Known locally as the birdhouses, this downtown Marquette condo received an update from a young design and build team. From rich, tropical-style wallpaper to perfecting the wood stain, you’re not going to want to miss this stunning Northern Michigan home renovation.

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Marquette’s Harbor Ridge Townhouses are a row of three-story, narrow condominiums perched above the city’s busy Lower Harbor on Lake Superior. Built in the late 1990s, the homes, known locally as the Birdhouses, have presided over Marquette’s metamorphosis as an industrial port to a hip and vibrant city. From the Birdhouses, it’s just a short walk to the popular Ore Dock Brewing Company; to Lower Harbor Park, a site that buzzes with waterside events; and to the wealth of pubs, eateries and boutiques that fill the historic downtown.

Given their setting, the condos are the perfect stage to showcase the fresh style of interior designer Allison Harlow, who owns Curio Design Studio with her husband, contractor Ryan Nie. Nie, from Canada, is new to Marquette. But for Harlow, the move to Marquette was a re-root: she grew up in the city (founded by her great-great-great-grandfather, Amos Harlow, in 1849), but left at age 17 to travel the world.

One of the couple’s first projects after establishing Curio Design Studio in Marquette was a powder room makeover in one of the Birdhouse condos. “The condo had a super mid-century feel with a lot of black and white,” Harlow says. In the powder room redo, Harlow brought in the black and white theme using 1960s-style geometric wallpaper.

Bathroom sink and wallpaper in a Downtown Marquette condo

Photo by Sabrina Leigh

Shower in a Downtown Marquette condo

Photo by Sabrina Leigh

Related Read: Searching for more home renovation tips, stories or ideas? Visit our Northern Michigan Homes page.

Not long after they had finished the powder room, the couple received an inquiry about a total condo renovation at the same address. As it turned out, the condo had recently sold and the new owner wanted a completely new look. “He wanted it to have a masculine take on the lake cottage aesthetic,” Harlow says. That said, he thought the powder room they’d just finished for their former client could fit perfectly in the redo.

Allison worked with her new client to develop his concept using blue tones to reflect the moods of Lake Superior, and an abundance of texture, warm wood, black metal and leather. The finished project manifests the theme with pale bluish-gray kitchen cabinetry that evokes the days when the lake pouts and a marine blue island when it shines. The island’s walnut countertop, floating shelves made from walnut, and walnut tops on the stairwell’s half-walls, offer organic masculine accents. Another special touch: Harlow and Nie designed the walnut shelf over the sink with slats for use as a drying rack for bar glassware and other fragile pieces. Black metal pendants and the staircase banister give nods to the black geometric wallpaper in the original redo of the powder room.

Dining room in a Downtown Marquette condo

Photo by Sabrina Leigh

Living roomin a Downtown Marquette condo

Photo by Sabrina Leigh

A cinnamon-colored leather sofa and a rich blue-gray statement wall (Sherwin-Williams Foggy Gray) add drama to the living area. Nie customized a new entertainment center by replacing the cabinet faces with a brushed nickel mesh inlay. The wall behind the entertainment center is papered in a Phillip Jeffries mural called “Waves Fade”—a literal nod to the Lake Superior surf outside the windows. Wide-plank white oak flooring with a custom weathered oak/country stain pulls it all together. “The flooring guy almost murdered me,” Harlow laughs, recounting how many times she requested he mix the stain until she and the homeowner felt it was just right.

Harlow and Nie customized the boring builder-grade shower by ripping out the fiberglass surround, raising the shower ceiling and building an arched doorway for it. Dark indigo subway tiles are a handsome finish. “When you walk into the bathroom, the shower pops out and creates this architectural shape,” Harlow says.

In the condo’s second powder room, Harlow and the homeowner threw caution to the wind with a rich, tropical-style wallpaper embossed with bright pomegranate trees. Look carefully and you’ll find monkeys in the trees. It is a lively, distinctive touch that carries you away on this Lake Superior sea to ports unknown—come to think of it, a bit like Harlow’s own journey from Marquette, to her world travels and back home again.

Bedroom in a Downtown Marquette condo

Photo by Sabrina Leigh

Bathroom sink in a Downtown Marquette condo

Photo by Sabrina Leigh

Birdhouse Condo in Marquette Building Resources

Contractor | Ryan Nie, Curio Design Studio
Interior Design | Allison Harlow, Curio Design Studio
Kitchen Elements | Schwalbach Kitchens

Kitchen in a Downtown Marquette condo

Photo by Sabrina Leigh

Photo(s) by Sabrina Leigh