Lake Michigan Beach House in Leelanau County Blends Vintage and Modern

Architect Ray Kendra’s Leelanau County clients were adventurous enough as they planned their Lake Michigan beach house. They insisted that their cottage be “green” and were enthusiastic about modern design. Yet the hard-core industrial look left them cold. What they really wanted was “comfortable, vernacular-type forms,” says Kendra, who is with the Traverse City   rm of CWS Architects. “They wanted to come back from a hike or a swim to a traditional, cottage-y form.”

Well, sort of. The clients loved Kendra’s solution, a mash-up of old-style barn and vintage beach house plus plenty of moderndetails. With a fireplace that sits in a solid wall of concrete and a funky roofline—steep-pitched roof, shed roofs, flat-roofed dormers—the cottage isn’t exactly traditional. But to the clients, it just felt right.

Well, almost. Kendra’s interior was modern white-on-white, still too stark for the couple, who planned the Lake Michigan cottage as a getaway for their tight-knit extended family. So they brought in Empire-based designer Kristi Brubaker and let her have her way with color. Now the rooms pop with lime, red, plum, and burnt orange, and are filled with resale shop furniture that Brubaker had reupholstered in the same palette.

The overall mix of modern and traditional styles—clean and edgy, but cozy—marks a “new regional vernacular,” Kendra says.  The cottage has “refined character yet it’s loose,” he says. “If you come back in 50 years, people will still like it.”

Most of all, the cottage is functional. The clients’ top priority was accommodating their whole family in a cottage where “nobody’s stuck in the bad bedroom,” Kendra says. So he designed plenty of egalitarian sleeping space—four bedrooms, no master suite. All the bedrooms have built-in furniture, including day beds, bunks and dressers.  e upstairs bedroom features a slither-sized loft, accessible by a custom metal ladder, where kids can roll out sleeping bags. There’s extra sleeping space in the futon-fitted office that closes off with a barn door, and more in the basement family room where Japanese-style screens add privacy.

All told, the cottage sleeps up to 16 people in beds or futons. But because the bedrooms are “efficiently and functionally sized” (read: not too big), it still feels comfortable when the couple comes up alone.

These clients, more concerned with storage for kayaks than garage space for cars, also wanted the cottage to have an indoor/outdoor feel. Kendra designed a number of outdoor spaces, from the second floor deck with a fireplace to a below-grade patio, to give the family a variety of ways to live outside.

And he went heavy on the windows. Of course, the cottage has a wall of lakeside windows to maximize the view of the Manitou Islands. But Kendra put windows everywhere, creating a “constant connection between inside and outside.” Even the hallway between the garage and the living room has a wall of windows looking out to a small sculpture garden.

The windows are high efficiency because the clients were strongly committed to building green. The cottage also boasts geothermal heating and cooling, low-flow fixtures, locally sourced materials, a gravel driveway, sustainable landscaping and so many other green features that CWS and builder Burkholder Construction have submitted documentation for platinum certification through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Homes program administered by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The clients had initially planned to remodel the existing cottage, but when that didn’t work, were determined to limit disturbance to the site. One of the clients’ greenest moves was hiring Odom Re-Use Co. to carefully deconstruct the existing cottage on the property. Most of the lumber was hauled away for other projects, but some went into the new cottage, including old redwood that Burkholder craftsmen reused as newel posts, shelving, and decking.

The new cottage uses the original footprint, and perennials from the pre-existing garden and wildflowers were donated to the Leelanau Conservancy for its annual plant sale. Although some trees had to be removed—many of them milled for use in the cottage—landscape architect Anita Silverman kept as many as possible to frame lake views and keep the cottage enclosed. She incorporated salvaged flagstone and old limestone fence posts into her design and planted low-maintenance native and deer-resistant species, including a swath of wildflowers over the septic field.

The result is a cottage that visitors say “feels like it’s always been there,” says Kendra. High praise for a cottage that aims, mostly, to blend in.

Janet Lively writes and teaches in Traverse City. [email protected]

Home Resources

ARCHITECT

Ray Kendra, CWS Architects, Traverse City, 231-946-3627, cws-arch.com

BUILDER

Burkholder Construction Co., Traverse City, 231-941-7180, burkholderconstruction.com

INTERIOR DESIGN

Kristi Jo Brubaker, Brubaker Designs, Empire, 231-326-5122, brubakerdesigns.com

LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT

Anita C. Silverman, Traverse City, 231-932-1925.

LANDSCAPE CONSTRUCTION & INSTALLATION

Steve Moore Landscaping Inc., Traverse City, 231-360-0495.

SITE WORK/SEPTIC

Alpers Excavating Inc., Traverse City, 231-943-4710.

DECONSTRUCTION

Odom Re-Use Co., Grawn, 231-276-6330, odomreuse.com

CONCRETE STEPS, PATIO, DYED & POLISHED BASEMENT FLOORS

Dan Clark, The Concrete Artisans, Traverse City, 231-421-5000, theconcreteartisans.tc

FRONT PORCH & LIMESTONE HEARTHS

Tim Wicksall, Wicksall Masonry, Kingsley, 231-263-5631

ZONED GEOTHERMAL HEATING AND COOLING SYSTEM + ENERGY RECOVERY VENTILATOR

Geofurnace Heating & Cooling, Traverse City, 231-943-1000, geofurnace.com

ELECTRICAL + LED LIGHTING, BACK-UP GENERATOR, RUSSOUND AUDIO/VIDEO

Voltage Electric Inc., Traverse City, 231-946-3678, voltageelectric.net

BUILDING MATERIALS

Northport Building Supply, Northport, 231-386-5231.

WHITE CEDAR SIDING

True North Cedar, Duluth, MN, 360-201-1211, truenorthcedar.com

WINDOWS

Old Mission Windows, Traverse City, 231-947-2120, oldmissionwindows.com

FIREPLACES

Source Julien, Traverse City, 231-943-8190, sourcejulien.com

APPLIANCES

Max’s Service Appliance & TV, Traverse City, 231-947-6830, maxsservice.com

PLUMBING

Sheren Pumbing & Heating, Traverse City, 231-943-7916, sherenplumbingheating.com

MILLWORK

Phil Yahr, Pinecrest Woodworking, Traverse City, 231-946-5839

TILE

TileCraft Inc., Traverse City, 231-929-7207, tilecraftonline.com

MIRROR/SHOWER DOOR

T.C. Mirror & Shower Door, Traverse City, 231-922-2182.

CLOSET SYSTEMS

Dale Bush, First Class Closets, Traverse City. 231- 499-7377, firstclassclosets.com

NEW DRYWALL & DRYWALL RECYCLING

Drywall Dynamics, Traverse City, 231-941-8813, drywalldynamicsinc.net

PENETRATING OIL WOOD FLOOR FINISH

Matt Cartledge, All Wood Floor (formerly Peckham Wood Floor Service), Traverse City, 231-218-7070

GALVALUME STANDING SEAM METAL ROOF & GUTTERS, PACKAGE + INSTALLATION

Traverse Bay Roofing, Traverse City, 231-943-4454, traversebayroofing.com

FORMALDEHYDE-FREE INSULATION

Advanced Insulation Systems, Traverse City, 231-941-7786, advancedinsulationtc.com

FABRICATION OF INTERIOR & DECK CABLE RAILING

Wheelock & Sons Welding Inc., Traverse City, Traverse City, 231-947-6557.

RECLAIMED WOOD FLOORING AND COUNTERTOPS

Elmwood Reclaimed Timber, Kansas City, Mo, 800-705-0705

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