Interior designer Gemma Parker of Gemma Parker Design was tasked with moving a Harbor Springs home from a more traditional style to a more transitional style. Find out how she built the design based on the fresh, timeless allure of blue and white.

Featured in the April 2021 issue of Northern Home & Cottage.

Gemma Parker has lived in places as varied and far-flung as Hong Kong, Switzerland, London and Michigan. Nowadays, she and her husband and their two children make their home in Chicago. After working for a high-end design firm in the Windy City for eight years as their director of interior design, Gemma branched out on her own. She describes her business, Gemma Parker Design, as a boutique firm—small enough so that she stays personally involved in all of the creative decisions and each project that the firm takes on.

Gemma’s family enjoys summers at their home on Walloon Lake in Petoskey—her familiarity with Up North has naturally opened the way for her to garner clients in the area. One such client recently asked Gemma to rejuvenate their Harbor Springs lake home, designed by renowned Northern Michigan architect Nick White. The home was originally built by Jeff Ford of Evening Star Joinery, and Gemma feels fortunate that Jeff and his crew were able to work on the renovation/refresh with her. “His attention to detail and his execution of projects is fabulous,” she says.

Here, Gemma walks us through her thoughts on the timeless refresh of this beautiful Harbor Springs home.

The home has great bones, but the client wanted a complete refresh of the interiors when they purchased it. This beautiful property sits right on Lake Michigan with panoramic views within walking distance of downtown Harbor Springs. With a fairly constant stream of summer visitors, the clients need plenty of room for their family. The goal of the recreation room, shown here, was to create a space for the family to gather, play games at the custom game table, shuffleboard (behind the sofa) and watch movies as a larger group.

Whenever we start a project, we look at it holistically from the architecture to the exterior landscape. In this case, we developed the color palette to connect the interiors to the stunning lake views outside the window. Blue and white is always a timeless, serene and inviting color palette.

It is hard to pick a favorite in such a large house, but we just adore the living room space, shown in this photo. We focused a great deal on alignments and creating cohesion, here and throughout the house. For instance, in the living room, the coffee table was designed to align with the lines of the custom designed rug, which aligned with the center line of the fireplace, etc. This type of detail creates a harmonious effect.

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We wanted to make the home luminous, serene and relaxing. With that in mind, we refreshed the kitchen with new lighting and window treatments. 

The billiards room was originally paneled with dark wood. Painting the wood White Dove by Benjamin Moore made the room flow cohesively with the rest of the light-filled home. The gorgeous photographs of Lake Michigan by photographer Lincoln Schatz are a visual trick to bring the lake view into this windowless room.

It was important to capture the spirit of lake living in an under-stated way. Thus, we focused on a refined use of materials along with a sophisticated color palette and layering of textures. In this handsomely appointed sitting room, we deepened the tones of the house colors and made it a cozy nook for reading or watching television. The furniture is custom by Gemma Parker Design.

The guest room is an oasis of soft, watery tones, luxurious linens and custom furniture. The refresh of the bathroom added more drama to the space by playing with depth of color using Steep Cliff Gray by Benjamin Moore.

Home Resources

Architecture | Nick White, White & Liebler, Architects,
Interiors | Gemma Parker Design,
Builder/Carpentry/Cabinetry | Evening Star Joinery,
Millwork | Thomas & Milliken Millwork, Inc.,
Landscape Architect | Common Ground Landscapes,
Countertops | Capital Granite,
Flooring | Chattaway Hardwood Flooring & Millworks,
Plumbing | Ballard’s Plumbing and Heating,
Electrical | Squier Electric, 231.526.6223
Painting | Phillips Painting, 231.347.3136
Books (throughout the home) | McLean & Eakin Booksellers,

Find this and more Northern Home & Cottage articles in the April 2021 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine; or subscribe and get Traverse delivered to your door each month.