Is there a greater honor than being asked to build a legacy home… for your own family?! Here’s what went into building this stunning family property on Mullett Lake between Cheboygan and Topinabee.

This article first appeared in Traverse Northern Michigan. Find this story and more when you explore our magazine library. Want Traverse delivered to your door or inbox monthly? View our print subscription and digital subscription options.

Jamie Wilkins had just moved his family from downstate to Traverse City, ready to go out on his own with his home-building company, Trillium Shore, when his parents asked him to build them a home on Mullett Lake, between the tiny town of Topinabee and the city of Cheboygan. The Wilkins family had vacationed on Mullett Lake since 1961 when Jamie’s grandparents retired there. Now it was his parents’ turn to retire to the lake.

While Jamie started out his career as a graphic designer, it didn’t take him long to realize he had building in his blood. His father had been a builder and Jamie sometimes accompanied him to look at jobs, which was always a learning experience. “I looked at building in all different stages and became familiar with the process,” Jamie says. His father, Kim, had a woodshop in the basement of the family home. “I built toys there; he built furniture pieces,” Jamie recalls.

“Dad was more left-brained and I am more right-brained,” Jamie says. “He really enjoyed polishing the numbers. I prefer the design and physical hands-on nature of construction. Had our paths been more in sync we would have complimented each other well.” While father and son never got to work together on a professional basis, Kim was always on hand to offer advice as Jamie was building the Mullett Lake home—a fond memory for Jamie as his father recently passed on.

Outside view of the home on Mullett Lake.

Photo by Jacqueline Southby

Fire place at home on Mullett Lake.

Photo by Jacqueline Southby

Living room at home on Mullett Lake.

Photo by Jacqueline Southby

The property the senior Wilkins purchased on Mullett Lake is a sweet, wooded parcel known as Liberty Point. The Wilkins wanted to honor the site with a homey, Up North design. The plan that their architect, Bloomfield Hills-based Ed Rinke, delivered is so charming that hikers, bikers and snowmobilers passing by often stop to say how much they like it. The core of the facade is clad completely in natural stone, while the rest is covered with cedar shingles painted a buttery cream shade. The adjoining garage is differentiated with a white board-and-batten siding—a look that makes it feel like an old-fashioned bunkhouse. Two tall, thin arched windows add to the home’s whimsical feel. “You could imagine that little elves live there,” Jamie’s mom, Mary Jean, says with a chuckle.

The back of the house is all about windows—a near wall of them that extends from the downstairs and garden level through the second floor. “The focal point of the home is the lake,” Mary Jean says of the 167 feet of frontage that is the family’s summer playground. Among the various watercrafts stored on the beach or bobbing in the water is a wooden boat that Jamie built.

Dining room at home on Mullett Lake.

Photo by Jacqueline Southby

Kitchen at home on Mullett Lake.

Photo by Jacqueline Southby

Patio area at home on Mullett Lake.

Photo by Jacqueline Southby

The home’s interior floor plan speaks to what the Wilkins wanted for their senior years: a home where they could age in place, as well as space generous enough for their entire family—their two children and spouses and their six grandchildren— could gather for Mullett Lake vacations. Those goals are accomplished with a ground-floor master suite and en suite guest room, three bedrooms and two bathrooms upstairs and a bunk room. “Everybody has their space, even the dogs,” Mary Jean says. When they aren’t on the beach—rainy days and evenings—the family congregates in the great room where a massive, floor-to-ceiling natural stone fireplace, handsome pine trim and built-ins (all fabricated by Jamie) and Mary Jean’s lovely traditional decor make the great room warm and inviting.

Working with just one friend who signed on to help, it took Jamie just over a year to build the home. The experience was invaluable for his growth as a builder. “It was my first full-on siding and trim job where I had a lot of control,” Jamie says. “I could really work through problems myself, not just do what someone was telling me,” he adds, citing building the coffered ceiling as an example. “Laying out where the lights go is never as straight-forward as it looks on the drawings.” Where the fireplace met the beams on the ceiling was another tricky spot that meant Jamie had to taper the width of the chimney to fit between the straight-angled beams.

Since building his parents’ home, Jamie has built Trillium Shore home by home (both new builds and renovations) into one of the most prestigious homebuilding companies in Northern Michigan. Jamie specializes in a boutique approach, building custom pieces for his clients (furniture, architectural components including corbels and brackets and even wooden boats) in his side business, Wilkins CraftWorks. As his parents might say, you can take the boy out of the woodshop, but you can’t take the woodshop out of the boy.

Windows on the home on Mullett Lake.

Photo by Jacqueline Southby

Mullett Lake Home Building Resources

Architect | Ed Rinke, Bloomfield Hills
Builder | Jamie Wilkins Trillium Shore
Plumbing | Werner Plumbing & Heating
Stone Masonry | Drake Masonry
Painting | Johnson’s Home Decorating Center

Front porch of home on Mullett Lake.

Photo by Jacqueline Southby

Related Read: Searching for more home inspiration? Visit our Northern Michigan Homes, Trends & Entertaining page.

Photo(s) by Jacqueline Southby