Inside a Classic American Cottage in Charlevoix, Michigan

After a family from Florida discovered Northern Michigan, the renovation of their 19th-century cottage in Charlevoix made us look even better.

Incredibly, four years ago, the Florida-based owners of this magnificent 19th-century cottage on Lake Michigan knew virtually nothing about Michigan—especially Northern Michigan. Their dentist changed all that. After hearing at their respective appointments of their four-year search to find the perfect summer home, the dentist waxed poetic about the sandy shoreline and blue water around his family’s cottage on Lake Michigan’s eastern shore. “If I were you I’d look there,” he told them.

It was nearing Thanksgiving weekend of 2016 and the husband was intrigued enough to purchase plane tickets to Traverse City. A snowstorm delayed their arrival by eight hours. (“This might go on the, ‘Just a little too hard to get to list,’” the wife recalls thinking.)

Then there was a stormy 40-mile drive up US31 to Petoskey—where the waves were crashing high up the sides of the Petoskey Pierhead Lighthouse. “The kids were cracking up, like, really?” the wife says, laughing now herself.

Nevertheless, by the end of the weekend, the family had fallen in love with the area, especially Charlevoix. “We love Charlevoix,” the wife says. “It is a magical place for our family and friends to visit.”

Back in Florida again, their Realtor sent them photos of an older cottage on Lake Michigan near Charlevoix that had just been listed. “It looked cozy,” the wife says. “It wasn’t a monstrosity. I didn’t want something so big that I’d have to ask, ‘Where are my kids?’”

This time, the husband went up alone to check it out—and called his wife after he’d seen the cottage to tell her, “I think you are going to like this.”

This was an early-last-century classic Craftsman cottage. Its wide front porch topped with a gabled roof, low-pitched gable main roof and generous eaves spoke to an era when the stuffy pretensions of Victorian cottages were giving way to a more relaxed lifestyle. Inside, however, the old home was suffering from a patchwork of renovations over the decades that conflicted with her intrinsic style. But the bottom-line selling point: A wide-open lake view from nearly every room in the house.

To make their dream home a reality, the couple hired MPN (Miller, Poineau & Naumes), a construction firm known for some of the finest work in Northern Michigan. 

Over the course of his decades working in the area, Andy Poineau, recently retired, garnered a reputation for exquisitely crafted homes that exude a period feel.

Andy’s talent combined with a skilled team presided over by Chris Miller, tackled the reno—from replacing supporting beams to rebuilding the rickety staircase with a handsome new version that winds from the ground floor up to the third. The interior was gutted down to the studs in most cases. Some walls were removed but much of the home’s original floor plan is preserved—as were some irreplaceable antique windows that are original to the home.

The homeowners were in on every design decision from materials to the fabulously intricate molding, wainscoting and coffered ceilings—though they happily yielded to Poineau’s advice when he gave it: “He’d say, ‘No, this is not what this home would have’, to some of my ideas,” recalls the wife. “After I’d say, ‘You were right.’”

A close collaboration between the homeowners and interior designer Jana Phillips resulted in fresh, contemporary design choices that seamlessly hint at this cottage’s journey—from the Arts & Crafts era (white oak floor, zinc breakfast nook table and hand-fabricated zinc range hood) to tell-tale Art Deco patterns in a bathroom wallpaper, and sofa cushions embellished with bright poppies that feel as timeless as a Beatles’ hit. The end result reads like a great American cottage classic—one that is ready for a whole new chapter.

Elizabath Edwards is managing editor of Northern Home & Cottage. 

Home Resources

CONTRACTOR // Miller, Poineau & Naumes

INTERIOR DESIGN // Jana Phillips Interiors Inc.

LANDSCAPE // Drost Landscape

APPLIANCES // Witbeck, Big George’s

COUNTERTOPS // Capital Granite

DOOR HARDWARE // American Total Security

ELECTRICAL // Bear River Electric

HARDWOOD FLOORING // LeGrand Wood Floor

HEATING & PLUMBING // Ballard’s Plumbing & Heating

INSULATION // T.C. Insulating Company

MASONRY // Brian Berger Masonry

PAINTING // Up North Painters

ROOFING // Cosier Roofing

SECURITY // Habitec Security

GLASS SHOWER DOORS // Mike’s Glass

TILE & MARBLE // Great Lakes Tile & Contracting

WINDOWS // Old Mission Windows