The project consists of the extensive remodeling of a 1950s vacation cottage located a block away from Lake Michigan in the tiny hamlet of Harbert, Michigan, which is just north of the Michigan-Indiana border. Sitting on Cherry Beach Road, the dilapidated 1950s structure had been dubbed the Cherry Pit. Its roof was on the verge of collapse and portions of its foundation were sinking into the sandy soils. More than one contractor argued for its demolition. A structure’s physical condition often tells just one part of a home’s story. The client bought the house with a group of friends in 1974 as a weekend getaway. For almost 40 years it served as a social hub of the small vacation community; as long as the owner was around, the house stood no chance of being torn down.
Changes to the plan of the house were limited; the kitchen was moved to a more central location and the former kitchen and a series of back rooms were reworked into a master suite. The square footage grew by less than ten percent. The roof structure was completely rebuilt, which had a dramatic impact. Outside, the higher roof profile and metal roofing give the house a gravity it never had. The roof and selected walls are clad in standing seam Galvalume chosen for its unique combination of utility and refinement. The white stucco and distinct red windows, original to the house, are seen again in modern materials. Inside, stock builder’s trusses were left exposed and painted white. Clerestory windows draw light in and pull hot air up and out of the house in the summertime. A catwalk floored in open metal grating overlooks the living, kitchen, and dining areas.
The furnishings are a combination of finds the client has collected throughout the years combined with a handful of key new pieces. The furniture reflects the restrained simplicity of the home’s architecture while also providing a sense of ease and comfort apropos of a vacation home. A ten-foot-long weathered worktable salvaged from a nearby historic inn anchors the dining room. It is contrasted with a suite of crisp white Eames chairs and an heirloom Arts and Crafts sideboard. The large screened porch serves as the de facto living room in warm months and features a mix of new and old pieces including modern interpretations of classic Adirondack chairs. The white oak for the kitchen cabinetry was harvested within the county; the cabinetmaker can be found two miles down the road. In a corner of the master bedroom, a low-slung sleek lounge chair offers a view out to the woods. Within sight is a fairly ugly rusted-out garden shed in the same white and crimson as the house. It stands — at least until it collapses — as a reminder of the home’s last chapter. Finally, the renovated house finds itself on par with all of its embodied memories. At the same time it provides a fresh, bright context for new memories to be made.