A cottage in Michigan by Tom Stringer offers the perfect lakeside getaway
Ah, the lake life! Running dives off the pier, hot dogs sizzling over an open fire, dozing off to a light rain pattering on the roof. These are the things memories are made of. And they always override the windows that operated (just barely) on sash cords and the screen door that never quite closed (this way, mosquitos!). Many of us still return happily to cottages that time has not only kissed but hugged a little too tightly. Visitors to this guest house in Michigan, on the other hand, enjoy every comfort while knowing exactly where they are—the lake.
A project of Indianapolis-based architectural designer Gary Nance and veteran Chicago interior designer Tom Stringer the shingle-clad cottage is a satisfyingly simple affair: a central living area flanked on each side with an en suite bedroom. “The idea is that this should just meld with the landscape,” says Stringer. “Although it is part of a large property, this is about family, not about making statements.”
“We needed something that felt it had history and although i think it’s nice to have a unifying idea, a couple of things from a different period or style can give a room a nice jolt.”
The owners lived in the guest house while the plan for the main house was generated. “That was great for them,” observes Stringer, “because they could enjoy the property and begin building memories. And for us, the cottage served as a kind of sample. We looked at the language of form and the materials we used there and determined how they could be applied to the main residence, what details worked, and which needed to be refined.”
When it came to kitting out the cottage, Stringer drew from his client’s existing inventory and complemented those pieces with new product, such as a contemporary version of a cannonball bed and bobbin chairs that pair companionably with a vintage barley-twist table in the living room. “We pulled some chairs and an old sideboard they had and set it up as a bar,” relates Stringer. “I always think it’s nice when you build new to bring something along, so it doesn’t just feel like an entirely new set of clothes, so to speak.”
No, it does not. Although obviously tailored with a sure hand and keen eye, it possesses a kind of authenticity not always easy to achieve. And while Stringer was scrupulous in creating a relaxed, place-appropriate look, he wasn’t afraid to color outside the lines, incorporating two, French neoclassical beds in his decor. A surprising choice for a little cottage in Michigan, these pieces nonetheless help capture that sense of a space that has evolved over time, one in which things are retrieved from here and there to serve a purpose, like mismatched chairs around kitchen table. “We needed something that felt it had history and although I think it’s nice to have a unifying idea, “says Stringer, “a couple of things from a different period or style can give a room a nice jolt.”
From its board-and-batten walls to the stone fireplace, this guest house is just what a cottage should be. Unpretentious, relaxed—with not a smidge of sticky nostalgia. It will no doubt generate many good memories. Even if the mosquitos do get in.