Colonial Revived

A visitor passing the stately Dutch colonial on a lovely Charlevoix side street might well assume that the house has been meticulously maintained. With its multi-pane windows, square-pillared carport and hand-laid brick drive, it appears to be a classic example of this genre revived in the early decades of the last century.

But as the locals know, the house is the recipient of an extreme makeover from which it emerged decidedly more elegant than it had ever been, rebuilt with a blend of fine craftsmanship, cutting-edge technology and uptown design that has received national attention.

When the house went on the market earlier in 2003, it was in decent shape with many original features: plaster walls, oak floors, a stone fireplace and a service staircase. Its galley-sized kitchen and cobbled-on breakfast nook were dated, but its front-row seat on Lake Michigan made it a hot property.

The house captured the imagination of a West Coast family, which bought it for use as a summer cottage, loving its essence if not all its particulars. The family commissioned its favorite New York City design firm, hired a local builder, and launched a fast-track project that kept the Petoskey-based Glennwood Custom Builders busy from fall to summer.

The new owners asked designers Daniel Heighes Wismer and Gregory Dufner to save what they could of the original style – but only after modernizing its infrastructure and making the house comfortable for their four children. Accomplishing the former, as Wismer decided once he’d inspected the tiny kitchen and old wiring, required drastic measures. The breakfast nook was demolished and the house stripped to the studs, inside and out. Crews added steel supports under the floor; replaced the plumbing; installed new HVAC equipment, moving noisy mechanicals outside and underground; and updated the electric system, including the latest in whole-house lighting and audio.

The designers gained kid-friendly space by creating bedrooms in the unfinished attic and finishing the basement with a new outside entrance, cubbies and an après-hot-tub beach shower. They added a two-story wing featuring a handsome guest suite above a kitchen and an eating area that boasts 500 square feet of elbow room. The old kitchen was converted to a butler’s pantry, and the four original second-story bedrooms were converted into two.