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Northern Michigan Home & Cottage: It’s the classic Northern Michigan Real Estate dream—stumble on that affordable, diamond-in-the-rough home tucked into a dreamy setting that includes acreage and a drop-dead view. That’s what happened to Marek Ulicny and Dan Rice, both teachers in Traverse City, whose property search in March of 2007 led them to Windy Knob, an old farmstead that included a circa 1930s Craftsman bungalow, a barn and several even older outbuildings set on 16 rolling Leelanau Peninsula acres. The clincher: A Lake Michigan view that fills windows with cobalt blue on three sides of the home. And it was affordable, provided … each of them sold their houses.
Crossing trembling fingers that the property would still be on the market when they had the cash and credit, they put their homes on the market. The real estate gods smiled: the pair moved onto their new farmstead in May of 2008.
And that was when the work began. The home, which had been last updated in the 1970s and had been most recently used as a rental, needed a major overhaul. “We’ve pretty much tackled every square foot of the place,” Marek says.
But never once did the two doubt that their efforts would be worth it: the place was constructed like a bunker. The farmer who’d built the home had come from Indiana, where he’d seen how tornadoes could destroy a wood-frame home as effortlessly as if had been made from toothpicks. So he built his Northern Michigan home out of block and cement—Marek and Dan found the old empty cement bags up under the eaves, where the thrifty farmer had stapled them for insulation.
The farmer finished the cement exterior with stucco—aged, by the time Dan and Marek first saw it, to a dingy white that matched faded white vinyl siding on a later addition. With careful eyes to period authenticity, the pair repainted the stucco a pale khaki shade. “We tried to keep the colors true to the ’30s,” says Marek. They also ripped off the vinyl siding and replaced it with cedar shake, a move designed to make the addition look like an outbuilding.