Designer Walloon Lake Cottage

The respectful update by Dudzik Studios of a midcentury standout on Walloon Lake highlights the complex art of designing simply. The story of the cottage’s transformation was originally published in the February 2015 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.

In the 1960s, Robert Bell, a protégé of renowned architect Alden Dow, designed a cottage unlike any other on Walloon Lake. Its streamlined presence drew a striking contrast to the nearby clapboard and log charmers with their quaint gables and porches. The beauty of Bell’s cross-shaped plan lay in its proportion, its straightforward use of local materials, and its layout—both flowing and intimate, with a focus on the water views.

Fifty years later, the same elements still resonated with new owners, but an update was in order. The compact kitchen was outdated, and the new family required a bit more space during their half-year residence on the lake. They also wanted more light and a more dramatic view. But they knew that remodeling the cottage without losing its original beauty and spirit would be a challenge.

After an architect drew up an awkward, heavy-handed reconfiguration, the homeowners consulted with family friend and architectural and interior designer Matt Dudzik. In addition to practicing in Michigan and Georgia, Dudzik is a professor of architecture at Savannah College of Art and Design. His assessment of the problems with the new plan showed the homeowners that he truly understood what they wanted to accomplish, and they asked him to start over from Bell’s original design.

Dudzik shared the homeowners’ desire to respect the cottage’s architectural integrity. Despite more than doubling the size of the cottage and reconfiguring interior spaces, he maintained the original scale and spirit that resonated with the homeowners. Matt points out the added space in the dining area: “This is only nine feet wider than the original, but that was enough to reorganize interior adjacencies and create the expanded kitchen.”

The kitchen changed more than any other room, gaining a large island topped with granite and wood. The open galley-style layout is spacious but efficient, with plenty of storage in custom fir cabinetry. The designer maintained a connection to the former interior by reusing the Douglas fir ceiling panels here and in the adjacent living area, where the clients asked for higher ceilings. Dudzik saw the request as an opportunity to create variations in scale, maintaining a lower ceiling height in the kitchen and entry space. “You move from an intimate space to this volume,” he says. “It makes it seem like a more celebrated space.”

The living space, with its new floor-to-ceiling picture windows, does indeed celebrate the impressive view from Walloon’s blue water all the way to the clouds above. The 10-foot-tall sliders open onto an ipe deck with marine-cable railing, extending the living space outdoors.

Despite the increase in height, the basic structure of the home endures. “It reads as two boxes stacked,” says Dudzik. “I added louvered walls on the exterior to help organize the volumes.” The wooden louvers create a bit of privacy and work to connect the exterior and interior by mimicking the horizontal fir paneling.

Natural-finished wood and stone throughout imbue the cottage with a warmth and a “sensibility of Michigan,” according to Dudzik. Many interior details are designed to disappear, letting the beauty of the materials, the setting and the architecture shine through. Lighting fixtures are sleek or recessed. Bathrooms feature suspended vanities and toilets, eliminating complex shapes that normally interrupt the floor’s expanse. In place of baseboards, walls are finished top and bottom with a reveal, or a slight gap that uses open space as a finishing element.

The effect is profound simplicity; however, it was achieved through close attention to small details. In the plan, alignment is perfect. In the execution, every shape and material contribute to a strong sense of visual harmony. The couple says that the home now feels twice as large, but has the same warm personality as the original. They credit Matt with pulling off more of an enhancement than a renovation. Surely Robert Bell would approve.

Home Resources

Architecture and Interior Design

Matt Dudzik, DUDZIK Studios, Harbor Springs and Savannah, Ga.,


Kane Construction, Harbor Springs, 231.526.1194


Vidosh North, Petoskey, 231.347. 6851,

Windows and Doors

Fleetwood Windows & Doors, for 
local dealers


Firestone Membrane Roof 90-mil Ecowhite Platinum Epdm with 30 year warranty,


Pietra Pia Sentina Velvet, Ciot,


Designed by DUDZIK Studios. Purchased through Signature Kitchens, Petoskey, 231.439.0100,




Wolf and SubZero, Asko,

Art: Dining room painting, Paradise by Stephanie Shank, Tucson, Az.

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