Northern Michigan Renovation: When Anna Wege designed her new life in Traverse City, she wanted a home that was simple, open, stylish and comfortable. A condo in Grand Traverse Commons provided the canvas she needed.
Five years ago, after summering in Northport for 10 years, designer Anna Wege decided it was time to relocate from Chicago to Traverse City. Over the course of the next several years Anna rented two furnished apartments in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, Traverse City’s former state hospital grounds that are studded with ornate and repurposed 19th-century Victorian Italianate buildings. Along the way, she introduced her two young children to the joys of living in a community where boutiques, bakeries, coffee shops and restaurants are all within short and easy walking distance.
When Anna was finally ready to settle on a property, it was a two-story corner unit on the third and fourth floors in the Grand Traverse Commons’ Building 50. The ground floor of Anna’s new condominium had once housed the state hospital employee dining room and still sports the original white tile floors inlaid with geometric motifs (resembling turtles) in Arts & Crafts–period shades of terra cotta, green and blue. The walls are the original cream brick, and generous windows let in light from the north, south and west. But except for those architectural features, the unit was a blank canvas.
Anna’s first goal was to preserve the unit’s historical integrity. After that, she wanted to make her home comfortable for herself and her two children, Konrad and Lillian, in a clean-lined, open ambience that echoes her Swedish heritage. What evolved is a style that Anna calls self-explanatory: meaning come in, take your shoes off and you’ll easily find everything you need to make yourself comfortable.
Stylishly comfortable that is. Anna is Swedish after all. Her style begins in the foyer where a Moooi pendant lamp hangs near the custom designed-steel staircase (made from 80 percent reclaimed materials) that cascades down from the second level, where the children’s bedrooms are located. Past that staircase is Anna’s great room, where there is space enough for a Ping-Pong table, set up just off the kitchen and in front of the cozy cluster of furniture and art that is the living area.
The kitchen is a study in sleek warmth. A custom wall of stainless steel conceals cupboards, a Gaggenau oven, Sub-Zero refrigerator and a Miele coffeemaker. The modernist feel is offset by a 13-foot, rift-sawn white oak island made by the Leland company Little Fish. The rift cut creates vertical grain that lends a contemporary feel to oak. The island is topped off with blonde Corian. Behind it, the sink counter is made from sealed rift-sawn oak. Anna opted to forego wall cupboards to allow more reveal for the unit’s creamy brick walls.
In the living area, Anna balanced the hardness of the tile floor and brick walls with soft, tactile elements. To that end, Mongolian lamb pillows beckon on the B & B Italia sofa. Soft, tear-shaped coffee tables also hold valuable storage and convenient trays on top. The cluster of furniture, which also includes a Mies Van Der Rohe daybed, set around a modern gas fireplace (that feeds into the original brick chimney) succeeds in creating a modern take on the ageless gather-round-the-hearth hominess.
Anna’s private sanctuary in the unit is her master bedroom, accessed off the great room by transparent glass doors that don’t quite reach to cover the arched cut in the brick wall. The door, says Anna, “allows light and sound to transfer.” Bleached maple floors and the palest yellow walls also help to keep the room light. The master bath includes a floating tub and what Anna refers to as her urban sanctuary: a teak-floored steam shower. “When I first moved to Traverse City there weren’t any health clubs with a steam shower, so I decided to put in my own,” Anna says.
After a long day, Anna puts essential oils in the steam and relaxes in the shower. Meanwhile, outside the walls of her unit, everything from jazz festivals to farmers markets may be playing out in the bustling grounds of the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. Snug in her cream-colored brick walled home, Anna can’t hear any of it. But when she’s ready to, she always joins in the fun.