For the Hultquist family, there is only one place on Earth to spend summers: their Holy Island cottage in Northern Michigan.

Some 16 years back, a friend of Jim Hultquist’s invited him to bring his family up from their home in Chicago to Holy Island for a visit. The friend, who had summered on the tiny island in Lake Charlevoix all of his life, was pretty sure the Hultquists would be taken with it. So, Jim and his wife, Debbie, loaded up their twins, then two years old, and their two older children and headed north. Just as their friend thought, the family fell in love with the Northern Michigan island.

Photo by Dave Speckman

Just a half-mile long and 250 feet wide, the forested island is connected by a short bridge to the mainland. One road, Greenleaf Avenue, runs the length of the island, flanked on both sides by cottages. The origin of the island’s name is as fascinating as the island is beautiful. In the 1850s, Mormons who were part of a renegade Mormon colony on Lake Michigan’s Beaver Island (off the Charlevoix coast), set up an altar on the island and performed baptisms and other religious ceremonies there. By the end of the 19th century, the Mormons had gone and Holy Island was beginning its new life as a laid-back cottaging community where a fishing boat and a dock were the most important amenities.

Many of those early summer residents were, and still are, related—so a culture of gathering together for potlucks and other informal summer dinners evolved. Eventually, it didn’t matter if you were related or not. If you had a cottage on Holy Island, you were family. The Hultquists immediately embraced this lifestyle and began renting a cottage on the island for longer and longer periods every summer. “We really felt accepted into the fabric of the community,” Debbie says.

About 10 years ago, Jim and Debbie thought it was time to purchase their own Up North home, but given that properties don’t go up for sale often on Holy Island, they figured they’d have to look elsewhere. But their kids would have none of it. “They told us it was Holy Island or nowhere,” Debbie says.

Photo by Dave Speckman

So the family continued renting another five years until they got a rare opportunity to make their dream come true. Their new lot had an old cabin on it, but it wasn’t salvageable, so they turned to the East Jordan-based mPn builders to design and build them a new cottage. Andy Poineau (the P in mPn), who has since retired and is a legend in regional building, is known for his fine woodworking and skill in designing homes that blend into the region’s historic vernacular.

Beyond asking for a design that fit with the island community, the Hultquists had only a few requests for their new home: It needed to have an open floor plan for entertaining those island-dinner guests; they wanted to maximize the lake view, including providing a sightline from the foyer, through the great room and out to the water. Beyond that, Debbie knew she wanted a steam oven—an appliance she has in her home in Chicago and swears by. Of course, the patio had to have room for a grill and their Big Green Egg smoker. “We cook a ton; there’s always something cooking at our house,” she says.

Photo by Dave Speckman

Poineau designed a sweet, shake-covered home with Craftsman touches, including mullioned windows and a variety of gables, that embodies the classic architecture of North American fishing villages. Inside, the home is filled with light that bounces off the honey-toned Australian cypress flooring and creamy walls and trim. The three-season room is also paneled in Australian cypress—a touch that ties the room in with its wooded setting.

Chris Miller (the M in mPn), the lead builder on the project, worked with Poineau to help the Hultquists through siting and permitting issues. Other signature touches of mPm include a stunning stairway banister that exhibits the company’s fine woodworking skills with its intricate, Craftsmanesque railing systems and built-in cabinetry—all made in the mPn woodworking shop. The custom driftwood-hued range hood and fireplace mantel that mirror each other from opposite ends of the great room were also made in the company’s woodshop.

Miller recalls that building on the tiny island required strategy. The crew, for instance, had to leave their trucks across the bridge on the mainland because there wasn’t room to park onsite. But overall, the build was a memorable experience. “It was so much fun,” he recalls. “It’s such a quiet little island, and the home just seems to fit with the surrounding landscape and architecture.”

Photo by Dave Speckman

Jana Phillips of Interiors Inc., based in Petoskey, assisted with the interior decor. “Working together with Debbie and the mPn building team on the Hultquists’ home was an exciting project,” she says. “The home’s interior is in harmony with and connects to nature, due to a combination of natural organic woods, finishes, stone countertops and a neutral canvas of colors and textures—with lake blues adding a punch of color!

“One of my favorite memories was a day we had a meeting scheduled at my studio to review color themes, fabrics and furniture ideas,” says Phillips. “In came the entire family, which meant that the kids were a part of the design process for their home. I was amazed by their input and we made a few good changes. It was a true family collaboration.”

The home was finished in January of 2019. A number of summer residents, including the friends who first introduced the Hultquists to Holy Island, made special trips North to help christen the newest home on Holy Island—with a crockpot-filled potluck.

Photo by Dave Speckman

Home Resources

mPn (Miller Poineau & Naumes)

Interior Designer
Jana Phillips, Petoskey, Interiors Inc.

Hinsdale Lighting, Hinsdale, Illinois

Miele, Abt, Chicago, Illinois

Photo(s) by Dave Speckman