Sunrise, Sunset

Empire new-build makes the most of spectacular views and a location on two lakes
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The cottage now has all the comfy amenities this family needs, plus lots of style — from the porch to the exterior, the entryway, and the dining room.

Nicole Withers of Jones-Keena & Co. has worked on many lakefront homes in her 27 years as an interior designer, but even she admits there’s something spectacular about the Empire project the Birmingham-based design firm finished in 2020.

“I’ve never seen a property like this before,” she says. Perched high, “it has the most spectacular views,” she explains — and not just of one body of water, but two. The narrow site has 120 feet of frontage on Lake Michigan on one side and another 120 feet of frontage on South Bar Lake, which the homeowner describes as “really rustic,” and reminiscent of the movie “On Golden Pond,” on the other.

The family who owns the land has a long connection to both the site and the area. The husband was born in Empire and lived on a small, self-sustaining hobby farm. When the couple initially went to look at the property, which the husband found in a local newspaper ad, he remembered having raked sand there as a teenager, when he worked in landscaping.

They purchased the lot, which had been used as a rental property, in 2015 and put $30,000 into upgrading the 1950s cottage. They rented the cottage out for the next few years, but “the plan was always to knock it down and rebuild,” the homeowner explains.



That process was started late in 2018, when the couple brought in Withers, architect Joseph Mosey, and Render Construction to help them achieve their goals. More family space was the top priority, according to the homeowners, who have three grown children. So, too, was a home that was “elegant but cozy, with a mature palette.”

An artist, the wife wanted to steer clear of the typical beach-home color scheme, which includes a lot of blue. “I wanted the property itself to be the art,” she explains, adding that the 4,000-square-foot residence is filled with muted natural tones. The only exception, she says, are the brighter hues found in her canvases. “When people come into the house they say it’s so soft, like the colors of a dune. That’s exactly what I wanted to achieve.”

Withers says the palette was a creative challenge. “The backdrop is her wonderful art collection, which features a lot of Michigan artists, including her own work and that of friends,” she shares. “We wanted to make the most of that.” The designer says her strategy included borrowing inspiration from the gorgeous sunsets of Lake Michigan, which influenced the soft orange tones found in the great room and kitchen.

An experienced renovator, the wife had never built a new house, but “she was the eyes and ears on the project,” Withers says. “She would walk the house during construction and come back with ideas. We ended up creating some really cool ceiling details and other details.” At the homeowners’ request, they also reorganized the original floor plan to move the kitchen and the dining room to the Lake Michigan side of the house, to take advantage of the views. “I wanted nature to provide the wow,” the homeowner explains of her floor plan and color choices.



Withers’ goal was to give the family the restful retreat and family gathering place they envisioned. “They wanted to be able to entertain, feel casual and comfortable while there, and take advantage of the views” she explains.

One of the best places to do that is on the home’s third floor. Like the old rental that had been on the property, the new house is affectionately known as “The Perch.” Inspired by yearly visits to Nantucket, the owners had originally planned to incorporate a widow’s walk at the top of the house. Instead, they built a 15- by 20-foot room on the third floor that includes a bar with seating, a small kitchen, and an outdoor balcony — or, as they like to say, “a perch at the top of The Perch.” It’s a “great place to watch sunsets,” the couple agrees.

Sunrises, meanwhile, are enjoyed with coffee in the kitchen, overlooking South Bar Lake. The wife’s favorite things about the house, she says, are the lot, the cosy and welcoming layout, and the interesting light fixtures. She also appreciates that when you walk into the foyer, you can see both lakes. Withers is partial to the views throughout, which can be enjoyed “in every single room, even bathrooms.” she says, adding that the “magical” reading room and the screened porch are her favorite spaces.


The kitchen was moved to the Lake Michigan side of the home. Note the color of the leather stools (there are pops of orange throughout the home).

There were a few unexpected surprises along the way, including a period when Lake Michigan was rising at an alarming rate and the homeowners almost lost their septic field.

The family finally moved in in June of 2020, so they’ll mark two years in the new space this summer. Withers says the talented design team also included Amanda Rose and Tracey Brugioni of Jones-Keena, and landscaper Jeff Hennig of environmental Artists, who worked with the challenging lot and whose design for the property became model for residential dune restoration projects in Leelanau County. Withers calls him “a genius.”

The homeowner admits she was intimidated by the building process at first, but she ultimately enjoyed it. “I had an absolute blast,” she says, adding that the results were well worth the wait. “Throughout the day, the lake just turns to diamonds,” she marvels. “We feel so fortunate to have this in our family.”




BUYER’S GUIDE


INTERIOR DESIGNER

Nicole Withers, Jones-Keena & Co., Birmingham, jones-keena.com


BATHROOM, MASTER

Cabinet, Storage – O’Brien Harris, Petoskey
Cabinetry – O’Brien Harris, Petoske
Chandelier – Treetop White Large Chandelier, Currey & Company, CAI Designs, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Countertop – Matarazzo,  PMP Marble & Granite, Troy
Drapery – Fabrication, Designs Designs, Wixom; Fabric, Pindler, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Flooring – Polar Grey Basketweave, Ciot, Troy
Mirror – Moore Square Mirror, Uttermost, Lighting Resource Studio, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Sconces – Barton Grande Sconces, Visual Comfort, City Lights Detroit, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Ashwood


An inviting guest room,“the perch,” and the dining room all offer great views.

BEDROOM, GUEST

Bed Frame – Synchronicity Bed, Universal Furniture, Jones-Keena & Co., Birmingham
Bedding – Pine Cone Hill, Annie Selke
Bench – Palma Bench, Bernhardt, CAI Designs, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Chandelier – Purebred Large Lantern, Currey & Company, CAI Designs, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Drapery – Rosemary Linen, Fabricut, Designer Furniture Services, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Flooring – White Oak, Everlast Floors, Troy
Lamp – John-Richard, Lighting Resource Studio, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Rug – Oushak Rug, Boga Rugs
Table, End – WILDWOOD, CAI Designs, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Ashwood


DINING ROOM

Bench – Prague Bench, Charleston Forge, CAI Designs, Michigan Design Center, Troy; Pillow, Kinley Linen Pillow, Pine Cone Hill, Annie Selke
Chairs, Dining – Loretta Side Chairs, Hickory Chair, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Chandelier – Maximus Grande Chandelier, Currey & Company, CAI Designs, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Drapery – Massa Granite, Pindler, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Flooring – White Oak, Everlast Floors, Troy
Light, Foyer Ceiling – Lorford Smoke Bell Lantern, Visual Comfort, City Lights Detroit, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Mirror – Lovell Mirror, Gabby Home, CAI Designs, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Rug – Dartmoor IV, Pewter, Surface Designs International
Runner, Hallway – Oushak, Soylemezler Oriental Rugs
Table, Dining – Madeleine Dining Table, Michel Ferrand
Table, End – Gustavian Chest, Modern History, CAI Designs, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Aegean Olive
Wallpaper, Hallway – Cameron Walnut, Winfield Thybony, Kravet|Lee Jofa|Brunschwig & Fils, Michigan Design Center, Troy


KITCHEN

Backsplash – Adex, Virginia Tile Company, Troy
Bar Stools – Woodbridge Furniture, CAI Designs, Michigan Design Center, Troy; Upholstery, Orange Faux Leather, Kravet, Kravet|Lee Jofa|Brunschwig & Fils, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Cabinetry – O’Brien Harris, Petoskey
Chairs, Breakfast – Jonathan Charles, CAI Designs, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Countertops – Baccarat, PMP Marble & Granite, Troy
Flooring – White Oak, Everlast Floors, Troy
Hood – O’Brien Harris, Petoskey
Lighting, Bar – Chatham Lanterns by Ralph Lauren, Visual Comfort, City Lights Detroit, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Lighting, Breakfast Table – Goodman Large Pendant, Visual Comfort, City Lights Detroit, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Pillows, Accent – Eastern Accents, Jones-Keena & Co., Birmingham
Rug – Boga Rugs
Stove – La Cornue, O’Brien Harris, Petoskey
Table, Breakfast – Fitzwilliam, Bungalow 5
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Hazy Skies


The porch, living room (with a natural stone fireplace of Michigan limestone), and master bath all exude cottage charm and sophistication.

LIVING ROOM

Armchairs – Jules Swivel Chairs, Hickory Chair, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Artwork – Jones-Keena & Co., Birmingham
Chandelier – Mazarin Chandelier, Bliss Studio, Jones-Keena & Co., Birmingham
Chest, Decorative – Bickerton Chest, Jonathan Charles, CAI Designs, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Table, Coffee – Gore Coffee Table, Tritter Feefer
Flooring – Boga Rugs
Lamp, Chest – Ferro Designs
Lamps, Blue and White – Zigzag Table Lamps, Currey & Company, CAI Designs, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Pillows, Accent – Surya, CAI Designs, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Sofa – Lorraine Sofa, Hickory Chair, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Hazy Skies
Wall Treatment, Fireplace – Limestone, Beach Blend Ashlar, The Stone Mill, Lakeview


PATIO AND PORCH

Ceiling Treatment – Beadboard, Render Construction, Traverse City
Cushions – Kingsley-Bate, Spring Stripe, Jones-Keena & Co., Birmingham
Fan – Maverick LED Collection, Monte Carlo, City Lights Detroit, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Masonry – Bluestone, Render Construction, Traverse City
Table, Coffee – Seasonal Living, Jones-Keena & Co., Birmingham
Tables, End – Urbia Imports
Sofa and Chairs – Frances Collection, Kingsley-Bate, Jones-Keena & Co.



SITTING ROOM

Armchairs – Springhouse Lounge Chair, Charleston Forge, CAI Designs, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Ceiling Treatment – Nickel Gap, Render Construction, Traverse City
Flooring – Sajal Rug, Surya, CAI Designs, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Ottoman – Custom, Jones-Keena & Co. Upholstery Studio, Birmingham; Fabric, Mattone Citrus, Kravet, Kravet|Lee Jofa|Brunschwig & Fils, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Table, Occasional – Seasonal Living, Jones-Keena & Co., Birmingham
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Hazy Skies



THE PERCH (BALCONY)

Chairs, Patio – Bailey Chair, Urbia Imports
Flooring – White Oak, Everlast Floors, Troy
Light, Wall – Venice Sconce, Visual Comfort, City Lights Detroit, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Railing, Balcony – Render Construction, Traverse City
Stools – Ikat French Blue Stools, Pine Cone Hill, Annie Selke
Table, High-Top – Simone Bar Table, Four Hands, Jones-Keena & Co., Birmingham
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, Hazy Skies


EXTERIOR

Building Materials – Cedar Shingles
Landscaping Installation – Twin Bay Landscaping, Traverse City
Outdoor Flooring and Masonry – Twin Bay Landscaping, Traverse City
Paint Color, Exterior Door – Benjamin Moore, Sweet Vibration


The branch-like light fixture in the bathroom fits the home’s nature theme.

ADDITIONAL PROJECT CONTRIBUTORS

Architect – Joseph Mosey, Joseph Mosey Architecture, Northville
Builder – Eric Render, Render Construction, Traverse City
Contributing Designers – Tracey Brugioni and  Amanda Rose, Jones-Keena & Co.
Design, Kitchen – O’Brien Harris (formerly Signature Kitchens), Liz Firebaugh, Petoskey
Design, Landscape – Jeffrey Hennig, Environmental Artists, Leland
Drapery (Fabrication) – Designs Designs, Wixom
Porch, Sunscape – Sunspace of West Michigan, Wyoming



By Khristi Zimmeth & Photography by Beth Singer

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