The Lake House
A nautical North Shore family finds the perfect vacation home in Bay Harbor, Michigan and designer Martin Horner makes the interior as beautiful as the lake that surrounds it.
Photography by Steve Hall of Hedrich Blessing Ltd.
A home away from home is a curious thing. On the one hand, it needs to be different enough from your regular digs so that you can relish a sense of escape. On the other, it should be recognizable in some way to exhibit attributes that recall your world and remind you that even though you’re away, you’re not living in a hotel. For one North Shore family, this Bay Harbor, Michigan, retreat strikes the perfect balance, thanks to designer Martin Horner of Chicago’s Soucie Horner, Ltd.
Avid boaters, the homeowners fell in love with Bay Harbor the first time they cruised there. Scanning the houses on the peninsula, they dreamed of a place of their own. “We love the area because it has so much to offer. Quaint towns, gourmet cuisine, antiquing, water sports, boating, art galleries, beautiful bike paths, a great golf course, an equestrian center, a world-class yacht club, and fishing. There’s a terrific sense of community and it is in close proximity to fabulous towns—Petoskey, Charlevoix, Harbor Springs, Elk Rapids, and Mackinac Island.”
Ten years old when they acquired it, the cedar shake residence evokes the style of a New England lake house. At 10,000 square feet, it offered plenty of room for family and friends, but the interiors needed to speak to the new residents’ sense of style. “The house was very dark, heavy, and floral when we started,” recalls the homeowner. “We wanted to lighten everything—make the house have a more eclectic, warm feeling with lots of blues and patterns to play off the beautiful Lake Michigan views on all sides. Now everything is comfortable and inviting with a lot of cozy spaces for such a big house.”
When it came time to spruce up the property, the homeowners turned to Martin Horner, who had worked with them on their primary residence. With a degree in interior architecture design from the School of the Art Institute and further studies at Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris, Horner has made a career of addressing a range of residential styles and is currently executing residences in Wisconsin, Colorado, Florida, and South Carolina.
Working quickly, but attentively (the project launched January 2008 and was completed by Memorial Day), Horner collaborated with his client to create a home that expresses both a determined design sensibility and an unabashed love of easy living. Blue—the man of the house’s favorite color—plays perfectly in the marine environment. But there’s nothing conventionally nautical about Horner’s design scheme. The master bedroom, for example, sports a blue ottoman, along with an array of far-from-the-shore details. Here, color, pattern, and a range of decorative styles give the space a winning vivacity. The handsome bed sports a British Colonial profile, while a chest of drawers from India—fashioned from inlaid bone—provides a real pop as a visually dynamic night table. Moroccan motifs are evident in the tiles of the fireplace surround and in an occasional table with mother-of-pearl inlay. The bench at the foot of the bed is upholstered in antique batik, while other vintage textiles cover various accent pillows.
The clients’ willingness to endow each space with a mix of the expected and the unusual is manifest in the living room, too, where a pair of German chairs from the turn of the 20th century that Horner found in Harbor Springs are joined by two new sofas upholstered in blue cotton that have been detailed with paisley medallions in hand-embroidered, chocolate brown wool.
The home’s essential warmth is underscored by the use of cherry throughout in millwork and floors. And no space goes without a special touch. A lively Jack Lenor Larsen pattern envelops the walls of a powder room, where a pinecone-studded mirror hangs above the sink and the hand towels are enhanced with antique textiles. The upstairs hallway—one of those areas easily overlooked—is treated with consideration, graced with an Arts and Crafts-inspired rug and reproduction bobbin chairs. And the homeowners’ collections—her tramp art, his artful fishing lures—invest the house with a distinctive sense of individuality.
Sourcing items for the home, Horner traveled to New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and even Nashville, where he found a pair of lamps made from World War I shell casings. And when that “just right” piece didn’t present itself to him, he designed his own, such as the nail-studded, walnut plank table he fashioned for the living room. Horner’s touch extends to the family boat, as well, a sleek Sabre that sleeps six. “Although it is blue and white on the outside,” notes Horner, “the clients didn’t want a typical blue and white interior. So here, too, we went with a lot of fabric, a lot of color, a lot of texture.” Working directly with the shipbuilder, Horner specified cherry throughout and a recess in the main cabin in which he inserted a headboard created from an old Chinese screen.
As the warm weather rolls around, the family will once again make its way to this happy outpost in northwest Michigan, where they will slow down and enjoy the sweet life of summer. They’ll fire up the grill after a day of boating or bike riding and watch the sunset. And come July 4, friends gather. “We love to have people over then. The fireworks barge parks in Little Traverse Bar right in front of the house, so we’ve got a front row seat.”