Family togetherness can often be more a dream than a reality for some couples with both kids and busy careers. Yet one North Shore couple with three young children came up with a plan to beat their challenging schedules and increase face time with family and friends. “We decided to build a second home that would be a draw for our friends and our kids’ friends,” explains the husband. “That way, everyone could hang out together.” With this goal in mind, they chose Michigan’s Harbor Country for its proximity and mood. “It’s the closest place to feel far enough away from Chicago,” he adds. “Plus it’s low-key and casual.”
Finding the perfect piece of land to execute their goals took a three-year search, but they scored a lakeside lot a mere hour’s drive from their main home. It also had a heavily wooded roadside, which was key for privacy. “You can’t see the house from the road, or vice versa,” points out architect Jim Fraerman, who designed the home to the couple’s exact requirements. “They asked for a Shingle style with a time-honored East Coast sensibility, but a contemporary interior. It had to be open, airy and flooded with light.”
Views that played to the lake, picturesque bay windows, intimate gathering areas and an infinity pool were also on the owners’ checklist, which required savoir faire to execute. Fraerman devised a floor plan that gave every space, save two—a family game room and a guest room—stunning sightlines of the water, thoughtful, exquisitely wrought design features and astutely chosen materials to bring architectural significance to every area.
Monumental back-to-back fireplaces edged with floor-to-ceiling windows anchor adjacent living areas, one inside and the other overlooking the pool and lake outside, while flourishes that range from a coffered ceiling to twin bay windows define these two spaces. In other rooms, extensive treatments accomplish the same task and include rounded bays, cathedral ceilings sheathed with tongue-and-groove planks, and strategically deployed crown moldings that skim and define windows, walls and doors.
“Craftsmanship and engineering expertise were key” to realizing the intricately detailed plans, notes builder Jon Kogan. “We had to bring in most of the trades and finish contractors from the North Shore because experience was critical, especially for the geothermal HVAC systems and the infinity pool.” The soil was so sandy that the latter required helical piers for structural support, he explains.
To tie the soaring structure to the site and maximize the backdrop, “we kept the hardscape crisp and clean, and plastered the inside of the pool the same hue as the lake,” says landscape architect Ryan Kettelkamp, who worked alongside wife and fellow landscape architect Claire Kettelkamp.
Of course, no house can be a family-friendly home without warm and welcoming furnishings, so the couple hired designers James Dolenc and Thomas Riker to give the technically perfect structure a blend of traditional charm and modern utility. The couple told the team they wanted everything to be kid-proof and also relate to the exterior and the lake. “This is an architecturally sophisticated structure that needed a program commensurate with its beauty and rigor, but be casual and cottagey at the same time,” Dolenc explains.
“We showed them whitewashed reclaimed oak floors, which are loaded with character and depth,” says Riker. “They became the inspiration for the whole palette.” Using the flooring to lay the groundwork, “we kept the envelope very light and punched it up with texture, restrained patterns, sumptuous trims and, most importantly, bold, character-rich lighting,” says Dolenc. And yes, every single fabric, surface and piece of furniture is cleanable, comfortable and durable to fulfill the couple’s kid-proof caveat.
Today, the couple couldn’t be more pleased with the results. The whole family goes to Michigan every weekend and stays for the entire summer, and the house is constantly filled with family and friends. “They got it spot-on,” says the husband. “Everything about the place exceeded my expectations.”