and was updated for the web February 2008.