Rebuilt to Last in Traverse City

Todd Zawistowski

Exotic, reddish-toned wood floors play off the honeyed glow of curly-maple interior trim. Lake stone and slate offer a cool contrast to the warm brown of the leather-and-cherry furniture. The banister’s black, twig-shaped steel rails lead to the second floor where sunshine filters in from skylights and bounces off the angled, aspen-paneled ceilings. There are moments in this snug, 100-year-old downtown Traverse City home when you half expect to inhale the scents of a forest glen–the fresh smell of leaves or the musky scent of earth, perhaps.

Called Artisan Retreat, the home was renovated by P. Griggs Construction of Traverse City to use as a place for clients to stay while their homes are being built. But the house is also a showcase for the company’s craftsmen and their talent for turning natural materials into functional art–the Petoskey stone fireplace facade, for instance, or the steam-spa shower tiled in Lake Superior stones. Brazilian tigerwood floors, bordered in bird’s-eye maple and inlaid with a Celtic knot design in the corners, contribute to the home’s luxurious yet elemental style.

A wealth of details like these called for a solid structure–not the bouncy floors and flimsy framing that were a byproduct of the home’s late 1800′s construction. Working with local architect Mark Humitz, company owner Paul Griggs devised a plan to save and reinforce the old stone foundation. Otherwise, the house was stripped to the exterior studs. The construction team installed new beams in the roof and between stories to allow for an open floor plan–the kitchen opens into the dining room, which opens into the living room–that is ideal for entertaining. The back porch was removed and replaced with a company office built on a slab.

Todd Zawistowski

Along the way, Griggs worked to make the remodel as green as possible. Rare Earth Hardwoods supplied the exotic wood that is used so artfully throughout the home–the Traverse City–based company has an onsite staff in Brazil charged with making sure the timber is harvested responsibly. "I have confidence in their ethics and control," Griggs says. Blown-in, open-cell foam insulation provides superior energy efficiency and impressively blocks the rumble from nearby Division Street. The two types of steel roofing, with 75- and 50-year warranties, can be recycled when they are eventually torn off. The exterior siding is cedar, treated with a linseed-based bleaching oil instead of stain, and secured to furring strips for air circulation that allows the wood to last indefinitely. The parking area and exposed aggregate walkways are made of concrete, which will last longer than asphalt and uses no petroleum products.

In the end, the home was more rebuilt than remodeled. But Griggs and his talented team made it so sturdy that owners far into the future will find it worthwhile to restore. "We built Artisan Retreat to last 200 years–and for people to value it for that long," he says.

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