The View

Celebrated architect Lou DesRosiers designed his Leland-area home to showcase a splendid panoramic vista // Photography by Glen Rauth and James Haefner
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A spectacular view awaits friends and family during mealtime at the DesRosiers home.

Decades ago, award-winning architect Lou DesRosiers and his wife, JoJo, would take their sons, Glenn and Paul, on family getaways to northwest Michigan’s Homestead resort in Glen Arbor. “We loved it,” DesRosiers recalls. Located on Lake Michigan, the beachfront resort’s surroundings launched the couple into a search for property for a second home in the region. “I wanted the best parts — sunsets, undulating shoreline, and islands,” DesRosiers says.

After looking on and off for about 20 years, “from Mackinac to Saugatuck,” the busy designer finally found his paradise — a heavenly slice of Leelanau Peninsula on Good Harbor Bay that looks out to both the South and North Manitou islands. They’re “the last islands you see before hitting Chicago,” DesRosiers says.

Lou and JoJo DesRosiers’ Leland-area home features gorgeous views from every room, including the kitchen and
dining area.

Besides the islands, he also can see The Whaleback, Pyramid Point, the famous Crib lighthouse (eight miles offshore from Leland), and the South Manitou Island Lighthouse. The Whaleback is one of Leelanau County’s more famous geographical landmarks; the point juts into Lake Michigan just south of Leland and forms the north point of Good Harbor Bay.

“We sited the house so we could capture the best in sunsets,” DesRosiers says. He placed a stake in the center of the lot on the lake side. Then using a long string, he sited the house off that stake and placed the stake farther back on the property. Next, he laid the house out off the string line. “I had placed the great room view precisely due west,” DesRosiers says.

The kitchen cabinetry has simple lines and plenty of room for the couple’s decorative accents.

The Bloomfield Hills-based architect, who has worked on residences throughout the United States, as well as in Canada and Pakistan, says he’s happiest when he’s home, especially at his treasured peninsula getaway. “I love, love, love to talk about our Great Lakes and how unique and fantastic they are,” he enthuses. “Did you know you can see Michigan from outer space?”

Five years ago, the couple put the finishing touches on the home, including lower-level upgrades and finishes, custom mahogany shelving in the main level, and a powder room that features gorgeous onyx counters.

Laundry room

Given the lovely water views from every room, the couple kept the interiors simple, so as not to detract from Mother Nature’s always-changing masterpiece theater.

All of the interiors were designed by DesRosiers and his wife. For the kitchen, they chose Ontario-based Downsview Kitchens cabinetry, which provides a clean and contemporary feel. Nearby, two iconic Barcelona chairs that were purchased in 1968 seem to say Come, sit here and watch magic through these windows.

Lou and JoJo DesRosiers enjoy sitting in these Barcelona chairs and listening to the waves.

Additional contemporary accents include Parsons tables, a Platner table, an A. Rudin sofa, lounge chairs, and a handsome 10-foot-long dining table desgined and crafted by Vogue Furniture of Royal Oak. The table was made from African rosewood doors that were in DesRosiers’ Bloomfield Hills office. “There were 9-foot doorwalls from the 1960s there, as that building was owned by Knoll, the furniture company, at one time,” DesRosiers says. “We made furniture out of that wood.”

Complementing the contemporary furnishings are intriguing materials such as Indiana limestone, which was used for the mantel and exterior masonry wall caps, for example, and Brazilian slate and sapele mahogany, which were selected for the flooring.

Pieces by favorite artists adorn the great room. Custom mahogany shelving is perfect for displaying special items.

As for artistic adornments, one of the couple’s favorite artists is Frank Gallo, who lived in the Chicago area and attended Cranbrook Academy of Art. Sounding just like an architect, DesRosiers says of Gallo’s pieces, “We like that they’re dimensional and sculptural, but on a flat plane.” Gallo’s works can be found throughout the home, from the powder room to the great room. Other treasures include handmade sculptures and ceramics made by local artist Benjamin Maier, whose gallery is in Leland.

In the powder room, an onyx sink, an integral part of the entire glowing vanity, features a sensory spout from Italy. It projects out from the mirrored wall behind the vanity. You don’t see a sink drain, as it’s a hidden slot. “A sink is a basin. It doesn’t have to be sophisticated,” DesRosiers says. The water just disappears.”

An onyx sink in the powder room is an integral part of the glowing vanity.

They say design is in the details, and that’s evident at the DesRosiers’ retreat. Take, for example, the pivot doors, which rotate vertically with aligned hinges fixated on the top and bottom, and make larger door entrances feasible.

“My front door is a 5-foot by 10-foot pivot door; there’s no threshold. It’s flush, inside and out. I wanted it clean and level and smooth,” DesRosiers says. He’s not worried about a northern chill or wind seeping in between door and flooring in the cold winter months, due to a felt seal running along the bottom of the door. And he’s quick to note that someday there may be a wheelchair that needs to go through that door. “A wheelchair will fit with plenty of space, and you won’t have to bump over it.”

The laundry room and stairway blend seamlessly with the rest of the home, thanks to consistency in materials.

There’s also a 5-foot by 9-foot pivot door (frame-less glass) in the primary bathroom shower. “It’s easily wide enough for a wheelchair,” the architect shares. The pivot allows users to reach in between the door and wall to turn the shower on, “so you don’t get nailed by cold water,” he says with a laugh.

Speaking of the shower, you won’t find evidence of a drain there, either, as water travels to and through a hidden slot below the seat. A tucked-away television in the wall is perfectly positioned so someone soaking in the tub can watch TV. Of course, sunset views also are a main attraction from this perspective.

Neutral tones and clean lines allow Mother Nature’s splendor to take center stage in the primary suite.

More inventive design comes in the way of radiant-heated floors in the interior, and on the outside porch and walkways. “All the snow melts immediately,” DesRosiers says.

With two bedrooms on the main floor and two in the lower level, there’s plenty of room for the DesRosiers’ sons to visit. The home features 5,500 finished square feet (3,000 on the main floor and 2,500 on the lower level). The entire trim module of the house is based on 2 inches. “Countertop widths, exterior window frames, door trim, et cetera,” DesRosiers says. Even the mahogany reveals on the exterior measure 2 inches.

Lake Michigan blues complement the home’s Western cedar and mahogany tones. The terrace’s glass rails are supported
by stainless steel.

Seven-by-10-foot tempered-glass windows (1-inch bronze/insulated) abut to one another. “I prefer things flush,” the architect notes. “These windows are supported by ¾-inch fins and withstand super high winds.” The exterior features Western cedar and 2-inch mahogany reveals (mahogany is also seen indoors, creating a cohesive appeal) and Fond du Lac stone, which echoes the stone on the interior, too. A convenient outdoor shower is located under an archway, while a storage room is tucked under the terrace and reached through the archway. Stairs lead to the terrace, which is surrounded by glass rails held up by stainless steel (there are no vertical supports, so the views are unobstructed). To top it off, cement roof shingles that are moss green in color will last more than a lifetime.

A beckoning sandy beach beyond a gentle slope welcomes swimmers and beachcombers. DesRosiers shares that he’s swum as early as April 1 and as late as Dec. 12 in the refreshing waters of Lake Michigan. “Sometimes it’s just a dip and not a swim,” he acknowledges. And what does he think is the best design element? “It’s an entire ecosystem of water and trees and storms and sky and beach, and all of this is changing in front of you throughout the seasons, which is so exciting.”

The couple also is treated to some up-close views of watercraft. “When storms come in, big freighters will move closer to our shore for safety,” DesRosiers says. “One time the SS Arthur M. Anderson anchored near us for a good while.” The couple was so enchanted by the massive ship, which was the last ship to be in contact with the SS Edmund Fitzgerald before she sank in 1975, they commissioned a San Francisco-based model-boat builder to create a replica that now sits over the lower-level fireplace.

“We’re never bored,” DesRosiers says. “The view is our entertainment.”


Four-season beauty is always in store, say the homeowners. “The grounds are lovely throughout the year,” Lou DesRosiers says.

Buyer’s Guide

Design

DesRosiers Architects,
Bloomfield Hills, desarch.com

Bathroom, Powder Room

Cabinet – African Ebony Cantilever of Mirrored Wall, Vogue Furniture, Royal Oak
Faucet – Italian Motion Sensor
Flooring – Brazilian Slate, 2-foot x 4-foot
Sink and Vanity – Cream Onyx (lit from beneath)
Toilet – Gerber

Dining Room

Table – Vogue Furniture, Royal Oak
Wall Paint – Antique White, Pittsburgh Paints

Great Room

Chairs and Sofas – A. Rudin
Chairs, Leather – 1968 Barcelona
Fireplace – Log-Burning, Prefabricated with Gas Logs, 50-inch, Montigo
Flooring – Engineered Sapele Mahogany, 5-inch; Stone, Brazilian Slate, 2-foot x 4-foot x ¾-inch
Table, Coffee – Platner, Knoll
TVs – Samsung
Wall Paint – Antique White, Pittsburgh Paints
Wall Unit – 2-inch Mahogany Veneer, 10-foot x 14-foot, Easling Construction Co., Leland

Kitchen

Cabinetry – Downsview Kitchens and Fine Custom Cabinetry
Faucet – Dornbracht
Flooring – Engineered Sapele Mahogany, 5-inch; Stone, Brazilian Slate, 2-foot x 4-foot x ¾-inch
Ovens – Wolf
Range – Thermador
Refrigerator – Sub-Zero

Laundry Room

Dryer and Washing Machine – LG
Skylights – Velux

Stairway

Railings – Polished Stainless Steel, Mahogany Posts, 14-inch SS Cables
Stairs – Mahogany, Stringers with Floating Treads and Inlaid Carpet Runners
Wall Paint – Antique White, Pittsburgh Paints

Exterior Materials

Deck and Patio – Pavers and Walkways, 24-inch x 24-inch x 2-inch, Hanover Architectural Products
Doors and Windows – Custom, 2-inch x 6-inch Mahogany Frames with 1-inch Bronze Tinted Low
Front Door – 5-foot x 10-foot Pivot Door Glass and Mahogany
Glass – Grabill Windows & Doors, Almont
Railings – Custom, Stainless Steel and Glass
Roof – Cement Shingles, 12-inch x 12-inch x ¾-inch, Moss Green
Stone Walls – Fond du Lac, Random Ashlar with 60 percent Jumbos
Wood – Walls and Fascia, Western Cedar 12-inch Clear plus 2-foot Horizontal Bands of Mahogany

Additional Contributors

Builder – Crystal River Construction, Glen Arbor
Electrical – Alpha Electrical & Engineering, Troy
Heating – Sedlacek Plumbing and Heating, Kingsley
Interior Design – JoJo and Lou DesRosiers, DesRosiers Architects, Bloomfield Hills
Landscaping – JP Landscape & Irrigation, Grawn
Marble and Tile Installation – Scott Seaman
Masonry – O’Neal Masonry
Roofing – Ingram Roofing, Rochester


 

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