Sunny Side Up

A husband/wife design team builds their own cheerful-looking yellow dollhouse-style home on Strawberry Lake // Photos by Brad Ziegler
The Halletts’ Strawberry Lake home is inviting, both indoors and out.

Todd and Katie Hallett don’t have to bend down when entering their home, even though it’s kind of like a dollhouse. The couple built the charming abode, which is situated on Pinkney’s Strawberry Lake — part of a chain of lakes that flow from the Huron River — about seven years ago, when they were ready to downsize. “The existing home was out of shape. We took that down and designed ours,” says Todd, who runs TK Home Design in South Lyon.

Todd and Katie, vice president of the architecture and design firm, were set on “making it look like a dollhouse,” recalls Todd, an architect who learned the trade at Lawrence Technological University. “It was on a narrow lot, like 50 feet wide. We over-scaled it and worked fun colors and whimsy into it. We wanted it to be a place where family would want to come; something comfortable and casual.”

Katie Hallett

The empty-nesters lived in Howell before building their dream cottage-style home, which appears to have been dipped into a vat of yellow sunshine (Sherwin-Williams’ Optimistic Yellow). “Yellow was the color of the house I grew up in in Davisburg,” Todd says. “I guess that’s why we wanted yellow. I always loved that home, and yellow is such a happy color. And it fits the dollhouse theme, for sure!” An elliptical window, latticework, pretty stonework, and that warm yellow color all contribute to the home’s charm.

“I love the color we selected for the outside,” Katie shares. “I believe the bright, brilliant color lends itself to the style, which has extra-large, exaggerated trim and exterior details.”


Strawberry Lake is a great all-sports lake. It’s great for swimming, fishing, paddleboarding, kayaking, and boating. The best thing about it is that the Huron River runs through it, so you can get to seven other lakes by boat along the river. The boat ride along the river is beautiful; you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature.
— Katie Hallett

Todd says building on a narrow lot has its challenges. “You have to figure out which rooms are view-seeking, and then think about how to arrange them. On a narrow lot, it’s difficult to decide which rooms will face the water. But once you do that, you floor-plan around it.”

Todd Hallett

His other challenge was that the soil on his flat lot wasn’t ideal. “You dig a shovel into our backyard, you hit water,” he explains. “The team had to install 41 piers that extend 85 feet deep or until they meet a certain resistance; it’s like our house is on stilts. That whole process has to be done efficiently, because piers are very expensive.” What’s the solution? “Hire a good engineer!” he says.

Collaborating with engineers is something Todd’s used to. “I like the collaborative part of being an architect,” he says, affirming that he enjoys working with clients and tradespeople, and putting together a vision. “We do a lot of work all over the country,  from apartments to massive estates.” Todd and Katie, who say their business is active in “15 to 20 states,” oversaw the home’s interior design. “We see a lot and we travel a lot, so we pick up different elements from different areas.”

Come warm weather, the outdoor living area, which is screened in, is embraced by the couple. Attached to another outdoor living area that has a pergola, the spaces are like outdoor rooms, Todd explains. “The screened-in area (that looks out to water) has a collapsible glass door. It opens up so the space integrates with the kitchen and dining area.” The master suite and a fitness space also look out to water.

Todd’s favorite areas are the kitchen, dining room, and outdoor living spaces; he loves how they all flow from one space to the next. “It’s where we spend our time,” says the architect, who credits his father for inspiring him to choose architecture as a career. “My dad was an excavator and he’d take me with him. I’d ride in the bulldozer, and loved the idea of building stuff.”

Katie agrees with Todd. “My favorite spot is our screened-in porch, especially in warm weather, when it’s opened to the dining area and kitchen. It’s my favorite place to relax, read a book, and enjoy the breeze from the lake, and it’s also my favorite place to gather with friends on a warm night and enjoy a few cocktails.”


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