Unique Retreat

Private island off Michigan’s Upper Peninsula provides ultimate getaway. // Photography by Geoff Shirley
Unique Retreats

Not far from northern Lake Huron’s Canadian shoreline near Drummond Island sits an impressive personal refuge on the peaceful waters of Potagannissing Bay. The homeowners, a husband and wife who fell in love with the area, acquired their own 70-acre island before hiring Grand Rapids-based J. Visser Design to create the perfect dwelling for the secluded site.

Their handsome home has all the amenities they need, like cellular service, the internet and backup power. And while the island is their intended focal point, the understated interiors of the roughly 5,000-square-foot home with its five bedrooms and six-and-a-half bathrooms feature a spacious great room with classic details like a stone fireplace and a wood ceiling.

Island home constructed above the boathouse.
The island home was constructed above the boathouse, where family and visitors arrive and enter. There is not a traditional front door.

Other highlights on the grounds include walking trails, a garden and a vineyard with 350 vines for red wine. The homeowners also enjoy a large copse of sugar maples where they tap syrup for their own consumption.

“It’s very peaceful with clean, fresh air and clear, fresh water,” said the husband, who was willing to talk with BLUE but asked not to be identified due to privacy concerns. “It’s a great place to be and a good place for reflections. … It’s quite the experience to live on an island. It’s a great place for family to come and get away from everything.”

Unique Retreats - Dock
Built with cedar and stone, the support structures are an attractive part of the home’s exterior design. The outside dock also has a shore-power station for keeping batteries charged and/or running any lights, electronics or refrigeration aboard the family boat.

Being boat owners, the couple wanted to incorporate a boathouse and boat slip into the overall design. They own a motorboat and sailboat they use to cruise the North Channel of Lake Huron. They often share their special hideaway with their children and grandchildren.

“We designed the home as a place for them to come and get away for a long weekend and relax,” he said. “It has a very open feel, and it’s a great gathering place for family. There are no TVs in the main rooms; it’s all about the view.”

“It’s a well-designed home. We hadn’t done a lot of structured steel prior to this boathouse slip, but my team handled it very well.”
— Joe DePaul

Striking Structure

Jeff Visser, designer/architect and co-owner of J. Visser Design (jvisser.com) said the home’s architecture was inspired by several factors, including boathouses and Adirondack-style homes often found on the East Coast. The process began with the couple’s wish list and vision of what the house could be.

Because it was built above the boathouse, it doesn’t have a typical foundation. Yet each feature, like the cedar support structures beneath the wraparound porch, is pleasing to the eye.

Visser said, “There’s no reason why supports have to be ugly.” Since arrival is by boat, there is no traditional front door. Oval windows were chosen to add a distinctive feature to the exterior while offering a unique view from within where interior trusses and beam work blend metal with wood for a decorative element.

The exterior combines cedar siding and roofing with stone and composite decking with metal railings. Copper was chosen for the gutters and downspouts. Expansive windows capture the views, while the wraparound porch offers a luxurious outdoor living space. The boat slips and boathouse area that make up the underside of the home are among the main attractions to this island getaway.

Unique Retreats Dining Room
The home interior is open and spacious with simple décor and custom cabinetry that draws on warm wood finishes, high ceilings and ample views.
Inside the Lines

Missy Walters, an interior designer with Studio M Interiors in Grand Rapids
(studiom-interiors.com) worked with the homeowners on the interior material selections, cabinet concepts, lighting plans, tile design, built-in design and interior trim selections.

Priebe’s Creative Woodworking in Benton Harbor fabricated custom cabinets, with custom finishes by Studio M. Though granite was selected for the kitchen countertop, others in the home are quartz. Custom finishes also appear on the white oak wood floors, interior trim and beams.

The furnishings, which were chosen by the homeowners, consist of a combination of selections from Arhaus and custom pieces by the Center of the World Woodshop in Sawyer.

Walters said the couple wanted the spaces to be comfortable and welcoming with warm finishes and woods. She describes their aesthetic as “lake living with natural finishes and a nod to coastal.”

Remote Control
A stone fireplace was built in the great room.
A stone fireplace was built in the great room.

One of the biggest challenges in creating an island haven is transporting the needed equipment and materials to the island. The homeowners worked with Drummond Island Yacht Haven Construction (diyachthaven.com) for the complex transportation and building process.

Visser noted that between curved roofs and other design elements, the structure had to be “very sturdy to kind of float above the water.” And that would mean a lot of steel on the property. “For them (Yacht Haven), it’s just the norm,” the homeowner explained. He along with Visser was impressed with Yacht Haven’s work.

General manager Joe DePaul said the obvious challenges were ferrying the supplies to Drummond Island from the mainland and then barging or boating the materials out to the island site. But he noted logistics that include driving a truck across the ice in the winter are “old hat to us.”

And in this case, the harsh weather helped speed up the process that took about two years to complete. “That was a bonus. It was such a good winter that we plowed a road across the ice,” DePaul said. “We were well along before winter, and we needed to complete the project for the Fourth of July in 2016.”

An aerial view of the island, the home and small boat basin.
An aerial view of the island, the home and small boat basin.

Although Drummond Island is more of a summer spot, the ferry system out of DeTour runs 24 hours a day year-round, and most of the homes, like this one, are winterized, according to DePaul, who said he appreciates the island home’s distinctive details.

“It’s a well-designed home,” he said. “We hadn’t done a lot of structured steel prior to this boathouse slip, but my team handled it very well. Everything has to carry over, and it’s cantilevered. Hiding that steel was a huge challenge, but it looks like it’s meant to be there. It was very unique for us, but it turned out well.”

Jeanine Matlow is a Detroit-based freelance writer and regular contributor to BLUE.

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