Midwest Modern

Harbor Country home rejuvenates a nature-loving family // Photography by Tony Soluri

West Michigan provides a respite for many city dwellers, as this award-winning custom build in Sawyer so deftly demonstrates. After years of renting in the Harbor Country area, the Massey family came to the conclusion that they needed more space for their family and a flurry of guests, and the idea for the exceptional residence was conceived.

Following a hiatus spent visiting national parks with their children, Ruby, now 20, and Ethan, 17, when they were younger, William Massey — principal of Massey Associates Architects in Chicago — and his wife, Shari, returned to the Great Lakes State to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary in Saugatuck. “My wife said, ‘Why don’t we look at buying a place?’ ” recalls Massey, who grew up vacationing on water.

With the right location, he knew they could create their own haven from scratch. And as fate would have it, they found the perfect spot in Harbor Country — a region of eight towns along Lake Michigan known as a getaway destination — during a lake-effect blizzard. “We came across the site, over the hill from the top of the dune, and it was great,” he says about the land that met his top priorities. “It was wooded and it was on the water,” he says.

His wife gave him carte blanche to design their dream home. The original plan turned out to be cost-prohibitive, so Massey went back to the drawing board after getting his wife’s feedback. The next plan stuck. At around 2,100 square feet plus a screened porch, the Scandinavian-style structure feels just as comfortable for one as it does for the 10 who gather on holidays. “We can all sit at the table and they all have a place to stay,” Massey says.

The magical location offers the perfect diversion to the family’s everyday life. “We have our city house, but being able to escape to a wooded area and 650 feet of beach, we love going any time of year,” Massey says. “With only 30 families in the neighborhood, we don’t really see that many people, except on the Fourth of July. It really ebbs and flows.

“It’s an opportunity to just go hang out,” he adds. “I call it the cottage, but my wife and kids call it the beach house.” Both kids are swimmers who love the water, situated about 500 feet away from the home.

The Massey cottage, including the dining area and great room, has a lighter look and feel than their home in the city.

In the summer, they try to get out of town on Thursday night, if possible. After unpacking, they head to their favorite spot: the two-story screened porch. “It’s like being outside without the bugs,” Massey says. “We go for a walk along the beach and wait for the sun to set. The spectacular sunsets on the lake are never the same — whether it’s the color of the water, or the waves, or the color of the sky. I love that aspect, that no two are alike.”

Days get off to a leisurely start with coffee and the newspaper as the sun streams through the trees. “We might go for a run through the woods and the neighborhoods, and come back for lunch before going to the beach,” Massey says. “We usually never have plans. We call it ‘Pure Michigan’; we just kind of roll with it, shower up, have a drink, go to dinner, or order pickup (they did that frequently during the pandemic).”

Massey appreciates the newness of the house. In the city, their 110-year-old home is more compartmentalized compared to the open floor plan of the cottage. And while their Chicago residence features dark wood tones, their retreat has a lighter look and feel.

Timeless furnishings merge with striking window designs in this daughter’s bedroom, providing serenity.

The exterior of the modern structure is clad in cement fiber shingles. Cathedral ceilings add volume to the four-bedroom, 2.5-bath home, which sports white walls and warm woods. The evolving landscape includes ornamental grasses, boxwood, lavender, and hydrangeas, along with weeping hemlocks and evergreens, which provide layers of screening.

On the main floor, the great room, dining area, and kitchen are one big space. Timeless furnishings merge with striking material selections like the cross-cut travertine tile on the fireplace and the rift oak with a champagne finish on the kitchen island. Stainless steel toe kicks play against European white oak floors that have knots that add natural movement and character.

In the end, Massey was in for a pleasant surprise. “I never wanted to live in something I built because I thought I would sit and nitpick, but I ended up not being critical of it. I just enjoy being there, and I thank my wife all the time for pushing us to do this,” he says. “As much as we love our house in Chicago, we can break it up and go to the cottage for a little bit, which is so refreshing.”

Fiber shingles clad the home’s exterior. Cathedral ceilings add volume.


William Massey, Massey Associates Architects, Chicago and Sawyer, Mich., masseyassociates.com

Bed Frame – White Headboard, Stainless Steel Frame, Copenhagen, Room & Board
Bedding – White Quilt, Bar III, Macy’s
Ceiling Treatment – Cathedral Ceiling; Benjamin Moore, Snowfall White
Flooring – BoardHouse 8-inch-wide Plank European White Oak with Custom Finish, Apex Wood Floors
Pillow, Accent – Room & Board
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Aura Paint, Snowfall White

Benches, Dining – Big Sur, Crate & Barrel
Chairs, Dining – CH24 Wishbone Chair, Black Ash Frame with Natural Paper Cord Seat, Hans Wagner
Chandelier – Big Bang Suspension Lamp, Foscarini, Lightology
Flooring – BoardHouse 8-inch-wide  Plank European White Oak with Custom Finish, Apex Wood Floors
Table, Dining – Big Sur, Crate & Barrel
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Aura Paint, Snowfall White

Artwork – Color Lithograph
Chair, Leather – Callan, Vento Black Leather with Natural Maple Finish, Room & Board
Fireplace – Wood-Burning Stove, Isokern
Fireplace Treatment – Latte Vein-Cut Travertine Wall Tile, Materials Marketing; Horizon Grey Porcelain Hearth and Base Tile, Artistic Tile
Flooring – BoardHouse 8-inch-wide Plank European White Oak with Custom Finish, Apex Wood Floors
Pillow, Accent – Room & Board
Sofa – Cordoba Sectional, Domicile Furniture
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Aura Paint, Snowfall White

The evolving landscape includes ornamental grasses, boxwood, weeping hemlocks, and evergreens.

Artwork – Water’s Edge, Margo Burian, Water Street Gallery, Douglas
Backsplash – Satchmo Stick Linear Mosaic Tile, Artistic Tile
Bar Stools – Collin, White Leather Seat with Matte Black Frame, Room & Board
Cabinets – Custom, Massey Associates Architects, Open Grain Rift White Oak with Painted Finish and Linnea Satin Stainless Steel Pulls; Fabricated by All Seasons Woodworks, St. Joseph
Countertop – Caesarstone, Blizzard White
Faucet – Elio, Dornbracht, Crawford Supply
Flooring – BoardHouse 8” Wide Plank European White Oak with Custom Finish, Apex Wood Floors
Hood – Viking Chimney Hood
Island – Custom, Massey Associates Architects, Rift White Oak with Champagne Satin Stain; Fabricated by All Seasons Woodworks, St. Joseph
Sink – Poise, Kohler, Crawford Supply; Undermount Sink, Stainless Steel, Inset Bamboo Cutting Board
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Aura Paint, Snowfall White

Building Materials – James Hardie, Cement Fiber Wall Shingle with Window Trim ,and Board and Batten Siding
Entryway Board and Batten Color – James Hardie, Light Mist
Masonry – Bluestone Flagging
Roof – GAF Timberline HD, Asphalt Roof Shingles, Fox Hollow Gray
Shingles and Siding Color – James Hardie, Iron Grey
Window and Door Trim Color – James Hardie, Arctic White
Windows – Marvin Windows, Ultimate Series, Stone White

Builder – Steve Tollas, Tollas Construction, Watervliet
Fabricator/Cabinetry – Don Kluge, All Seasons Woodworks, St. Joseph
Landscaper – Dan Starbuck, Starbuck’s Landscaping, Baroda

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