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Inspired by Summer Nostalgia, Chicago Family Builds a Dream Farmhouse in Michigan

Memories of a childhood trip inspire the construction of a country-style home.

Hydrangeas and boxwood shrubs frame the front porch of the farmhouse-style home. On lazy summer days, the homeowners’ young daughters often hang out on the swing, eating Popsicles.   Photo: Andy Barnes; Styling: Barri Leiner Grant

Sweet memories from childhood summers can leave a lasting imprint, like one boy’s recollection of a sojourn at a friend’s home in Grand Beach, Michigan. When the boy grew up and married his soulmate, they put down roots in Chicago but continued to rent in the area each summer, eventually with two daughters (now 7 and 10) in tow.

One day, a real estate agent told the couple that a 100-by-200-foot grassy lot nearby had become available. They snapped it up and started to dream. “We knew we wanted a farmhouse,” the wife says, even though there weren’t others around. She and her husband turned to a friend, artist and designer Linc Thelen, who had rehabbed their Chicago home. He nailed it on his first sketch, and construction began soon after.

The white frame home with black window frames, a shingled gable roof, a 40-foot-long front porch with the traditional swing, and an almost old-fashioned expanse of landscape looks like it might have been there for 100 years. “We wanted to give it a barn-like look,” says Thelen, who chose board-and-batten siding, a metal roof over the porch and included the requisite chimney—topped with a bunny-shaped weathervane (an homage to the husband’s childhood friend who loved the animal). He beefed up the porch’s paneled posts and detailed its railings, as well as the garage doors, with X shapes.

The 2,500-square-foot home lives large because of an open-plan concept, 16-foot ceilings, and plentiful light. There is an inviting mix of cottage and industrial materials—rough-hewn wood, raw metal, and honed stone—as well as an eclectic assortment of furnishings that are sophisticated in palette (grounded by gray and navy), with linen fabrics and playful elements thrown in (a casual picnic-style table with metal chairs and bench; a reclaimed “Lake” sign). Says Thelen: “The house has a Shaker-like simplicity: clean and modern, less decorative, a bit edgy, but very comfortable.”

Rough-sawn white oak beams are a striking focal point of the living room’s vaulted ceiling. They lend warmth, as does the cocktail table that Thelen designed out of salvaged pine. “Besides the wood beams, we knew we wanted a bunkroom for the girls,” says the wife. “We entertain here—every weekend friends are up,” she says. “We didn’t want toys and stuff around, especially when we retreat in the evenings. Downstairs is adult space.”

As for the main eating area, “one of the great aspects of the casual, comfortable home is that there’s no formal dining room,” says Thelen. “The [dining] table anchors the center, between the kitchen and living room. It’s great because they have huge dinner parties, and the bench opens up the space and allows interaction with those sitting on the stools in the kitchen.”

There are no recessed ceiling lights; instead, lighting is layered: a 63-inch round hand-forged iron chandelier in the main living area, an industrial mottled metal lamp over the dining table, and, in the kitchen, 20th-century-factory-inspired pendants above the soapstone counter and gooseneck barn lights above rough-hewn floating shelves on the shiplap-paneled back wall. “Each space has its own originality but is also connected to the space next to it,” says Thelen.

That cohesiveness extends to the color scheme, with navy drawn from the kitchen into the guest room on the first floor and the girls’ bunkroom upstairs, and grays from the main level seeping into the master bedroom’s upholstered bed frame on the second level. “Linc said, ‘I want you to feel like you’re in a hotel, with a sink-in comfy bed,’ ” says the wife, noting that the king size is a luxury they don’t have back in Chicago. “It’s regal looking.”

As the family settles in, a few more plans remain on the drawing board. “We want to build out the backyard with plantings and put in a formal fire pit,” the wife says. “The best thing about [our home] is how happy we all are when we’re here. The girls and my husband love to get in the golf cart with the lily pad [swim raft] tied to the roof and head to Lake Michigan.

“Everyone is in a good mood, smiling. Every time, it feels like a vacation. In just one season, we created so many memories. We can’t wait to get back.”

 

Buy Guide

Architecture, interior design, and project management:Linc Thelen, Linc Thelen Design, lincthelen.com Architect of record:Jeff Goulette, Sullivan, Goulette & Wilson, sgwarch.com Builder:Duneland Fine Homes, 107 Eastwood Rd., Michigan City, Indiana, dunelandfinehomes.com Exterior:Windows and siding, Pella, pella.com. Red garage lights, Rejuvenation, rejuvenation.com Living room:Sofas, RH, rh.com. Wing chair, Joss & Main, jossandmain.com. Chandelier, Currey and Company, curreycodealers.com Dining room:Table, bench and mixed-media painting, Linc Thelen. Chairs, RH. Pendant, Currey and Company Kitchen:Cabinetry, Linc Thelen (designer), Home Things (fabricator). Refrigerator, Jenn-Air, jennair.com. Sink and faucet, Kohler, kohler.com. Gooseneck sconces, Rejuvenation. Pendant lights, RH. Stools, Target, target.com Master bedroom:Bed, RH. Nightstand, Hooker Furniture, hookerfurniture.com. Lamp, Ralph Lauren Home, ralphlauren.com Guest room:Wallcovering, Serena & Lily, serenaandlily.com. Bedding and pillows, Nautica, nautica.com. Nightstand and mirror, Target. Lamp, HomeGoods, homegoods.com Girls’ room:Beds, Linc Thelen. Duvet and shams, Target. Crab pillow, HomeGoods. Carpeting, Flor, flor.com

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