Architect and builder Bradley Wheeler’s creates a perfect addition to a gracious Crystal Lake cottage and its stylish owner.

This home is featured in the December 2014 issue of Northern Home & Cottage, a bi-monthly home publication included in all subscriptions to Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine. Subscribe! 

Suzanne Krauss is one of those women who carries style in her very DNA. The kind of person who can take a humble, low-ceilinged, pine-paneled cottage on Crystal Lake and make it look like it was built for her collection of Japanese and Chinese antique furniture and hand-painted porcelain.

Certainly, the cottage, built in 1903, had been a work in progress since the 1970s when her husband, Bert, first acquired it. He and Suzanne married soon after, and they went to work on the most basic amenities, such as finding a suitable replacement for the slab of stone that had substituted for a kitchen counter, installing a real kitchen sink in lieu of the old-fashioned one that stood on legs, building a bathroom that wasn’t on the back porch …

Besides those baseline fixes, Suzanne injected the cottage with a dose of her indubitable style—replacing the linoleum floor with black-and-white tiles, papering the low ceiling with midnight blue Schumacher wallpaper and outfitting the living space with white sofas. Under Suzanne’s eye, it all worked perfectly.

When they weren’t vacationing at the cottage, the Krausses were living in Japan, where Bert was a college counselor at the American School (and where Suzanne had plenty of opportunities to hone her collecting skills!).

After Bert’s retirement, the couple moved to Crystal Lake for the majority of the year. After Bert’s passing in 2009, Suzanne continued on with the full, active life the couple had established in which she’d become known for her wonderful dinner parties on the back patio—parties where the table was always set with antique blue-and-white Asian china.

Still, her children worried about her climbing up and down the steep, narrow cottage staircase to access her bedroom. But how to make an antique cottage aging-in-place friendly? Enter architect/builder Bradley Wheeler who solved the problem with a simple elegance that matched his client’s style and belied the obstacles he had to work around: Suzanne wanted an addition, but any addition would have to be squeezed between the septic field and the side setbacks.

In the end, Bradley connected the house to a backyard summer guesthouse (once a carriage house) via a wide, natural light-filled hallway that runs 22 feet from the back of the house then doglegs another 10 feet. Completely renovated, the former guesthouse is a tightly insulated master suite and laundry area. The bedroom is not large, but it is perfectly appointed with a cheery gas fireplace that, combined with an air-to-air heat pump, offers Suzanne zone heating. Beautiful windows and four skylights keep things bright and airy.

With his signature attention to detail, Bradley matched the trim and window-casing color in the addition to the original home so that it all feels seamless. Bradley also installed 32-inch-wide doorways that, along with the 4-foot-wide hall, make the addition wheelchair and walker accessible, if the need for either arises.

A bonus is the way the addition enfolds the patio—turning it into an intimate courtyard that has kicked up the ambiance on those terrific dinner parties that Suzanne throws. “It feels totally private now and seats 20 people,” Suzanne says. “It was brilliant. He did an excellent job of matching the new to the old.”

True to her stylish MO, Suzanne made a bold, elegant flooring decision that perfectly unites the original part of the cottage with the addition: she had white, marble floors installed throughout the entire first floor. While the marble is a stately backdrop for her museum-quality pieces, Suzanne says it is very livable—cool in the summer, comfortable enough in the winter for bare feet and all but impregnable to foot traffic.

As he did with the entire project, Bradley helped guide Suzanne through the flooring decision, explaining to her, she recalls, that since the marble all would come out of the same vein, she needed to order all that she wanted at one time—or she’d never be able to match it. Suzanne says that that kind of attentivenes—even in a project that is relatively small in comparison with most of Bradley’s work—was indicative of the entire process. “I can’t say enough about Bradley,” she says. “He is a fantastic man to work with—right on it all the time. He listens to what you want and makes it even better.”

Home Resources

Architect/Builder: Bradley Wheeler Architecture & Construction

Interior/Kitchen/Tile & Granite: Elizabeth Jerore, @Home Cabinetry & Interiors

Lumber: Honor Building Supply

Windows: Andersen, Old Mission Windows

Concrete: Craig Therrien Construction

Heating & Cooling: Precision Plumbing & Heating Systems

Roofing: Eikenhout Inc.

More Northern Homes & Cottages

Photo(s) by Todd Zawistowski