Restored Retreat

Essential renovation maintains cottage traditions // Photography by Lara Parent
An open floor plan features a dining area, kitchen, and family room. Furnishings are built to last and most have special meaning. “I like pieces that are going to last a long time and aren’t too trendy,” says homeowner/interior designer Kirsten Young.

After countless visits to Michigan’s Harbor Country, Kirsten and Michael Young, from Western Springs, Ill., decided to invest in a second home in Sawyer. Their family enjoyed the house for almost two decades before severe weather got in their way. The Youngs had just flown to Puerto Rico for a vacation with their two kids when they got a call from a neighbor, who said he saw icicles coming out of their house.

A broken pipe adjacent to an exterior wall had caused a leak, and the lower level took the brunt of the damage. “We use the home year-round, but we hadn’t been there for two weeks, and our neighbor had been on vacation, as well,” explains Kirsten, who runs Interior Blooms Design in Sawyer and Western Springs.

An extensive renovation was soon in the works for the interior designer. Luckily for the Youngs, it led to a kitchen upgrade, with a bigger island and two dishwashers that come in handy for entertaining. “There’s a lot of space,” Kirsten says. “It’s a good layout for company.”

The open-concept family room, living area, and dining area also get plenty of use. “For the most part, this is where we all hang out,” she says. “In the winter it’s cozy, and there’s a beautiful view when it’s snowing.” The space opens to a screened-in porch that makes the room feel larger when the French doors are open.

As a result of the leak, everything had to be replaced on the lower level. A bunkroom can now handle a whole family with bunkbeds, a trundle, and a queen-size bed. “It’s very comfortable. Five people can sleep in there,” Kirsten says. “For our daughter’s 16th birthday, she had a bunch of girls over and they all piled into the room. It’s fun.”

A built-in bookcase that doubles as a desk was made by Kirsten’s late father. On the wall, a watercolor by Peggy Taylor, an artist in Western Springs, was based on a photo of the Lake Michigan shore. Another piece of art came from a trip to Bald Head Island in North Carolina. “Anything personal, like photos or souvenirs from a vacation, are a great way to add character and charm and personality to your home,” Kirsten says.

It’s a short walk up the hill and down 120 stairs to the beach from the couple’s A-frame house, which sits on the leeward side of the dunes. The overall design was a good compromise between the husband and wife, with blue and yellow hues that speak to her beach aesthetic and warmer colors that satisfy his cabin vibe. “It was the blending of both of those looks,” she says. “Also, we’re in the woods, so I went with a cabin/cottagey feel.”

Young knows how to give interiors a sense of timeless appeal. “I approach my clients’ homes the same way as my own,” she says.

The designer notes that she also stays mindful of budget. “You want to pick things that you’re not going to want to change,” she says. “I like pieces that are going to last a long time and aren’t too trendy, but are comfortable and family friendly.”

She also mixes high and low price points, like custom bedding paired with pillows from T.J. Maxx and Home Goods. Kirsten says she scores charming secondhand finds from places like Poppy Hill Vintage in Three Oaks. “If you find something that you love, buy it,” she says. “It will work somewhere.”

A lower- level bunk room is comfortable for all ages.

In her home, special pieces appear throughout — like the circle of friendship art in the entryway. “I thought it’s appropriate for a home where you often entertain friends,” Kirsten says. A light above the artwork makes it more of a focal point, while the bench below, made by her father, adds another personal touch.

A stacked stone fireplace with a live edge mantel highlights a piece of vintage art that reminds her of a dune. “I love finding treasures,” says Kirsten, who also treasures the memories made at their cottage near Lake Michigan. She says she fondly recalls the time relatives were visiting and everyone carried their stuff to the beach to sleep in tents. “A neighbor came and got us because severe storms were headed our way, so we hauled everything back up the 120 stairs and we camped out on the screened-in porch that night,” she says. “It didn’t rain a drop!”

A guest room features a vintage desk and chair from Poppy Hill Vintage in Three Oaks.

In any weather, seasonal activities are enjoyed by all. “In the winter, we go cross-country skiing,” Kirsten says. “This is a great place for bike rides, and the sunsets are (beautiful). We like hiking Warren Dunes, hosting friends and family for bonfires, and camping out on the beach.” Other adventures include looking for beach glass and biking to get ice cream. The family also enjoys visiting the local farmers market and getting donuts from a Swedish bakery in Harbert.

Back in Illinois, they live in an old brick Colonial from the 1930s. “(The cottage has) a much more open floor plan that’s ideal for entertaining. I like that (our homes) both feel so different,” Kirsten says. “Everything here is very relaxed. Nothing is fragile. We hope everyone always finds it welcoming and inviting.”

The mirror in the bunk room defines a relaxed cottage look.


Kirsten Young, Interior Blooms Design, Illinois and Sawyer, Mich.,

Armchair – Vintage; Upholstery, Kravet Fabric
Artwork – Peggy Taylor
Bedding – Crate & Barrel
Blinds – Hunter Douglas, Whole Nine Yards, Lakeside
Bunk Beds – Relics Furniture Co.
Mirror – Ballard Designs
Pillow, Textured – Crate & Barrel
Shelving Unit – Custom, Douglas Fir Flooring
Tray, Woven – West Elm
Vase – West Elm
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Stonington Gray

Chairs, Dining – Custom, Byways Furniture Co.
Chandelier – Tower Lighting
Flooring – Douglas Fir Wood Floors; Chip Steffey Custom Homes, Sawyer
Pillows, Accent – Danielle Oakey Shop
Sofa – Kravet Furniture, The Merchandise Mart
Table, Dining – Custom, Byways Furniture Co.
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Warm Sand

Artwork – Lakeside Antiques, Lakeside
Basket – Poppy Hill Vintage, Three Oaks
Fireplace – Chip Steffey Custom Homes, Sawyer
Flooring – Douglas Fir Wood Floors; Chip Steffey Custom Homes, Sawyer
Vase – Hobby Lobby

Upon entering the Young cottage, visitors feel right at home, thanks to an inviting foyer.

Art Light – Visual Comfort, Tower Lighting
Artwork – Garnet Hill
Basket, Striped – West Elm
Bench – Custom, Interior Blooms Design
Flooring – Chip Steffey Custom Homes, Sawyer
Pillow – Calico Corners
Rug – HomeGoods

Bedding – Pine Cone Hill, Annie Selke
Chair, Desk – Poppy Hill Vintage, Three Oaks
Desk – Vintage; Refinished in Benjamin Moore, Newburyport Blue
Headboard – Custom, Interior Blooms Design
Lamp – Pottery Barn
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Indian River

Artwork, Photography – Michael Young
Artwork, Still Life – Poppy Hill Vintage, Three Oaks
Backsplash – Lilywork Artisan Tile, The Fine Line
Cabinetry – Christopher Peacock Cabinetry, The Merchandise Mart
Countertops – Taj Mahal Leathered Quartzite, Stonecutters
Dishware – Sawyer Home & Garden Center, Sawyer
Dutch Oven – Le Creuset Cookware
Flooring – Douglas Fir Wood Floors; Chip Steffey Custom Homes, Sawyer
Lamp, Counter – Target
Lighting – Tower Lighting
Runner – Old New House
Sink, Island – Julien Inc.; House of Rohl Faucet, ABT Electronics
Storage Cabinet, Wine – Sub-Zero, ABT Electronics
Stove – Wolf, ABT Electronics
Tea Kettle – Chantal Teapot
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Warm Sand
Wine Rack – Custom, Interior Blooms Design

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