Two sisters join their parents to recreate the family cottage experience of their childhood on a beautiful piece of Spider Lake property in Traverse City.
Featured in the June/July 2020 issue of Northern Home & Cottage. Subscribe.
One could believe that Megan Batson is reading right out of a storybook when she tells about her childhood summers at her grandparents’ cottage in Quebec. Every June, Megan, her sister, Melanie, and their parents, John and Margaret Faulkner, headed from their Michigan home to Quebec to spend time with their extended family. “It was always about family and everybody being together,” Megan says. “There were times that we’d have 12 to 15 family members up there—huge gatherings and we just loved them.
“We are all about cottage life” Megan continues. “We love the camaraderie of family campfires, staying up late and playing games, sending time on the lake—and the whole outdoor experience. When it’s chilly you build a fire …”
Then one summer the extended family had become too large to accommodate everyone at the Quebec cottage at once and Megan and Melanie felt the end of an era had come. By this time, Megan and her husband, Wade, lived in Texas and Melanie and husband, Bob, lived in southern Michigan. They decided to rent a cottage on a lake near Cadillac with their parents—and look at real estate in the area so they could begin a new cottaging tradition in Northern Michigan. They scouted properties for several days, but nothing felt just right. Then one day Megan remembers, everyone was gathered on the back porch of their rental cottage and she decided to check Craigslist. A property on Spider Lake outside of Traverse City popped up. They decided to have a look.
Once at the property, the family knew immediately they’d found the site of their new cottage. Spider Lake had the same wooded, remote feeling that their lake in Quebec had. The property was at the end of an access road, just like the Quebec cottage had been. Add to those features the fact that the property’s sellers were a long-time Spider Lake family who still live on the lake and were hoping to find buyers who appreciated the lake’s cottaging lifestyle. Sold.
As Megan self-describes, she isn’t one to let grass grow under her feet, so she launched a search for an architect (which included perusing back issues of Northern Home & Cottage!) that ended with the family hiring Joseph Mosey. After Mosey asked them for examples of features they wanted, they came back to him with a few basic concepts: They didn’t want a Cathedral ceiling in the great room. Instead, they wanted the intimacy of a defined kitchen and living and dining rooms—yet they wanted the rooms to flow into each other. They all have dogs; they wanted a dog shower.
And that kitchen? It had to be laid out precisely to Megan’s specifications—a wish that she credits Mosey for taking seriously. “I love to cook and I am very particular about how my kitchen works,” she says. “Joe listened.”
The family was willing to trust Mosey on the exterior and the precise layout of the home, only expressing their wish for the home to feel cottagey and fit into the site. The end product, with its mossy-green siding and stone foundation, blends sweetly into the setting. “The house draws its rustic cues from the wooded setting and introduces balance and order amid the randomness of the forest,” Mosey explains.
“The design of the house is extremely site-specific,” he continues. “It follows the lake’s shoreline and the rooms are set up to capture the distinctly different views of the lake. The living room looks out at the widest and more public part of the lake, while the screened porch on one side and the master suite on the other have views of more quiet, private coves. The different views unfold and change as you move through the spaces, allowing you to experience the entire amazing site.”
Eric Render and his team at Render Construction built the home. “He is so easy to work with,” Megan says of Render. “What we appreciated about him the most was his honesty about the cost. Even before he’d put one shovel in the ground, he told us that we were over budget and we needed to adjust the plan. His building team was amazing—such good workers, such nice people. I could sing their praises all day.”
But the greatest gift Render gave the family was speed. Sadly, John Faulkner was diagnosed with dementia just as the construction began in the fall of 2014. The sisters put the push on Render to finish the job by the summer of 2015. “We wanted to make memories in the cottage with our father while he could still remember,” Megan says. Render came through and the family gathered in their new Spider Lake cottage by August. And yes, there were late-night games, canoe and kayak paddles and s’mores built and eaten over the fire—that summer and summers since. For this family, cottaging, the next chapter, continues.