Escape to a Timeless Up North Era at Lakemore Retreat in Traverse City

A talented design-and-build team shows the power of Northern Michigan vernacular style at Lakemore Retreat on Arbutus Lake outside of Traverse City.

Earlier this year, a group of colleagues from Quicken Loans in Detroit booked both rental houses, one a cottage and the other a lodge, at the year-round Lakemore Retreat on Arbutus Lake for a team-building getaway. The retreat is owned by and was built by Dean and Tricia Adams of Bay Area Contracting.

The group filled the homes—12 people in each—and their days with meetings and breaks to snowshoe and ski the beautiful wooded setting. Happy hours on the enclosed and heated porch as the sun set over Arbutus Lake (actually lakes—Arbutus is made up of five interconnected lakes), followed by casual dinners in the perfectly outfitted kitchens rounded out their experience in these luxury home rentals.

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The Lodge

The Cottage

The group enjoyed themselves immensely, and if they felt like they’d escaped to a timeless Northern Michigan era, well that was by design—a feeling that began with BAC Designer Marty Rhein. Certainly, Marty developed mood boards to outfit these two homes, but before that, before anything, he says he spent time both with the owners and walking the property asking himself, “What is Arbutus Lake saying? What needs to be here?”

The answer came back clearly: Timeless Northern Michigan structures that are connected to their site and the lifestyle that is lived on this lake. They would both have classic Arts & Crafts details, evoking the era when cottaging began on this lake, but they would be as different as, say, a farmhouse-turned-cottage and a lodge that had once housed fishermen and hunters.

The fun “who knew?” in the Lakemore Retreat story is that Marty worked with identical floor plans for both structures—one would be named the Cottage, the other the Lodge—but with his thoughtful, thematic interiors and exterior details, guests are not even aware. The floor plans began like everything else at BAC, with collaboration between designers Ken Williams and Marty. Working with some simple parameters (each home needed to sleep 12 people) the two developed a blueprint that melded the feel of a home with an old lodge or farmhouse. As in—the hallway from the entrance to the great room is lined with the guest rooms. But there had to be that Wow factor—as in, from the time you walk in, the sight line goes to a bulls-eye view of Arbutus Lake.

From there, Marty says he designed inside out … in the Lodge, a big fieldstone fireplace, rough-hewn white oak floor and walnut interior details including railings, kitchen island cabinet and a jaw-dropping walnut slab table set the tone for a cigars-after-sunset sort of feel. An American flag made out of wood that he and Trish discovered at an antique store adds another layer of vintage Americana. Marty had it mounted on the great room wall and then parlayed that vintage red throughout the home from the board-and-batten siding to the red leather sectional in the billiards room.

The cottage? Ah, the cottage … all beach-side colors and seafoam-colored shakes on the exterior. Authentic Northern Michigan barn beams and a super-cool light fixture fashioned from a wagon wheel (another key find!) and beach-glass colored bubble-glass shades define this space.

Different they may be, but each structure is rooted in what it means to vacation on a lake in Northern Michigan: Throw open the window of the heated three-season porch on a summer’s night, curl up in a cozy chair, turn on the fan if it is hot outside and let the sounds of nature in. When the two homes were completed, the BAC team booked them for several nights, bringing along their families. “It lived just like I hoped it would,” Marty says. “We opened the windows and you could hear the sounds of the kids playing in the lake and the call of loons.”