Makeover in Muskegon

Pidge Inn owners transform vacant building into a boutique-style hotel
The boutique-style hotel (at center in the marina) features nautical accents and an industrial vibe as a nod to its location and the city’s heritage. // Photo by Tom Bonnette Photography

Nestled in Muskegon’s Harbour Towne neighborhood, between Lake Michigan and Muskegon Lake, The Pidge Inn combines beachy hues and marina views with special touches that celebrate the city’s history.

Owner Donelle Johnson grew up in Muskegon and rescued the vacant and deteriorating 1990s-era Harbour Towne Yacht Club building, transforming it into a boutique hotel with nine guest rooms that opened in late 2019.

The lodging options include king studios, lofts, and suites, with stocked kitchenettes and private patios or balconies overlooking Harbour Towne Marina. Furnishings feature king pillow-top mattresses, 50-inch TVs, Keurig coffeemakers, and lake life décor. Large suites with full kitchens and living rooms can accommodate families or extended stays.

Photos by Carolyn Carmel Studios

The renovations honored the original footprint of the building, which was intended to be a restaurant and bar that never happened. The lobby’s tower ceiling, with windows, shines natural light over what used to be a dance floor and reception room.

“The feel is meant to reflect the water, with nautical and industrial accents to represent Muskegon’s heritage,” Johnson says. “The blue walls blend in with the sky and water, the floors are grayish and look weathered to resemble old boat docks, and the lighting is a mixture of old nautical and industrial-looking fixtures.”

Glass tiles on the fireplaces, backsplashes, and shower niches feature an iridescent sheen. They were made by American Glass Mosaics from recycled automotive glass.

“That tile is my favorite part. I think it looks cool, and the fact that it’s local is neat,” Johnson says. “We were able to hand-pick the colors we wanted to match our design.”

Johnson also named each room — and furnished them accordingly — after a Muskegon landmark or famous figure. Buster’s Boathouse honors the famed silent film star Buster Keaton, whose family summered in nearby Bluffton in the early 1900s. The Pigeon Hill Loft and Passenger Pigeon Studio pay homage to the former Pigeon Hill sand dune and the passenger pigeons that used to nest there before their extinction.

“I realized I didn’t know much about the history of the area where I grew up,” Johnson says. “We had fun researching the history, and decided to dedicate the building to Muskegon’s diverse heritage.”

Loft rooms offer sleeping areas with a ship’s ladder and extra-long twin beds made to look like old wooden boats. After staying at the hotel, Illinois artist Gregg Barhke designed and painted the gold lettering on the back of the boats last spring.

The Pidge Inn blends the amenities of a small luxury hotel with the convenience of a vacation rental condo. “We want everyone to feel welcome, like they’re staying at a friend’s beach house,” Johnson says.

Guests can walk to Great Lakes beaches a few blocks away, launch their boat at the marina on Muskegon Lake, watch the boat traffic along the channel that flows into the big lake, or dine at popular waterfront restaurants such as Dockers Fish House and The Deck. The inn is also convenient to other restaurants and museums, as well as the Lakeshore Bike Trail, which connects to downtown Muskegon.

After a day of exploring, guests can enjoy the inn’s private and public spaces to relax, swim in the dockside pool or soak in the hot tub, or monitor the marina action. Early risers can catch the sunrise over Muskegon Lake, while those who prefer to sleep in can head to the beach for a Lake Michigan sunset. Guests have access to barbeque grills, picnic tables on a large outdoor patio, boat launch and trailer parking, and beach bikes for quick trips around the peninsula.

The Pidge Inn is the closest city hotel to Lake Michigan and a welcome addition to Muskegon’s lodging options. In 2020, it was voted Best Hotel in the Grand Haven Tribune’s People’s Choice Awards.


The Pidge Inn

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