Year-Round Vacation

Major remodel makes the most of a special home on Lake Michigan // Photography by Jacob Harr
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Eric and Connie Peet enjoy this Lake Michigan look-out, which is down the stairs from their beautiful St. Joseph home.

Not everyone can spot a diamond in the rough. Connie Peet is one of the lucky ones who can. She and her husband, Eric, have operated chiropractic/applied kinesiology clinics in Saugatuck and St. Joseph for 30 years. In 2015, the couple decided to move their home base to St. Joseph to be closer to Eric’s father, who lives nearby.

Connie began perusing online real estate sites and eventually came across a run-down ranch on Lake Michigan that had been in foreclosure for five years. Built in 1938, it was  “in very rough shape,” she remembers, adding, “it had a crumbling chimney that was in danger of imploding, it had varying roof heights throughout, little to no insulation in the walls and attic, and the house was damp due to poor water management at ground level.”

Eric and Connie Peet

That was the bad news. The good news was that the 2,700-square-foot structure was situated on a more than 1.5-acre lot with 142 feet of prime Lake Michigan frontage. It had one of the only remaining original wooden stairs and double decks leading down to the water, providing the Peets with private beach access. The home “sits back approximately 200 feet from the bluff, which offered us security and peace of mind, knowing the home would never be in danger of being swept away or torn down because of erosion,” Connie says.

Several offers had been made on the house the first four years it was on the market, but each had eventually fallen through. “When we looked at the house in May there were competing bids, but the bank ultimately accepted our cash offer,” Connie says. She and her husband closed in three days. “Our initial thought was to flatten it,” Connie admits, “but once we researched the pros and cons of doing so, including the tax imprint, we embraced the fact that the home had good bones and we knew that by keeping the existing footprint, we could save a tremendous amount of money in property taxes.”

Veterans of other renovations, the intrepid couple wasn’t intimidated by the extensive work that needed to be done, and they saw possibilities where others saw problems. “We knew if we re-engineered the roof lines, raising the ceiling height throughout to 9 feet, and changed the floor plan, we had the potential to create a comfortable home that would reflect a Mid-century Modern design displaying our sense of style, and it would be both functional and aesthetically pleasing,” Connie says.

The couple never expected it to be a quick fix, however, and in the end, the renovation process took almost four years to complete. “It took personal involvement and a lot of time to get it right,” Connie says. Built for a Chicago couple who used it solely for entertaining, the Peets decided to stay true to the home’s original gathering space intent while opening it up and redefining it for their personal enjoyment.

Gallery above: The couple recently remodeled several outside spaces.
Connie Peet designed the living room fireplace. “Eric and I both love Frank Lloyd Wright- and Joseph Eichler-style homes,” she explains. “We’re inspired by a simple, minimalistic, yet sophisticated lifestyle.” The Peets say they often enjoy watching perfect moonsets while they’re having their morning coffee in the kitchen. “Sometimes they’re bright red; they’re incredible,” Eric says.

They began by removing and rebuilding the chimney and fireplace, then taking everything back to the studs. They refigured the new window and door package, and added a carport to give more architectural detail to the overall style of the house. Removing the basement stairs and relocating the basement entrance allowed for a brighter, more open-concept floor plan. A dilapidated lakeside porch became a relaxing wine bar and lounge.

Rooms and choices throughout the residence reflect the couple’s preference for contemporary design and their admiration for homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and Joseph Eichler.  “I’m a genuine minimalist,” Connie asserts.  “We both love Mid-century Modern for its clean lines, uncluttered aesthetics, and organic form. I believe the exterior of the home should dictate its interior design, and with ours, the quality of the craftsmanship, natural wood finishes, and Herman Miller furnishings created a home that will stand the test of time.”

Connie’s favorite spaces include the master suite and bathroom.  “There’s something magical about soaking in a hot bath while watching the sun set over Lake Michigan,”  she says. Eric, on the other hand, is partial to the living room.  “I like how the sunbeams move through the room, creating shadows while providing brilliant natural lighting,”  he says.  “It’s amazing how the angles of the lighting change from season to season.”

They both love living on the lake, but there have been challenges. Two years into the renovation, erosion hit the Lake Michigan shoreline, peaking at near-record levels in 2019.  “The extent of the damage was shocking,”  Connie remembers.  “Our neighbor two doors to the north lost his home, then his entire lot was simply swept away. It continued to erode through both of our immediate neighbors’  backyards, and came right up our property line.”

The couple quickly took action.  “When we first purchased the home, the water was 75 feet from the base of our hill. Three years later, it was at the base of the hill and starting to disrupt its integrity.  Thankfully, our property sits in a heavily forested cove and was somewhat protected, but for our own peace of mind, we planted more than 10,000 dune grass plants.”  They also built a seawall, bringing in 600 tons of rock by barge to protect their stairs and decks. The couple invested almost as much in securing the shoreline as they did in buying the house.  “We felt like we had to do it,” they say.

The Peets take full advantage of living on the lake, enjoying the incredible views from the house, and taking the 83 steps down to the shoreline multiple times a day.  “At the base of the bluff, the only sound is the water,” Connie says.  “The tranquility is amazing. Simply sitting quietly, or basking in the sun, is such a privilege. We paddleboard and swim. It’s wonderful.”

It was all worth it, they agree.  “Now that our home is completed and we’re living there full time, it has been everything we imagined,” Connie says.  “It’s the perfect house for entertaining guests, and it looks and feels like you’re on vacation.”

The table and benches in the breakfast nook are made of marble and concrete.

BUYER’S GUIDE

INTERIOR DESIGN
Homeowners, Connie and Eric Peet

BATHROOM
Bathtub – Lucina Resin Tub, Signature Hardware
Cabinetry – Silver Maple, Woodways Custom Cabinetry, Grand Rapids
Countertop – Quartz, White Zeus, Silestone, Lumbermen’s Counter Solutions, Grand Rapids
Faucet – Ghani Freestanding Waterfall Tub Faucet, Signature Hardware
Flooring – Equation Tile, Gray, Daltile, Floor Art, Benton Harbor
Hamper – Molded Plywood, The Container Store
Light, Ceiling – 6-inch Recessed Gimbal Trim, aspectLED
Tray, Bathtub – Tombolo 10 Bathtub Rack, Victoria + Albert, Williams Kitchen & Bath, Grand Rapids
Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Pure White

BEDROOM
Bedding – Crate & Barrel
Chairs, Rocking – Eames Rocking Shell Chair in Sparrow, Herman Miller, Grand Rapids
Chandelier, Lantern – Nelson Saucer Bubble Pendant, Herman Miller, DWR
Fan – Fanimation, Grand Rapids Lighting, Grand Rapids
Flooring – Select Ash Wood, Bellawood Hardwood, LL Flooring
Lighting, Bedside – Nelson Bubble Lamp Cigar Sconce, Herman Miller, DWR
Pillows, Accent – Quatrefoil by Alexander Girard, Maharam Textiles
Table, End – Nelson Pedestal Table, Herman Miller
Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Pure White

The Peets’ property has one of the only remaining wooden stairs and double decks leading down to the water, providing the couple with private beach access. “The home sits back approximately 200 feet from the bluff, which offered us security and peace of mind, knowing it would never be in danger of being swept away or torn down because of erosion,” Connie says.

LIVING ROOM
Chair – Lounge Chair, Herman Miller, DWR
Fireplace – Straight Stacked Bond, Connie Peet Design, Bokon Masonry Inc.
Flooring – Select Ash Wood, Bellawood Hardwood, LL Flooring
Lighting – 6-inch Recessed Gimbal Trim, aspectLED
Sofa – Goetz Sofa, Herman Miller, DWR
TV Stand – Custom Maple, Carson Wood Specialties, Stevensville
Wall Hooks – Eames Hang-It-All, Herman Miller, DWR
Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Pure White

KITCHEN, BREAKFAST NOOK, DINING ROOM
Cabinetry – Silver Maple, Woodways Custom Cabinetry, Grand Rapids
Countertop – Quartz in White Zeus, Silestone, Lumbermen’s Counter Solutions, Grand Rapids
Chairs, Dining – Series 7 Birch Chair, Arne Jacobsen, Fritz Hansen, DWR
Chandeliers, Lantern – Nelson Saucer Bubble Pendant, Herman Miller, DWR
Faucet – Industrial Faucet, Moen, Richards Plumbing & Heating Supply, Wyoming
Flooring – Equation Tile in Gray, Daltile, Floor Art, Benton Harbor
Hood – KitchenAid, Bekins, Grand Rapids
Lighting – 6-inch Recessed Gimbal Trim, aspect LED
Sink – Under-Mount Sink, Kohler, Richards Plumbing & Heating Supply, Grand Rapids
Table, Dining – Custom Surfboard-Style Table, Eric Peet Design, Eric Peet, St. Joseph
Table and Benches, Marble – Concrete, Fuse, CB2
Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Pure White

PATIO
Armchair – Adirondack Flat Chair, Loll Designs, Sojourn, Sawyer
Bulb, Outdoor – Brightech
Chairs, Wooden – Ipe Wood, Custom Lake Furniture, Ian Lindahl, Fennville
Deck – No. 1 Ponderosa Pine, Carson Wood Specialties, Stevensville
Lighting, String – Ambience Pro
Loungers, Chaise – Lounge Chairs, Nautica Home
Planters – Loll Designs, Sojourn, Sawyer
Sconces – Cylinder Pendant Lighting, Progress Lighting, Build
Shade, Patio – Coolaroo
Table, End – Lollygagger End Table, Loll Designs, Sojourn, Sawyer
Table, Wooden – Ipe Wood, Custom Lake Furniture, Ian Lindahl, Fennville
Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Peppercorn

WINE BAR AREA
Artwork – Rene Design, Rene Balboa, Grand Rapids
Bench, Half-Circle – Naughtone, Herman Miller, Grand Rapids and Zeeland
Cabinetry – Silver Maple, Woodways Custom Cabinetry, Grand Rapids
Chandelier – Nelson Saucer Bubble Pendant, Herman Miller, DWR
Flooring – Select Ash Wood, Bellawood Hardwood, LL Flooring
Glassware – Oval Oak, Sagaform, Stockholm Objects, Harbert
Table – Nelson Pedestal Table, Herman Miller, Grand Rapids
Wall Paint – Sherwin-Williams, Pure White

The entryway to the home.

EXTERIOR
Building Materials – Carson Wood Specialties, Stevensville
Dock – Barry King, Viking Marine Construction, Holland
Furniture, Dock – Filson
Landscaping – Eric and Connie Peet; Second Nature Gardens, Benton Harbor; and Bliss Hill Plant Co., Indiana
Masonry – Bokon Masonry Inc.; and Hagen Cement Products Inc., White Pigeon
Paint Color – Sherwin-Williams, Peppercorn; Trim, Sherwin-Williams, Tricorn
Windows – Black Exterior with Natural Wood Interior, Pella Windows & Doors, Grand Rapids

ADDITIONAL PROJECT CONTRIBUTORS
Builder – Michael Pantelleria, Pantelleria Construction Services & Property Management, Benton Harbor
Concrete – Bruce Moffit, Paw Paw; and Mike Fisher, Hartford
Drywall and Painting Contractor – Ralph Potter, Paramount Drywall, St. Joseph
Electrical – Prentice Electrical Supply, Berrien Springs
General Construction – Charles Harttung, St. Joseph
General Construction – Stasiak Home Works, Watervliet
Hardwood Flooring – Mullins Hardwood Flooring, Benton Harbor
HVAC – Wenzlaff Mechanical Contractors Inc., Stevensville
Landscaping – Eric and Connie Peet; John Migas; Second Nature Gardens; Bliss Hill Plant Co., ADM Property Care
Metal Fabrication – Shag’s Shop, Saugatuck
Plumbing – Mead Plumbing, Stevensville
Security – Mark Patterson Jr., Safe Haven Security, South Bend, Ind.
Trim Carpenter – Mark Shirey, Ranger Home Inspection and Construction, Saugatuck

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