Sit on the big wooden deck of Sharon and Alan Hoffman’s beachfront home in Manistee and you can get lost in Lake Michigan’s vast blue horizon. The sound of dune grass rustles softly in the steady, gentle breeze. This is sweet serenity — an ideal spot for a busy couple to rejuvenate from a hectic week in the city.
For the Hoffmans, both professors at Detroit’s Wayne State University, finding this sandy piece of paradise was a happy accident. After searching for vacation property during a sweltering summer in Florida’s Panhandle, they decided Michigan’s west coast made a lot more sense. The following year, a turn down a road on an unhurried day took them to a development called The Dunes at Harbor Village in Manistee. The couple fell in love with the beautiful, long, low-bank sandy beach, the cozy town of Manistee — and the fresh water.
They went to Richard Bos, the architect and designer who had worked on their house in Birmingham, for a plan. They wanted something clean and simple, something that wouldn’t require much upkeep, would fit in with the beach landscape and make use of lots of natural materials.
The architect, who grew up in the dunes south of Grand Haven and designed his parents’ home there, came up with what he calls a Lake Michigan cottage — designed to weather well (its stained cedar siding will never need to be scraped) and positioned to control the often relentless afternoon sun and harness the northwest winds that create natural air conditioning.
“I took some classic elements and juxtaposed them to take advantage of some of the views, and we also tried to keep it fairly simple,” says Bos, who dislikes oversized houses with big, obnoxious entryways. “Your life is not enriched by those kinds of spaces.”
It is the details that make this not-so-big house so appealing. Enter through a thick pine-plank arched door fitted with wrought iron hardware. Walk into the main space and feel the warmth of open ceiling beams, soothing wall tones, soft lighting, clean-lined maple cabinetry, granite countertops and tall pine interior doors. Floor-to-ceiling windows showcase the water and a handsome limestone corner fireplace. Contemporary furnishings with whimsical fabrics and commercial-grade tweed carpet create a sense that it’s fine to relax, even with sandy feet.
“The social spaces are pretty much one large space,” Bos explains. No need for a formal dining room. He designed the master bedroom as a retreat, pulling it off to the side and creating an additional office nook where the Hoffmans can work if needed. The upstairs sleeping areas can be closed off for privacy as well.”It kind of made sense for us to separate the different forms of the house, like the garage, to keep the scale small,” says Bos.
In all, the goal was reached: The house is simple, serene, easy to maintain and a joy to live in. The Hoffmans have the perfect getaway, year-round. And after experiencing a couple of summers, they’ll take Lake Michigan over the Atlantic any day. “It’s so wonderful how much variation there is, like today when it’s absolutely placid, and other days when it’s like being at the ocean,” says Sharon.
Color That WorksInterior designer Barbara Bos, who works with architect husband Richard Bos, customized the Hoffman cottage using muted and graded tones of cream and gray that are at once soothing, bold and Zen-like.
Her joy is teaching her clients to experiment with wall color — whether muted or bright. She starts with large 5-by-7-inch samples from Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, Pratt & Lambert and Pittsburgh Paints and comes up with a color concept based on the architecture, furnishings, rugs, upholstery and fabrics.
“Judging color in the setting is also important. I like to do my final selection at the site,” says Bos, whose multiple color combinations and continuity throughout the house creates flow and harmony. In the Hoffman cottage, she uses latex in an eggshell finish for the walls, flat for the ceilings and alkyd enamel for the interior woodwork. On the home’s exterior, the cedar is impregnated with Benjamin Moore Decorator White stain and the board-and-batten trim is an exterior latex. Several coats of Sikkens sealer on the entry door protect the wood from UV rays and heat damage.
The Hoffmans’ Up North Favorites
Artful exploration: River Street Gallery, Manistee. 231-398-4001.
Foraging for Italian: At the Tuscan Grille, 231-723-4200, or Onekama’s Blue Slipper Bistro, 231-889-4045.
Pick of the Strawberries: Filling a basket of fresh berries and nabbing strawberry pies to take home from Ware Farm, three miles north of Bear Lake, off U.S. 31 on Alkire Road, 231-864-3242.
Old-fashioned Holidays: Roasted chestnuts at Manistee’s Victorian Sleighbell Parade and Old Fashioned Christmas Weekend. 800-288-2286.
Theater Goers: Plays at the renovated Victorian Ramsdell Theatre in Manistee. 231-723-9948.
Patty LaNoue Stearns is a contributor to Northern Home & Cottagepattylanouestearns@charter.net
Note: This article was first published in July 2006 and was updated for the web February 2008.