The Barefoot Victorian

From way up on the fourth-floor widow’s watch of John and Amy Wynne’s sunny yellow cottage, the azure panorama of Little Traverse Bay spreads out at the end of their quiet street. This is one of many nooks in the cottage adored by the Wynne children and at any given moment, one, two, three or maybe all four of them might be up here playing.

But before long those four pairs of bare feet will be skipping down the spiral stairs to play tea party in the family room, or scuttling out the door to a friend’s house down the street to arrange a beach party. Cara, 13, Meghan, 11, Johnny, 8, and Lindsey, 6, keep this stately cottage buzzing. Though at first glance the cottage looks a tad sophisticated for this fun and relaxed family, it is a perfect fit. The cottage is in Bay Harbor’s Village Beach, a neotraditional enclave that mixes Victorian-styled architecture with old-fashioned amenities (think: front porches, narrow, brick-paved streets, lots close enough together to talk over porch rails.)

When the Chicago family first decided that Bay Harbor was where they wanted a vacation home, they assumed they would want to build on the beach and bought a lot there. Two years later, their lot was still empty and by that time six spec homes had been constructed in Village Beach. The Wynnes decided to forgo the more private beach home for the idea of adding old-fashioned neighborhood experiences to the Up North memories they wanted their children to have.

The cottage was unfinished on the inside so John, a manufacturer’s rep for Century Furniture in Hickory, North Carolina, took over the contracting. The finished product is a blend of John’s practical “dad” sense and his design sensibilities. Metallic-speckled flagstone installed in the downstairs entrance makes cleaning up mud and sand a breeze. Michigan cherry wood floors on the main level and a huge semicircle granite island-top speak to the home’s Up North setting.

But John’s touches don’t stop there. He chose an eggshell-finish yellow for the common areas then gave each room a theme – the first floor has a French accent, the guest room features a nautical motif.

There’s a navy blue boy’s room, feminine pink and green for girls, and cottagey light blue with garden florals for the master suite. Amy, meanwhile, lent her creativity to the gardens on the home’s small lot.

While the Wynnes were one of the first families in Village Beach, the neighborhood has attracted other families – there are 10 families with kids in the same age range as theirs. Those families love the neotraditional concept for the same reasons the Wynnes love it. Not the least among them is how easy it is to keep tabs on all the kids: John jokes that the homes are so close together he can hear his daughters giggle when they’re next door at sleepovers.

Socializing isn’t only for the kids. “We now have a common area at the end of our development – it’s a beach, and we’ve had picnics down there with the neighbors, and we have a big fire pit, and it’s right on the water. It’s just a really cool place to hang out,” says John. It’s the Up North s’more and bonfire experience the Wynnes wanted their children to have. Their Village Beach neighborhood is the bonus.

Patty LaNoue Stearns is a regular contributor to Northern Home & Cottage. [email protected]

Note: This article was first published in July 2007 and was updated for the web February 2008.

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