From Ship to Shore

Custom lakefront home offers a nod to nautical features and one-of-a-kind details. // Photography by Todd Zawistowski

On Lake Michigan’s Gold Coast north of Manistee, there sits an enchanting enhancement to the landscape: a newly constructed shingle-style cottage on Crystal Lake in Frankfort, known for its pristine beaches and stunning sunsets. With his primary residence in San Diego, California, the goal of homeowner Fred Luddy was to build a glorious getaway for family gatherings.

A combination of childhood memories from Indiana and time spent with friends on Crystal Lake convinced him to build the ultimate vacation haven in the Midwest. “Our friends invited us to visit their guest house, and we fell in love with the place. We kept coming back and bought the lot three doors down,” Luddy said. “I scoured the internet looking for an architect and builder. I wanted someone who could do everything from septic to silverware.”

A compass-themed foyer table and walnut staircase with sleek cable railing welcome guests inside and set the tone for a nautical beach retreat that never loses its polished sense of style.

What he found was a firm that could deliver the whole package in Holland-based Mike Schaap Builders, Benchmark Wood & Design Studios. It did the architectural design, interior design and millwork design. “Everything was done in-house,” owner Mike Schaap said.

Luddy made only a couple of trips to Michigan to review his expectations. He visited the site and Schaap’s office.

A custom ship’s wheel by Benchmark Wood Studio and built-in upholstered seating offer a soft spot to take off shoes and play up the home’s nautical theme.

“He was very specific up front,” Schaap said. “We went room by room, and he visited another project we had done, so he understood the level of detail. A lot of the design work was done via email. We put the entire exterior and interior together and got the green light.”

From the Ground Up

Iconic circular windows, exposed rafters and handsome stonework accentuate the creamy white and blue shades on the exterior and help define its lakefront architecture.

The spacious lakefront residence that measures slightly over 8,500 square feet required a great deal of detail and decision-making. It was delivered live-in ready.  “We even put sheets on the bed and towels on the rod. You just have to bring your toothbrush,” Schaap said, crediting Luddy for leading the way.

“He knew what he wanted. We just had to execute it,” Schaap added.

Luddy was impressed with the outcome. “The original craftsmanship is just stunning. People that have been there are blown away, and people I show photos to say it’s absolutely amazing,” he said. “… Working with Mike and his folks was just a delight, and the product speaks for itself. I’m extremely proud of it.”

The Crystal Lake project that began in the summer of 2016 was completed earlier this year. Built on a hill between the road and Crystal Lake, the dwelling has a refined vibe. “It’s not terribly overstated,” Schaap said. “It does have a lower level, but it’s a walk out toward the front rather than the lakeside.”

Impeccable detail is found inside and out. The home’s nautical theme was something Luddy requested. He wanted his son, Luke, to have a total cottage experience. The unique nautical features, among others, include a sleek walnut staircase with its cable-rail system and a ship’s wheel in the entry that was designed and made by Benchmark Design Studio.

The home was designed with plenty of places to relax after a day at the beach, such as this formal den featuring a cozy reading nook and walls drenched in walnut cabinetry.

Engineered white oak floors that begin in the entry add character and can handle foot traffic, while the V-Groove ceiling, also seen in other parts of the house, lends visual interest and additional texture above. Classic materials, such as natural stone, wind their way throughout the kitchen and bathrooms for a fresh feel with a timeless touch.

Graphic wallpaper strategically placed in key areas brings just the right amount of pattern to the tranquil surroundings. Architectural elements include the custom built-ins found in the mudroom and beyond.

A well-designed kitchen layout offers plenty of seating for extended family and extra guests.

Framed artwork celebrates the beach with vintage swimsuits, life preservers and an image of footprints in the sand. Other notable details include barn-style doors that lead to the guest quarters above the garage and custom furnishings, such as the foyer table with a compass inlay and tuffets that fit together below.

The home was built with an expansive covered entertaining patio ideal for family gatherings featuring travertine pavers and cozy seating beneath a wood ceiling. Other significant additions include a fire pit, a boat dock, a custom wine cellar by Revel Custom Wine Cellars in East Lansing and an elevator. Two of the guest suites are situated above the garage, while another is located on the main level. “The layout is quite different, but it’s all about what worked for the site,” Schaap said.

Crystal Clear

Surrounded by lake views, the circular dining room adds a touch of formality to the space and serves as an anchor to the main level’s generous layout.

Inside the custom kitchen with its sizable island, lake-facing windows meant fewer upper cabinets, but quite a bit of storage space is provided with a convenient drawer organization system. Rope hardware contributes to the nautical theme. A round dining table perfectly positioned below a curved molding sits between the kitchen and the great room.

Luddy made sure there would be plenty of places to relax after a day at the lake, such as a cozy den that features a vaulted ceiling and a reading niche. Custom walnut cabinetry with wrapped leather and nautical pulls was built beneath the TV that has scrolling art to conceal it. Other playful perks include a game area with a striking pool table.

His son’s bedroom has a loft area above the bed and access is by a ladder accented by a chrome handrail. The special space resembles a luxury yacht with leather pulls on the drawers and a mahogany headboard that has a high sheen like a ship.

In the master bedroom, a stone fireplace repeats one of the materials found on the exterior of the lakefront house. A vaulted ceiling and views of the water make the open and airy space a great retreat.

A cozy fireplace with coordinating exterior stonework and a private balcony overlooking the lake make the master suite the ultimate refuge to refresh and recharge.

Classic elements fill the home office, such as local photos, vintage flags and an iconic porthole window. Even the home theater breaks tradition with a lake-friendly look that has a soothing neutral palette. Walls done in a deep gray/blue provide the perfect contrast to the cream-colored leather chairs that wear blue trim.

Beachward Bound

In the son’s bedroom, a custom mahogany headboard featuring a high sheen finish, chrome handrails and a secret play loft with sleek cable railing, was designed to resemble a luxury yacht.

Luddy often hosts close to a dozen relatives at the new digs. Though his intention was to stay on Crystal Lake in warmer weather, that may no longer be the case. “We went up there during the winter and had a wonderful time,” he said. “It was deserted, and we could build toboggan runs in the front yard when it was snowy and dark.”

The summer setting is absolute perfection. “It’s an extremely beautiful place and the physically warm water of the lake is a delight. In the Pacific Ocean, we define warm as 68 degrees,” Luddy said.

Reminiscing about his Indiana roots, Luddy fondly recalled his stays at his grandmother’s house, the big morning breakfasts and going to the beach. His family’s appreciation for the Midwest runs deep. “My son, nieces and nephews were all born in California, but we really love the Midwest values,” he said. “Now, they’re enjoying the same kind of family vacations I had with people who are a little more open, friendly and honest with wonderful character that helps make the Midwest what it is.

“It’s personal to me to be at Crystal Lake. It’s absolutely beautiful, and we love the community,” Luddy said. “… It’s right out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

An expansive entertaining patio is ideal for family gatherings and offer the perfect vantage point to take in the natural beauty of the Midwest.

Jeanine Matlow is a Detroit-based freelance writer and regular contributor to BLUE.

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