A New York City-based family creates an Up North oasis for reconnecting with their Michigan roots.

“A blend of New York and Michigan,” is the way the owners of a Lake Michigan waterfront home describe both their family and their new vacation home in Harbor Springs. Based in New York most of the year, the family has long ties to Northern Michigan. The Harbor Springs home is where they head to connect with their Michigan roots—both metaphorically and literally, as getting to the home means crossing a wooden footbridge that spans a quintessentially Northwoods babbling trout stream.

In 2013 when the family purchased the circa-1950s split-level it was in serious need of updating. Built for a furniture executive from Grand Rapids, the house was heavy on built-ins and other retro touches, but the main living space had only one small window to frame that Lake Michigan view. “That was a real shame,” says designer Kelly Konoske, of Cottage Company Interiors, who was brought into the project by Cottage Company Builders along with Rob Sears (Sears Architects) and Liz Firebaugh of Signature Kitchens.

In the end, the homeowners decided to save only the existing foundation, so the project was essentially a new build, and the design team conceived of a laidback yet luxurious summer retreat. It would be a home “where nothing was too precious for every day, and friends and family were welcomed and encouraged to wear flip-flops,” Kelly explains. “They wanted a place where they could escape, relax and enjoy making memories with friends and family—a fresh take on a traditional style cottage,” she continues. The outcome is a style that Kelly refers to as coastal cottage chic.

Exterior details of the home include cedar shake shingles, large porches, abundant windows and columns. The interior rooms are light-filled and welcoming and were designed to be as low-maintenance as possible. Sand-colored floors hide stray grains from the beach. The living room’s white sofas are covered in an indoor/outdoor fabric designed to accommodate wet towels and bathing suits and other summer abuse. Rugs are also indoor/outdoor or made from tough natural materials. “No one wants to be at their cottage and cleaning,” Kelly says.

The homeowners’ collections of art and objects add personality throughout. Kelly cherry-picked items from the family’s storage unit, including a red rocker and a “Beach” sign, both featured in the Fourth of July–themed lower-level family room. “Anything they loved we wanted to include,” she says.

On the “love” list in the kitchen were simple subway tiles that run all the way to the ceiling, barn-style pendant lights, dark gray Blue Calacatta marble on the island, and low-maintenance white quartz on the perimeter countertops. “You just wipe it and go,” says Kelly, who used the same quartz in the upstairs bathrooms.

The bedrooms all boast attached bathrooms, water views, abundant storage and access to the balcony that overlooks the beach. Beach views are also available in the charming three-season porch off the dining room, which features exterior–style cedar shake shingle walls to make it appear as a later add-on to the cottage.

A home that now appears airy and effortless was a true labor of love—with plenty of emphasis on the labor, as both demolition debris and construction materials had to be carried over the footbridge by the construction crew. “Every piece of lumber, material, fixtures and furniture was carried by hand over that bridge,” Kelly says. “And the majority of that was in the winter.”

With the renovation finished, however, the footbridge has taken on a whole new meaning. Crossing the simple, rustic structure has become symbolic for the family—signaling their arrival and marking their return to a place they call their touchstone.

Home Resources

Interior Designer
Kelly Konoske, Cottage Company Interiors, Harbor Springs

The Cottage Company

Kitchen Designer
Liz Firebaugh, Signature Kitchens, Petoskey

Sears Architects, Grand Rapids


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Northern Homes & Cottages

Photo(s) by Cottage Company