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Natural beauty
Eco-conscious homeowners create serene retreat nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan

Photos by Doug Edmunds

April 2015

The last vestiges of the original 1950s cottage, the main living area features the original fieldstone fireplace and a 20-foot vaulted pine ceiling to which the builders added cold steel collar ties for support.



How do you double the size of a home, use its original foundation and salvage a crumbling wood ceiling without taking anything away from the natural beauty of the setting? That was the challenge faced by architect Bruce Wydeven and builder Erik Knuth of EarthRite Construction on a large-scale renovation project of a Lake Michigan cottage.

According to landscape architect Chris Miracle of LandWorks, the site itself is spectacular. "It has it all — beach, meadow, a large lawn, wooded paths, multiple entertainment patios, sun, shade, windy places, sheltered places. As you pull into the property, the vastness of Lake Michigan really hits you. It’s an incredible feeling being so close in elevation to the lake while being nestled in with the nearby bluff," he says.

The owners’ love of yoga inspired this prairie grass and fieldstone labyrinth. The location takes full advantage of the available sunlight while native hazelnut shrubs are used to give the space a low perimeter privacy screen.

At the owners’ request, the home was designed not only to minimize its impact on the natural beauty of the land but also to reuse as much of the original structure and foundation as possible. "We used the original footprint and added on to the sides to draw in more natural light. The existing floor was extremely weak and out of level, but instead of replacing it, we releveled and strengthened it using a lightweight concrete mixture. The owners are very eco-conscious, so we donated the original siding and decking to other local projects," says Knuth.

The kitchen features large awning windows that open to the outdoor eating area and serve as a pass through to the deck while rope chandeliers and lighthouse style sconces give the room a nautical touch to complement the lake views.

The final plan includes a master suite and cedar sauna added to one side of the original foundation and a new kitchen, garage and yoga suite to the other. Outside, the new roofs were built using a combination of cedar and zinc. "The shallow pitches utilize zinc for adequate drainage while the steeper pitches are made with Grade A cedar shingles installed over a mesh pad that allows the roof to breath and gives it a longer life," says Knuth.

He pointed out that the main challenge came in the living area, where a large stone fireplace and a 20-foot-high wood beamed ceiling were to be saved. "The owner wanted to honor the home’s past and create something timeless by using the old wood ceiling. To save it, we had to prop up it up and then pull everything else down around it. We literally dangled it in space and then built underneath it. It made for some very tense moments," says Knuth. M

Designed as a transitional space between the lake and the home, the camp bathroom is reached directly through a side entrance off the cedar deck and features a shower, changing area and large Kohler farmhouse sink.

Adjoining the cedar deck, a blue stone patio with thyme plantings continues the color theme from the lake to the house. The large kitchen windows open to a low-maintenance counter made of weather resistant ipe wood.

The outdoor counter features structural cedar beams that fully support the zinc roofed overhang above. Holding the beams together are custom fabricated metal brackets that were hand-built on-site.

The boathouse or kayak shed was made using a simple post and beam design with sliding barn doors on each end and includes a built-in firewood storage area.



This story ran in the April 2015 issue of: