Northern Michigan Home & Cottage: Chalet Style

Northern Michigan Home & Cottage: The barn roof–styled chalet was closed up tight for the winter when Meg Warner-Baker saw it for the first time eight years ago. She was single then, only 22, and ready to purchase her first home. Trudging around the chalet, set into a slope within sight of Boyne Highlands and a short walk (or ski if there’s enough snow) from Nub's Nob ski area, Meg knew she had to have it. She loved the way the tree that grew through a cutout in the above-grade-level deck made the place feel like a tree house. And Meg could barely draw herself away from windows that rose 30 feet from the main level to frame a postcard view of Boyne Highlands. “I knew that I wanted it even before I went inside,” she says. “You know how it is when you get that feeling.”

And Meg hadn’t even seen the original black leather-upholstered bar in the downstairs rec room yet, or the swinging basket chair, or what she calls the Darth Vader black-metal fireplace …

Born in 1981, Meg was far from around when the chalet was built during skiing’s glamorous years of the 1960s. That was the decade of Jean-Claude Killy, fiberglass, K2, releasable bindings, great sweaters and slinky stretch pants. Along with all of that came a proliferation of small alpine-style chalets across the nation’s ski country. Generally A-framed (so snow slides off the roof), with open living areas often joined to galley kitchens by a breakfast bar, they were tailored for easy-in, easy-out ski weekends.

She might not have been there way back when, but Meg, who works as the manager at stylish Monogram Goods in Harbor Springs, was an early pioneer of the trendy midcentury modern rage that is still sweeping decor magazines. Meg’s design vision helped her to see the possibilities in the hipped-roof variation of the quintessential ski chalet. “It had great bones,” she says.

A vacation home it might have been, but Meg didn’t see any reason why she couldn’t live in it year round. It has, after all, three bedrooms, a finished basement (home to that leather bar), and that incredible deck that acts as another living space nearly three seasons a year. Not to mention its easy access to everything she loves about Northern Michigan, from ski slopes to bike trails to beaches.

So Meg bought it—and changed, well, relatively little. She did switch out the “gross” rental carpet for dark-stained bamboo floors, paint the kitchen cabinets espresso chocolate brown and update the appliances. But stylish intuition told her to leave most of the beams that great 1960s avocado green. Meg went on to outfit the home with family pieces and vintage finds from thrift shops and eBay. A couple years after she bought the chalet, Meg married Will Baker—who not so incidentally came with an original black leather Eames chair from his grandfather. Along with their two dogs, the couple has lived happily ever after in the chalet. “It’s not a normal house; you always feel like you’re on vacation,” Meg says.

By the time this story is in print, the Warner-Bakers’ new baby girl, Koalani, will be at home in the chalet. No neo-colonial rocking chair for this little one. She’ll be cuddling up with Mom in her own Eero Saarinen womb chair.

This article available in print in the December issue of Northern Home & Cottage. Order your copy today!