A brilliant design-and-build team works with homeowners dedicated to preserving the character of their Northwoods lakeside property in Grand Traverse County to create a subtle masterpiece of rustic style.

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When a well-traveled couple with Michigan and Midwestern roots purchased a piece of property in the Grand Traverse area on a lake encircled by woods, fed by clear spring water and teeming with panfish, the last thing they wanted to do was desecrate its pristine shoreline. Even if that meant not disturbing so much as a single tree. To that mission’s end, the plan became to take down six small summer cabins—some that dated to the 1950s—and place the new home on the long-ago cleared site. A seventh cabin would be saved and turned into a bunkhouse.

Though the majority of cabins would be removed, the couple was determined to preserve their hand-hewn, mid-century spirit. The layout of the home itself is a tribute to the old cabins. “We took inspiration from the history of the property,” says architect Matt Rossetti, explaining that the home is laid out as four separate buildings (cabins, if you will), connected by breezeways. Breaking up the structure’s mass allows it to be better camouflaged in the shoreline landscape.

The decision to look to the past informed every detail of this meticulously designed home from its walls of natural stone that echo the old cabins’ stone foundations, to the rough-sawn barn wood used to clad the great room’s ceiling, to old-fashioned screen doors that bang shut. Reclaimed wood was used wherever possible—barn wood from Wisconsin and North Carolina was integrated into the great room and bedrooms, old clapboard from some of the old cabins was cleaned and now graces the ceilings of several bedrooms. When a salvaged curly maple floor from a sewing warehouse in the South was delivered to the site, thousands of pins and needles rolled out.

Dog sitting in living area

Photo by Old Mission Windows & Kolbe Windows and Doors

A refurbished copper light is mounted into the entry ceiling, and an upcycled vase-turned-lamp with a jute shade sits on an antique table from Europe. The exterior stone wall moves seamlessly into the interior to give the appearance of two cabins being joined together years after they were constructed.

From blueprint to stone and wood, it took intense collaboration with the team and homeowners to turn back time 75 years. Along with Rossetti, the architectural team included design consultants Holly Jonsson and Kyle Evans, all based in Detroit. Southern California–based interior designer, Amy Meier, who had worked with the homeowners previously, was integral to the design process, sourcing numerous vintage mid-century pieces that date to the era of the old cabins.

Eric Darooge and his Boyne City–based Eastmark Construction took the project over the finish line. Even though the experienced crew has numerous luxury homes to its credit, this one was especially memorable. “This project made all of us work a little bit out of our comfort zones because it didn’t fall into typical residential home construction norms,” Darooge says. “And I can say from everyone involved, from start to finish, we are very proud of the outcome.”

When Darooge made Eastmark’s skilled carpenter Mark Andres the project manager, it was as if the stars aligned and those old cabins were having their say: Andres continues to care for the property—and the home that honors the spirit of honest, timeless construction.

Modern kitchen

Photo by Old Mission Windows & Kolbe Windows and Doors

The French Lacanche stove backed by a thick “blue stone” tile (actually meant for flooring) backsplash is the centerpiece of the kitchen. Knotty, rough-sawn white-oak cabinetry conceals all of the appliances except the wine refrigerator. “Everyone these days is so used to putting on polyurethane and different waxes,” says Meier. “My client wanted them to be durable but look like natural wood.” The barstools are from Bicyclette.

Seating area surrounded by windows

Photo by Old Mission Windows & Kolbe Windows and Doors

“We spent a lot of effort to get the glass to wrap around the corner,” says Meier of this lakeside nook in the great room. The chairs are mid-century by Italian designer Paolo Buffa. The Shaker-style chaise was made by Mulligan’s in Los Angeles. The two tables are mid-century from England. “They’re highly lacquered so they look like they are from a boat. I love that parallel of being on the lake and having pieces that feel nautical,” Meier says. 

Comfortable living room

Photo by Old Mission Windows & Kolbe Windows and Doors

“The owners wanted the home to be super comfortable and approachable,” interior designer Amy Meier says. The great room’s ceiling cladding of rough-sawn, lesser-grade pine adds to the relaxed cabin ambiance. The floor is reclaimed white oak as is the mantel—sourced from Surfaces in Petoskey. The dining room table is also fabricated reclaimed wood and purposely made not to look perfect—note the splintered leg in the forefront. The pendant over the table is one of the few new lights in the home. The rest are old, but have been refurbished and rewired.

Bedroom in cabin

Photo by Old Mission Windows & Kolbe Windows and Doors

Exposed furring and beams in the guest bedroom give the impression of an uninsulated summer cottage. The floor, as was much of the reclaimed material in the home, was sourced from Surfaces in Petoskey. “It’s called a threshing floor,” says Darooge. “It’s from the part of the barn floor between the barn doors that gets the most traffic so it takes on a significantly distressed look.”

 

The guest room has traditional 9-by-11-inch mullions in the windows—panes that frame the view of the lake like individual charming paintings. “I think many people think mullions obstruct the view,” Meier says. “But [the homeowner and I] wanted them to give the feel of an old cabin.”

 

The heirloom-quality walnut, pencil-stick canopy bed was custom made by Dunes and Duchess in New Milford, Connecticut. The skirted sofa is new but made to look mid-century.

Mudroom

Photo by Old Mission Windows & Kolbe Windows and Doors

A reclaimed brick floor and a cement sink in the mudroom are both vintage and utilitarian. Note the copper water pipes coming down from the ceiling—as though the room were plumbed as an afterthought.

Exterior of the cabin

Photo by Old Mission Windows & Kolbe Windows and Doors

The “cabins” from left to right: the mudroom and screened-in porch; the main living area with the kitchen and great room above and the den/bar (Rossetti refers to it as a kind of grotto) below; the master bedroom; the guest bedroom. A green roof was chosen to mimic the moss-covered asphalt roofs of the old cabins. Siding varies from the board-and-batten on the main cabin to cedar shake on each end cabin, “giving them their own character,” Rossetti says. The windows are also different in each cabin, a touch that makes them look as though they were built in different time periods. The use of the black windows in the breezeways connecting the cabins was to “make them disappear,” Rossetti adds.

Northwoods Lakeside Building Resources

Architect | ROSSETTI
Builder | Eastmark Construction
Interior Design | Amy Meier Design
Design Consultants | Kyle Evans Design and Holly Jonsson Design
Windows | Old Mission Windows and Kolbe Windows and Doors
Stone | The Concrete Service
Hardwood Flooring | Surfaces Material Gallery
Cabinetry | Wolverine Cabinet Co.
Custom Molding & Millwork | Phillip Elenbaas Fine Millwork and Thomas & Milliken Millwork
Vintage Lighting Refurbishing | Grey Wolf Creek
Ceramic Tile | Creative Touch
Fireplace | Source Julien
HVAC/Plumbing | Team Bob’s
Appliances | Bekins
Landscaping | Robinson’s Landscaping
Audio/Video | A Better Sound
Roofing | Mills Construction
Site Survey | Bob Mitchell & Associates
Site Work | Molon Excavating
Well | Cluff Well Drilling

Living area

Photo by Old Mission Windows & Kolbe Windows and Doors

Photo(s) by Old Mission Windows & Kolbe Windows and Doors