Meghan Warner Baker was ahead of her time when she purchased a 1960s ski chalet in Northern Michigan and let it be its retro self. Fifteen years later, it’s cooler than ever.
Featured in the February/March 2021 issue of Northern Home & Cottage.
The barn roof-style chalet was closed up tight for the winter when Meghan Warner Baker saw it for the first time in 2005. She was in her early 20s then and ready to purchase her first home. Trudging around the chalet, set into a slope within sight of Boyne Highlands and a short walk (or ski if there’s enough snow) from Nub’s Nob Ski Area, Meghan knew she had to have it. She loved the way the tree that grew through a cutout in the above-grade-level deck made the place feel like a treehouse. And Meghan could barely draw herself away from windows that rose 30 feet from the main level to frame a postcard view of Boyne Highlands. “I knew that I wanted it even before I went inside,” she says. “You know how it is when you get that feeling.”
And Meghan hadn’t even seen the original black leather-upholstered bar in the downstairs rec room yet, or the swinging basket chair, or what she calls the Darth Vader black-metal fireplace …
The chalet was built during skiing’s glamorous years of the 1960s—the decade of Jean-Claude Killy, fiberglass, K2, releasable bindings, great sweaters and slinky stretch pants. Along with all of that, a proliferation of small alpine-style chalets popped up across the nation’s ski country. Generally A-framed (so snow slides off the roof), with open living areas often joined to galley kitchens by a breakfast bar, they were tailored for easy-in, easy- out ski weekends.
The vintage look fit Meghan’s sense of style perfectly. She saw the possibilities in this hipped-roof variation of the quintessential ski chalet. “It had great bones,” she says. While it had always been used as a vacation home, Meghan intended to live in the chalet year-round. It has, after all, three bedrooms, a finished basement (home to that leather bar), and the incredible deck that acts as another living space nearly three seasons a year—not to mention its easy access to everything she loves about Northern Michigan, from ski slopes to bike trails to beaches.
So, Meghan bought it—and changed, well, relatively little. She did switch out the “gross” rental carpet for dark-stained bamboo floors, painted the kitchen cabinets espresso chocolate brown and updated the appliances. But stylish intuition told her to leave most of the beams that great 1960s avocado green. Meghan went on to outfit the home with family pieces and vintage finds from thrift shops and eBay. “It’s not a normal house; you always feel like you’re on vacation,” Meghan says.
Fast-forward 15 years. Meghan is still in love with her vintage condo. Nowadays however, after living in it for many years, she rents it out to folks who love it as much as she does—for its proximity to Nubs Nob and Boyne Highlands, and for its vintage style. Several years ago, Meghan turned her love of collecting into an Etsy business she calls Great Lakes Modern, and she uses the condo to exhibit (and sell) her collectibles. “The chalet is totally decked out and I switch out items all the time,” she says.
A sampler of Meghan’s latest finds for the chalet includes a 1970s wall-mounted starburst, a ‘60s-era bamboo screen and what she calls her dream score: a 1970s coffee table that sports two copper ibex heads. There’s also her gallery wall filled with vintage paintings that she changes up constantly …
If you’re grooving over this combination ski chalet/mid-century modern gallery and want to stay there, Meghan says to book early. Her condo has blown up on social media (@greatlakesmodern) and fills up fast. Find the chalet rental on VRBO.
Find this and more articles celebrating Northern Michigan homes and cottages in the free, digital edition of February/March 2021 Northern Home & Cottage below; or get the printed NHC for free, six times a year when you subscribe to Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine, delivered to your door each month.