Making Memories

A waterfront Lenawee County dream home checks off all the boxes
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Photography by Jeff Garland

Years ago, a man and his business partner purchased an old lakeside home at an auction. The two eventually had the home torn down and they split the property into two lots of about three-quarters of an acre each. The man and his wife waited several years before building their dream home on idyllic Devils Lake — the largest lake in Lenawee County, with a maximum depth of 63 feet. 

Interior designer Tiffany Birch embraced the opportunity to work with the couple, who had a cottage (now sold) on the same lake and own a farmhouse in the area where they raise bees and chickens. “Our families have had cottages here since the 1920s and we’ve had a summer lake house here since 1979,” the homeowner says. 

The walk-out lower area features a charming room where family and friends can store bathing suits and sunbathing essentials.

 “I got to know them well when the husband hired me to do interior design work for the Devils Lake Yacht Club,” says Birch, who runs Ann Arbor-based Birch Design Associates. “He’s very involved with the club.” 

Birch worked with architect Greg Richard of Remington Architecture on both the yacht club and the home, while the home’s builder was Gabriel Wallace, of Wallace Building Co. in Toledo.

Beaching and boating are almost always on the agenda at this family’s home.

The goal was to create a home where the couple’s three grown daughters would love to gather with their families and enjoy many fun moments. They were also after a kid- and dog-friendly vibe. To that end, Birch says it was a must to have synthetic deck flooring and a luxury vinyl tile for the interior, both of which can handle water, water, and more water. “Most of the fabrics are indoor-outdoor, so no one has to worry about getting water on, say, the sofas,” she adds.

Birch certainly understands the cottage vernacular, as she grew up spending every summer on Devils Lake. Years later, she owned a cottage on Portage Lake, one of the Huron River’s chain lakes, and now enjoys time spent at a log cabin that’s right on the Huron River. 

A side porch off the main deck is another great gathering spot.

“We love working with Tiffany, as she grew up on this lake as we did as children, and she gets the lake vibe. She’s a good listener, easy to work with, and doesn’t overwhelm you with too many choices when making selections,” the homeowner says.

A popular spot in this new-build is the main-floor porch, where comfy, weatherproof furnishings (from Arhaus) invite one to stay awhile and soak up the waterfront views. “The family loves Mackinac, so they wanted the home to feel Mackinac-ish with a white wood shake exterior (Snowbound, Sherwin-Williams), wooden garage doors, and custom rails. The porch ceiling is painted in Sherwin-Williams’ Waterscape, which is very close to Haint blue — a pale shade of blue-green that mimics sky and water tones and is traditionally used to paint porch ceilings in the Southern states, supposedly to ward off ghosts or evil spirits. It’s frequently found on Mackinac Island homes, as well. 

Birch’s signature must-have: a charming, built-in banquette. Wall art by Curt Baldwin evokes Michigan lake-life vibes.

The couple loves antiques, so it’s no surprise that old ship lanterns and brass propellers adorn the spacious porch. The pendant lighting is by Visual Comfort & Co., and the ceiling fans are from Gross Electric in Ann Arbor.  

The walk-out lower area features a charming room where family and friends can store bathing suits and sunbathing essentials. A large sign reads: Go Jump in the Lake. Of course, everyone is more than willing to obey that command! 

Another perspective of the home, which is situated on the largest lake in Lenawee County.

The lower area also has a kitchen, family room, and a dining nook (one of Birch’s favorite home elements), as well as a charming banquette area that showcases the designer’s signature must-have — a built-in bench. This one’s snappy with navy-and-white-striped upholstery and beadboard appeal. “Stripes are very nautical,” Birch asserts. 

The homeowners found an artist (Curt Baldwin, who has a home on a lake nearby) who specializes in depicting boats and lakes. They fell in love with a large, head-turning oil painting of a woman floating atop an inland lake in a classic inner tube, and it takes center stage on the wall behind the banquette. “We didn’t want anything coastal, because this isn’t an ocean, it’s a Michigan lake,” Birch says with a laugh. “This artist’s work is all about that ‘growing up on a lake’ feel.” 

Bright blue cabinets in the kitchen are a nice nod to lake style. “The homeowner loves her farmhouse sink,” Birch says.

When it comes to beadboard, Birch made a point of not overdoing the look. “We mixed it with other types of wood around the house and we don’t have everything going vertically or horizontally,” she says.

An inviting porch on the lower level is located next to a storage area for paddleboards and other toys, and beautiful landscaping by Underwood Nursery of Adrian and Brookwood Landscaping of Toledo surrounds the home.

An inviting area near the large dining table is the perfect spot for a before- or after-dinner cocktail.

More gathering and chilling spots await in the expansive main-floor dining area, which looks out to the lake, while two nearby nooks provide perfect perches. “A seating area to the left of the dining table is a great spot for enjoying a before- or after-dinner drink, and a red lounge chair is wonderful for reading,” Birch says. “Everything is open, but there are places to sit — quiet spots where you can just be, yet still feel a part of the action.”

Many vibrant pops of rich reds show up in other areas around the house, too. “Red is the homeowners’ favorite color,” Birch says, “and I go with what clients love.” Complementing the reds are the blues found in the fabrics and millwork.

To the right of the dining table is a cozy area for reading or just enjoying lake views.

Several one-of-a-kind elements adorn the home, and old barn beams were used on many of the ceilings. “A barn fell at their farmhouse and we had that wood cut, hewn, and stained. We’ve also incorporated a console table, located in the great room, which was made from that wood.” The couple’s Brunswick bar — originally built by the Brunswick company in Iowa, which produced bars beginning in the 1880s — was crafted from an old bar that came from a pub. “Our carpenter retrofitted it perfectly,” Birch says. Another vintage element is the towel rack in the powder room, which was made from the fallen barn’s wood.  

What’s a dream home without a space to create? The designer says she’s crazy about the first-floor craft room. “It’s got a desk, seating, and extra-deep drawers that pull out of a custom-built island to hold a lot of the wife’s sewing projects,” she notes. There’s also an organized area for wrapping gifts — a practical spot for preparing gifts for birthdays and other celebrations. And you can bet those parties that begin and end right here, in a beautiful home overlooking Devils Lake, are some of the family’s most treasured memories. 

The craft room has plenty of space for sewing and wrapping gifts.

Buyer’s Guide

INTERIOR DESIGN,
Birch Design Associates, Ann Arbor, birchdesignassociates.com

Who wants dibs on this guest room? We do! Lake blues and greens mingle with pretty cream tones to provide a peaceful retreat.

Bathroom, Primary

Bathtub – Kohler, Etna Supply, Wixom
Faucet / Fittings – Kohler, Etna Supply, Wixom
Floors – Marble, Herringbone Pattern, Ann Sacks, Michigan Design Center, Troy; Bostwick, Homecrest Flooring
Lighting – Brass & Crystal, Visual Comfort, Gross Electric, Ann Arbor
Tile, Shower Wall – L Quartz (Book Matched), G Viatera
Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Snowbound

Bedroom, Guest

Bed – Ethan Allen
Bedding, Coverlet – Pottery Barn
Flooring – Bostwick, Homecrest
Flooring Lamp, Table – Pottery Barn
Pillows (Custom) – Ralph Lauren, Kravet | Lee Jofa | Brunschwig & Fils, Michgan
Design Center, Troy
Rug – Arhaus
Table, Side – Ethan Allen
Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Snowbound

The primary bathroom features a fresh look with rich blues and bright whites. Brass and gold fixtures provide a classic feel.

Conversation Nook

Chairs – Linen Performance Fabric, Arhaus
Flooring – Bostwick, Homecrest Flooring
Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Snowbound

Craft Room

Cabinets – Custom Color, Dura Supreme Cabinetry
Countertops – Quartz, LG Viatera
Flooring – Bostwick, Homecrest Flooring
Lighting – Visual Comfort, Grosse Electric, Ann Arbor
Stools, Counter – Woven Leather, Grandin Road
Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Snowbound
Wallpaper – Spoonflower

Dining Nook

Art – Curt Baldwin
Banquette – Custom; Fabric, Lee Jofa (Back) and Schumacher (Seat), Kravet | Lee Jofa | Brunschwig & Fils and Schumacher, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Bench, Table – Vintage
Flooring – Bostwick, Homecrest Flooring
Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Snowbound

Beams made from old barnwood adorn the kitchen. The homeowners’ favorite red shows up in the way of island chairs. The doors lead to a side porch, or, as the homeowners call it, the “grilling porch.”

Dining Room/ Reading Nook 

Chairs and Table – Arhaus
Flooring – Bostwick, Homecrest Flooring
Lighting – Visual Comfort, Gross Electric, Ann Arbor
Lounge, Chaise – Vintage
Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Snowbound

Kitchen (Island/Range Wall)

Backsplash and Countertops Quartz, LG Viatera (Book Matched)
Barstools – Wayfair; Fabric, Schumacher, Perforated Velvet, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Cabinets – Custom Color, Dura Supreme Cabinetry
Flooring – Bostwick, Homecrest Flooring
Lighting – Brass, Visual Comfort, Gross Electric, Ann Arbor
Range – Wolf
Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Snowbound

Kitchen (Sink Wall)

Cabinets – Custom Color, Dura Supreme Cabinetry
Countertops – Quartz, LG Viatera
Dishwashers – Bosch
Faucet and Sink – Kohler, Etna Supply, Wixom
Flooring – Bostwick, Homecrest Flooring
Pulls – Jeffrey Alexander, Brass, Hardware Resources
Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Snowbound

Mudroom

Baskets – Pottery Barn
Flooring – Bostwick, Homecrest Flooring
Towels – Lands End
Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Snowbound

Porch (Lakefront)

Fans – Gross Electric, Ann Arbor
Flooring – Azek Decking
Furniture and Rug – Arhaus
Lighting, Pendant – Visual Comfort, Gross Electric, Ann Arbor
Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Snowbound

Exterior 

Building Materials – Fiber Cement Woodshake, Nichia
Landscaping – Underwood Nursery, Adrian; Brookwood Landscaping, Toledo, Ohio
Masonry – Ledge Mix Granite, Boston Blend Ledgestone
Paint Color – Sherwin-Williams, Snowbound
Roofing – Grand Manor, Colonial Slate, CertainTeed; Standing Seam Metal, Custom Solid Copper Flashing
Windows – E-Series 400, Andersen Windows

Exterior (Dining) 

Chairs and Table – Arhaus
Flooring – Azek
Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Snowbound

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