Ann and John Renucci say the third-floor playroom of their 1902 South Haven cottage was once filled with dollhouses and bean bag chairs belonging to their three daughters. But as the girls entered their teen years, it was obvious to the couple that a more age-appropriate space was necessary.
The just-under-5,000-square-foot cottage is a getaway dream for the family, who live in Grand Rapids. Situated right on Lake Michigan with access to the city’s beloved South Beach, the home boasts five bedrooms and five baths. “It’s a place that tends to collect a lot of people,” Ann Renucci says. “My kids always have friends there.”
When it came time to renovate, Ann reached out to longtime friend and interior designer Kathy Waite, of Grand Rapids-based Kathy Waite Design, to carve out a bunkroom ideal for sleepovers and a bathroom to accommodate its guests. “She has kids, and she realizes the wear and tear an active family has in a home,” Ann says. “You need to have someone who gets what you’re trying to accomplish — and not just the aesthetics, but also the functionality.”
With built-in shelving, a single bed on top, and a full mattress on the bottom, Waite’s custom bunks maximize the sleeping area. Rustic barn doors feature seeded glass, allowing light to shine in while still retaining privacy. Custom dressers provide storage, while nautical nickel sconces add lighting without the risk of tipping.
When designing the bathroom, “we had to be very strategic,” Waite says of this previously unfinished portion of the home. To anchor the long and narrow space, Waite chose a 5-foot, three-faucet Kohler sink painted in Benjamin Moore’s Stem Green, whose vibrant hue was inspired by the room’s Dash & Albert indoor/outdoor rug (chosen for its durability). “I didn’t want anything in there that could get damaged easily,” she says.
A built-in medicine cabinet flanks a 5-foot ledge placed above the sink for toiletries. A vanity was placed near the bathroom’s entrance (“it’s become quite handy when you have a whole bunch of young girls up there,” Ann says), and two built-in armoires feature adjustable shelving and space to hang clothing. The toilet, meanwhile, was tucked behind a pocket door. “We used every inch,” the designer says.
With their daughters now 19, 14, and 10, the space — which still includes a play area — has become the ultimate teen hangout. “(This update) was so necessary and has been so well used,” Ann says.
“It’s one of my favorite rooms I’ve designed,” Waite says. “Lots of kids, including my own, have hung out in there. When you get to the cottage and there are a bunch of kids, that room is like a magnet.”
DESIGN STAR’S SECRET
When it comes to working on cottages, function is key for Kathy Waite, of Grand Rapids-based Kathy Waite Design. “I like to make sure the home is functional in every way. And that’s not only with the furniture and the layout, but also in the fabrics that are used — they must withstand it being a vacation home,” she says. “I make sure the beautiful things that are put in the home will withstand a lot of entertaining and company, without the worry.”
LAKE LIFE LOWDOWN
“The energy you feel when you’re here is just so nice,” cottage owner Ann Renucci says of her historic South Haven cottage. When Ann and her husband, John, purchased the home in 2004, they fell in love with its location — not only is it on South Beach, but it’s within walking distance of the town and so many of the city’s other amenities. From the Kal-Haven and Van Buren Trails to the lighthouse and even the marina, where they dock their boat, “everything is just really accessible,” Ann says. “After dinner we’ll go into town for ice cream, and everybody just walks.”
By Giuseppa Nadrowski – Photography by Ashley Avila