Past Presence

Brian Confer

Jack and Vicki Hobey are partial to things with a past. Nearly every square foot of their antiques-filled home on Walloon Lake comes with a sweet memory or a slice of local history. The rocker in front of the fireplace belonged to Vicki’s great-grandmother. Antique windows came from Perry Elementary in Ann Arbor, where Jack attended preschool. A table decoupaged with stamps is the handiwork of Vicki’s father, a former mail carrier and postmaster. Sofa pillows are made from sentimental old shirts, including the one Jack wore on their first date.

 And that’s fitting for this classic cottage with its beaded fir paneling and exposed rafters; it has a sentimental past of its own. Fred Roever built the cottage in 1914, and it later became a resort cottage. When the Hobeys bought the place in 1996, it had been given a ski-lodge treatment — untrue to its roots — plus the windows leaked, and the plumbing and fixtures were ancient. They knew this home’s history would need polishing once they moved in for good.

The Hobeys built a garage with housing above, a cozy space Vicki calls "a big playhouse," where they lived as the main house was renovated. Several years later they hired interior designer Nancy Blandford and builder Dave Skornia–both neighbors on the lake–to transform the cottage into a year-round retreat for the Hobeys’ kids and grandkids to congregate.

Blandford’s daunting task: fitting in all of Vicki and Jack’s antiques. "Initially in the planning stages of the actual layout of the house, I have clients make a list and take pictures of those items they want to use. Then they give me the height, width, depth," she says. Among the architectural details Blandford worked into the plan were antique doors on the laundry room, antique windows, and a carved, marble-fronted fireplace from the Hobeys’ former home in Lansing. "We made it so that when you walked through the entrance into the sunroom, that that was the focal point," says Blandford.

Skornia’s goal: return the home to its roots ("He’s a real traditionalist," says Vicki). He found a way to add on as unobtrusively as possible with one-story wings on each side of the two-story cottage that follow the existing roofline and pattern of window placement. Cedar siding weds the old to the new (a sunroom and master bedroom) for a seamless look.

The entire backside of the old house was rotten, so Skornia and his crew, carpenters Bob Gibson and John Cleary, dug under it and added new foundation. To accommodate the modern utilities yet keep them out of sight, they dug out a crawl space under the new wings and insulated it with concrete blocks and cement. Inside, Skornia salvaged as much of the original beaded fir paneling and matched it with new. He also added support beams between the kitchen and main area, allowing wide-open views of Walloon Lake from every window.

Upstairs, Skornia and his crew enclosed the sleeping porch but left the old-fashioned slanted ceilings, as well as structural elements like an old claw- foot tub in the bathroom. To keep the sentiments flowing, the Hobeys devoted a whole wall to framed family photos.

In the kitchen, Blandford disguised the new top-of-the line refrigerator and dishwasher behind sage-colored cabinetry. Gold-speckled granite countertops tie the new cabinets with the old maple flooring to create a look that is so fresh and homey it begs pulling up a stool at the counter for from-the-oven cookies and a cold glass of milk.

The rest of the home is just as warm and comfortable — a place that blends the new with the old so perfectly, it’s already making Hobey family history.

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