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After decades of spending their summers on Portage Lake, the May family knew they wanted to spend their retirement here too. Together with local builders and architects, they created their Northern Michigan dream home from scratch. Learn more about the entire process and view the finished serene and modern farmhouse in Onekama.

Lucky for Doug and Michelle May, Doug’s parents discovered Onekama in the 1980s. Pronounced Oh-nek-ama and known as the “two-lake town” for its frontage on both Portage Lake and Lake Michigan (connected to each other by a channel), Onekama is as picturesque as it is peaceful. Doug’s parents bought and renovated a retirement home on Portage Lake—a beloved place where Doug, Michelle and their children spent many idyllic summers.

Fast-forward three decades. Michelle and Doug were making plans to retire and there was no question Portage Lake would be the place. So, when a lot four doors down from the family home went up for sale, Doug and Michelle decided to build their dream home from scratch.

For the design, the couple connected with Doug Leahy of GETA Design in Birmingham, Michigan. “We shared our version of a modern farmhouse with him and we felt like he understood our vision and made it a reality,” Doug May says of Leahy. On the May’s wish list was a clutter-free, clean-lined home that, as Michelle says, lets the lake view “do the talking.” Within that vision, they imagined a color palette of muted gray tones, minimal trim and molding and “hardwood and tile throughout,” she adds.

The Mays patterned the idea of having a special place to gather and chat (especially with their children) after Starbucks comfortable coffeehouse concept.

Knowing they were looking for a builder, Doug’s brother introduced them to a family acquaintance, Joel Peterson, owner of J. Peterson Homes. Widely regarded as one of the finest builders on the west side of the state, Peterson traveled to the Mays’ home in Midland to meet with them. The couple hired him and are glad they did, noting how pleasant working with Joel was throughout the process.

The Mays also worked with Missy Walters, owner of Studio M Interiors of Grand Rapids, for the interior colors and finishes, including finding just the right stains for the handsome beams and maple cabinetry, and choosing the kitchen and bathroom tile. TruKitchens, also in Grand Rapids, helped with the kitchen design, which includes twin islands (one for prep, the other for entertaining) topped in double-thick quartz. A built-in footrest for people seated at the counter is a small touch that the Mays say makes the counter-seating much more comfortable. The custom steel hood over the Wolf range, in addition to the steel staircase and the great room and master bedroom fireplaces, all bring industrial elements to the home.

The finished home is everything the Mays wanted and more. Among their favorite features are a paneled (and hidden) door, tucked between the paneled refrigerator and freezer, that leads to a pantry and then to the back hallway—making unloading groceries a breeze. They also love their three-season porch that has powered-nano screens for warm, buggy days, and powered-vinyl walls and ceiling heaters for chilly days. The stunning glass wine room, set between the kitchen and the dining room, is another head-turner. The room is mostly outfitted with their wine-finds from the many trips to Napa they’ve taken with good friends.

There’s another spot in this home, however, that is equally important to this family. The enclave is created by four club chairs clustered around a small table tucked in a corner of the great room. The Mays patterned the idea of having a special place to gather and chat (especially with their children) after Starbucks’ comfortable coffeehouse concept. A friend who is a graphic artist even created a “Maybucks” poster (a takeoff on the Starbucks logo) that now hangs near the enclave. “Some of the greatest conversations have happened in these four chairs over a nice coffee or a great bottle of wine,” Doug says.

Onekama & Portage Lake Farmhouse Building Resources

Builder | J. Peterson Homes
Architect | GETA Design
Interiors | Studio M Interiors
Kitchen Design | TruKitchens
Steel Fabricating | Steel Systems, Inc.
Poured Walls | K-Wall
Lighting | Kendall Lighting Center
Lumber | Standard Lumber
Windows | Marvin Windows & Doors
Building Materials | Eikenhout, Inc.
Electric | Voltage Electric
Flooring | Rivershores Hardwood Flooring & Cabinetry Company
Landscaping | TruNorth Landscaping

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