Nature’s Way

Every square inch was considered when designing this beautiful Little Portage Lake new-build // Photography by James Haefner
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An aerial view of the Johnson abode.

When Frank and Lisa Johnson purchased their lakefront property in Pinckney nearly 20 years ago, they envisioned a future “lake escape.” Situated on a scenic corner lot on Little Portage Lake, the original house was a rental duplex cottage — which gave the Johnsons time to stay on the property while formulating their plan to build a new home in which they could gather with family.

With a degree in architecture and experience as a contractor, Frank used his knowledge of home design to prepare a conceptual design presentation for the lake district zoning board, which was necessary in order to obtain the needed variances. After three submissions, the couple received approval and hired a team of professionals to help take their plan from concept to reality.

The home is featured in the book “Creative Process in Architecture.”

The Johnsons hired Young & Young Architects in Bloomfield Hills, Jensen Custom Homes in Grass Lake, and Young Cabinetry in Saline to execute their vision. By Design Interiors, in Saline, provided interior design services. A great deal of planning went into the home’s approximately 2,500 square feet and surrounding property. According to Frank, the design focused on clean detailing, Japanese influences, and an effective layout, as well as ensuring there were unique views of the lake. “Due to the (property) constraints, we couldn’t just throw space at the design,” he says. “Our enjoyment came in developing ideas, sequences, and surprises starting from the driveway and continuing through the house.”

Unexpected details are plentiful throughout the contemporary home’s interior and outdoor spaces. A secret bookcase door panel leads to the media room — a concept devised by the couple’s oldest grandson, who was inspired by watching Scooby-Doo. A model wooden boat floats under a glass panel between the Eagle’s Nest and second floor below, and a warm-water sprinkler delights grandchildren in the center of the driveway. “The view from the front door has a surprise factor. It appears the lake visually extends from the kitchen countertop, creating an infinity edge view,” Frank says. During the planning stages, the homeowners perched on ladders and the duplex’s roof, to ensure the right elevations and window placement to showcase the home’s stunning lake views.

Every space has a stunning view, including the foyer.

Todd Young, principal architect at Young & Young Architects, collaborated on this project with his father, Don Paul Young, also a principal architect at Young & Young Architects, and project manager Chris Harrington. The Johnsons’ home appears in Don Paul Young’s recent book, “Creative Process in Architecture,” which includes his insights over more than six decades in practice.

Young explains, “We try to create spaces that connect man and nature through the balance of interior and exterior space. Each house is a prototype. This one is like a very finely tuned, tightly designed wooden boat or small yacht. Every square inch was thoughtful, every piece had a reason. We wanted to maximize the views and connect them to nature as much as possible, but maintain privacy.

Every space has a stunning view, including the bedroom.
Every space has a stunning view, including the media room.

“It was a great collaboration. Frank knows how things go together, so it was like a partnership. The builder was phenomenal. The team of craftsmen was incredible,” Young says. “The biggest challenge was fitting the homeowners’ plan into the constraints of the space.”During the nearly two-year process, the Johnsons lived in their Ann Arbor home. “We weren’t in a rush and enjoyed the process,” Lisa says. “We understood the give and take.”

The Johnsons’ thoughtfully designed property has become the family gathering place they envisioned with Sunday family dinners, sleepovers with grandchildren, and an outdoor shower for rinsing off after enjoying the lake. The third-floor Eagle’s Nest, or “Eyrie,” is a place for viewing sunrises and sunsets, as well as a space that easily allows for overnight guests, with seating cushions designed to fit twin sheets — and built-in storage underneath to store them.

Every space has a stunning view, including the dining area.
Every space has a stunning view, including the kitchen.

When asked about some of their favorite areas of the house, Lisa responds: “I love having coffee on the terrace and seeing the sun coming up from the Eagle’s Nest. I love the kitchen, especially the view to the water. It’s almost like being on a boat.” Then there’s the master shower. Says Frank: “It has corner windows with the sill height adjusted for privacy, and you can see the lake and watch fish, turtles, and eagles.”

Adds Young: “A project is a success when clients don’t want to go on vacation because they’re happier at home — everything they dreamt and planned has come to life. It feels good to help make that happen.”


The Eagle’s Nest and screened porch are two popular spots.

BUYER’S GUIDE

HOMEOWNERS

Frank and Lisa Johnson, Little Portage Lake, Pinckney

BATHROOM, GUEST

Cabinet, Floating Vanity – Custom, Young Cabinetry, Saline
Flooring – Crossvillle Shades, Vapor, Virginia Tile, Livonia
Glass Shower Enclosure – Custom, Wolverine Moore Glass, Dexter
Vanity Top and Glass Shower Enclosure – Travertine Marble, Sienna Silver, Boston Tile & Terrazzo Co., Detroit
Wall Treatment, Bathtub and Shower – Crossville Shades, Fog, Virginia Tile, Livonia

BEDROOM, GUEST

Armchair – Wayfair
Artwork – “More Possibilities, No. 3, State 4,” Michelle Hegyi, WSG Gallery, Ann Arbor
Bed Frame – Work Bench Contemporary Furniture, Kerrytown Market & Shops, Ann Arbor
Bedding – Macy’s
Blanket (leaf) – Macy’s
Ceiling Treatment (paint) – Benjamin Moore, White Wisp
Ceiling Treatment (wood) – Western Red Cedar
Chests, Bedside – Work Bench Contemporary Furniture, Kerrytown Market & Shops, Ann Arbor
Flooring – Oak, Schafer Hardwood Flooring Co., Tecumseh; Installation, Superior Hardwood Flooring Distributors LLC, Waterford Township
Lamp, Bedside – Pier 1
Lighting – Halo, Gross Electric, Ann Arbor
Pillow, Armchair – Pier 1
Pillows, Accent – Custom, By Design Interiors, LLC, Saline
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Boothbay Gray

EAGLE’S NEST

Bench – Custom, Young Cabinetry, Saline; Cushion, Custom, Badall’s Upholstery, Stockbridge; Fabric, Duralee, 5-blue
Boat Display – Glass Floor/Interior Skylight, Wolverine Moore Glass, Dexter
Flooring – Teak and Holly, Homestead Hardwoods; Installation, Finn Jensen, Jensen Custom Homes, Grass Lake
Railing – Q-Railing Systems; Installation, Finn Jensen, Jensen Custom Homes, Grass Lake
Skylight – Wasco Skylight, Abbott K Schlain Co., Livonia
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Rockport Gray

ENTRY AND STAIRCASE

Cabinet – Custom, Young Cabinetry, Saline
Ceiling Paint – Benjamin Moore, White Wisp
Doors, Closet – Custom, Midnight Millwork, Lambertville
Door, Front – Custom, Midnight Millwork, Lambertville; Installation, Finn Jensen, Jensen Custom Homes, Grass Lake
Flooring – Oak, Schafer Hardwood Flooring Co., Tecumseh; Installation, Superior Hardwood Flooring Distributors, LLC, Waterford Township
Lighting – Halo, Gross Electric, Ann Arbor
Stairs – Custom, Ironstone Welding, Ypsilanti; Installation, Dan Parrotte, Ironstone Welding, Ypsilanti; Finn Jensen, Jensen Custom Homes, Grass Lake
SS Stair Railing – Q-Railing Systems; Installation, Finn Jensen, Jensen Custom Homes, Grass Lake
Stair Treads – Custom, Midnight Millwork, Lambertville; Installation, Finn Jensen, Jensen Custom Homes, Grass Lake
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Rockport Gray
Window, Stained Glass – “Van Gogh” Sunflower Stained Glass, Riccardo, Darra, Vetreria Ducale S.R.I., Murano, Italy

KITCHEN

Appliances – Big George’s Home Appliance Mart, Ann Arbor
Bar Stools – PAM Bar Stools, Ligne Roset, Birmingham
Cabinetry – Custom, Young Cabinetry, Saline
Chairs, Dining – Zuo Modern Contemporary
Countertops – Danby Marble, Genesee Cut Stone & Marble Co., Flint
Door, Sliding – Marvin Windows, Laurence Smith Window & Door, Bay City
Flooring – Oak, Schafer Hardwood Flooring Co., Tecumseh; Installation, Superior Hardwood Flooring Distributors, LLC, Waterford Township
Lighting – HALO Recessed Can, Gross Electric, Ann Arbor
Paint, Ceiling, Trim and Interior Door – Benjamin Moore, White Wisp
Table, Dining – Custom, Wolverine & Moore Glass, Dexter
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Rockport Gray

MEDIA/TV ROOM

Artwork – “Aspen Glades,” David C. Schultz, West Light Images Gallery
Cushions – Custom, Badall’s Upholstery, Stockbridge; Fabric, Silver State Sunbrella Fabrics, Basket Tweed in Charcoal
Door, Bookcase – Custom, Young Cabinetry, Saline
Flooring – Bolero Wool Carpet, River Stone, By Design Interiors, LLC, Saline
Paint, Lower Ceiling – Benjamin Moore, White Wisp
Paint, Raised Ceiling – Benjamin Moore, Charcoal Slate
Pillows, Accent – Custom, By Design Interiors, LLC, Saline
Sofa – Custom, Young Cabinetry, Saline; Installation, Finn Jensen, Jensen Custom Homes, Grass Lake
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Weimaraner

SCREENED PORCH AND TERRACE

Armchairs – Coast Lounge, Summer Classics, By Design Interiors, LLC, Saline
Fan – Minka-Aire, Top of the Lamp, Ann Arbor
Flooring – IPE Decking in Brazilian Walnut, L. L. Johnson Lumber, Charlotte; Installation, Finn Jensen, Jensen Custom Homes, Grass Lake
Lighting – Halo, Gross Electric, Ann Arbor
Lounges, Chaise – Coast Chaise, Summer Classics, By Design Interiors, LLC, Saline
Glass Railing Mounting System – CRL Architectural Hardware; Installation, Finn Jensen, Jensen Custom Homes, Grass Lake
Railings (glass) – Wolverine & Moore Glass, Dexter
Screen Wall – System, Centor Model S1, Newmyer Kitchen & Bath, Milford; Installation, Finn Jensen, Jensen Custom Homes, Grass Lake
Table, End – Coast Ottoman, Summer Classics, By Design Interiors, LLC, Saline
Wall and Ceiling Treatment – Western Red Cedar

EXTERIOR

Garage Door – HAAS Garage Door, Ann Arbor Garage Door, Ann Arbor
Roof, Flat – Firestone Roofing Products, Bloom Roofing, Brighton
Roofing, Metal – PAC CLAD in Weathered Zinc, Anvil Roofing, South Lyon
Siding and Trim – Western Red Cedar
Siding Paint – PPG Proluxe, Butternut
Specialty Glass Installation – Wolverine & Moore Glass, Dexter
Windows – Marvin Windows, Bronze Clad Exteriors

EXTERIOR (EVENING PHOTO)

Chairs, Outdoor – Café Curved Back Chairs, Frontgate
Heaters, Electric Radiant – Solaira Heaters
Pillows, Accent – Frontgate
Planters – The Produce Station, Ann Arbor
Seating, Outdoor – Baleares Circular Daybed, Frontgate
Table, Sunken Outdoor Dining – Custom

ADDITIONAL PROJECT CONTRIBUTORS

Architects – Young & Young Architects, Bloomfield Hills
Builder – Jensen Custom Homes, Grass Lake
Custom Cabinetry and Built-In Seating – Young Cabinetry, Saline
Drywall and Painting – Osbun’s Custom Drywall, Britton
Electrical – Stein Electric Co. Inc., Manchester
HVAC – Robertson Morrison Inc., Ann Arbor
Interior Design – Nancy Krzesicki, By Design Interiors, LLC, Saline
Plumbing, Radiant Floors, Driveway Snowmelt and Outdoor Shower – Tokar Mechanical, Brighton
Sound System and Media – Architectural Media Systems and Overture Audio, Ann Arbor
Tile Work, Fireplace Surround and Bathrooms – Ken Mahn, Colosseum Tile & Marble, Plymouth

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