The Thatch House: Petoskey Area Home Tour by Northern Home & Cottage, Home #3

Join us for a premier one-day home tour featuring 7 beautiful homes, thoughtfully designed and surrounded by stunning landscapes in the Petoskey area—Elk Rapids, Charlevoix, Harbor Springs and more. The Petoskey Area Northern Home & Cottage Home Tour is Saturday, October 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Below is a sneak peek inside home #3!

Proceeds raised during the Petoskey Area Home Tour will benefit Northern Michigan non-profit, Child and Family Services of Northwestern Michigan. Tickets (along with driving directions) are $20 until September 30 and $25 after. To purchase tickets please go to For more information: 800.836.0717. Tickets can be purchased at MyNorthTickets through October 12 and at the following locations: Capital Granite, Petoskey Chamber of Commerce, Advance Electric in Gaylord. Tickets are also available at the door of each home—cash or check only.

Address: 304 Park Ave., Charlevoix

Presenter: The Mushroom Houses of Charlevoix

In 1919, a young insurance salesman and Realtor by the name of Earl Young worked with a Petoskey architect to design a home for him and his wife, Irene, at 304 Park Avenue in Charlevoix. A devotee of Frank Lloyd Wright, Young had attended the University of Michigan’s School of Architecture for one year—leaving because of the school’s focus on classical and Victorian architecture.

Despite hiring an architect, Young clearly had a significant hand in the design of his home. The finished product had a grand stone exterior and a roof marked by interesting angles and Craftsman-style dormers. The home was Young’s first stab at what would become a 50-year career building and designing signature stone homes in downtown Charlevoix.

Young eventually designed 26 residences (counting his own first home) and four commercial properties defined by their enchanting stonework and rooflines. Think Frank Lloyd Wright (organic materials, horizontal lines, exposed rafter tails) goes fairytale with wavy roofs, arches, nooks, whimsical chimneys and many more details. Collectively, the buildings are known by several nicknames, including the mushroom houses, gnome homes and Hobbit houses. However they are described, Earl Young’s homes are fabulous and sure to stir the imagination.

Such was the case when Dr. Michael Seitz first saw Young’s former home on 304 Park Avenue. Inspired and intrigued by the stone exterior, he thought the roof was unremarkable. The truth is, that roof probably didn’t do much for Young either, given he went on to focus on roofs in his designs, making them progressively more undulating and enchanting. Young once said: “I build a roof, and shove the houses in underneath …”

On the flight back to his home in Texas, Dr. Seitz sketched ideas for a new roof. Soon after, he made a Lego model and used drawer-lining paper to sculpt a brilliantly complicated new roof that he envisioned in thatch—a nod to his native South Africa. Dr. Seitz went on to purchase Earl Young’s first home, and one of Northern Michigan’s more visionary building projects in recent years was launched.

Off came the roof and in came Colin McGee, an English Master Thatcher who spent four months in the frigid winter of 2014–15 constructing a thatch roof that undulates over the stone walls like poured caramel. Working with Way Building Contractors in Charlevoix, Dr. Seitz had the home’s interior completely gutted. Those amazing stone exterior walls still encase the home’s original footprint and window spaces. And inside, the two original and massive stone fireplaces still dominate the great room.

Dr. Seitz went on to update the home in an elegant contemporary-rustic style befitting the original design, which includes an open kitchen with massive live-edged wood-slab countertops and modern appliances. The handsome floors are torched white pine, and the treads on the spiral staircase are white oak from the property, finished with a charcoal wax. There is plenty of new stonework—but it all matches the original stonework. Indeed, the craftsmanship and details are endless in this three-floor, three–master-suite home. Tourgoers will be enchanted by this home that preserves the essence of Young’s vision while encompassing Dr. Seitz’s own sensibilities.

Preview all 7 homes on the Petoskey Area Home Tour in the October 2017 issue of Northern Home & Cottage.

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