A three-season porch across the back of the house shades the living room; clerestory windows and skylights bring in soft natural light.
A three-season porch across the back of the house shades the living room;
clerestory windows and skylights bring in soft natural light.
See more photos in the gallery below.


If you build it, they will come. James Dolenc and Tom Riker recognized the truth behind the movie tag line when they finished building a weekend getaway on their own field of dreams—a four-acre property just a block away from a public beach in Glenn, Michigan—in 2009. The 3,800-square-foot white frame house offers more than enough space to host family and friends; indeed, their friends arrived in droves the first summer they were there. “It was like a B&B,” Riker recalls.

Partners in life and in JamesThomas, their Chicago-based interior design firm, Dolenc and Riker relished the chance to experiment with a more traditional style than that of their permanent residence, a loft in a former industrial building in Chicago. “Our firm’s design work bends toward more contemporary, as does our loft, so this was fun for us,” Dolenc explains.

In 2007, after many weekend excursions scouting for the right property, they bought a lot in a quiet community just north of South Haven and hired Lake Home Builders. Working off architectural drawings they had purchased for a vernacular farmhouse, the two altered nearly every room and added a screened porch and ensuite bathrooms for the guest bedrooms.

In the kitchen, handcrafted cabinetry, open shelving, and banquettes mingle easily with contemporary Caesarstone countertops and a backsplash of glass tiles laid in a herringbone pattern. “The builders said that we had more woodwork than any other house they’d ever worked on,” Riker says, pointing out the built-in beds in a bonus room over the garage, one of many custom designs in a home that features moldings, wainscoting, and beadboard in every room.

The extensive moldings are the kind of detail that helped Dolenc and Riker establish a comfortably traditional feeling in the new space. To that end, they nixed most recessed ceiling fixtures in favor of oil-bronzed and galvanized metal sconces and lamps, which suit the rural aesthetic. “At night, the house glows, and it’s a soft, pretty, inviting light,” Dolenc says.

While Dolenc handled the lighting and built-ins, Riker threw himself into fabrics and furniture, mixing new pieces with vintage finds. For the living room, he designed a pair of tufted sofas that sit in front of the formal fireplace alongside a pair of Louis-style chairs. Completing the cozy seating area are two occasional chairs upholstered in part with a custom Galbraith & Paul hand-blocked fabric for which Riker chose the colors. “That was our one little splurge,” he says.

By contrast, Riker simply slapped a coat of black paint on the mismatched wicker furniture on the adjacent porch and added cushions that he had covered with old grain sacks. “I was a big proponent of installing a grandma sensibility in the house,” he explains. “We’re used to dealing with high-end pieces, so it was liberating to have the flexibility to source inexpensive vintage pieces.”

Although they started the project with only a few furnishings for their weekend place, Dolenc and Riker quickly found enough flea market treasures to fill up the U-Haul they drove to the house the day it passed its final inspection. “When we hosted Christmas less than two weeks later, the art was hung and everything was done,” Dolenc says.

The two enjoy having guests all year, but for obvious reasons summer is the biggest draw. And the east-facing front porch that extends the length of the house is the most popular gathering spot. “In the summertime, we all take our coffee to the front porch,” Riker says. “It feels very 1910.”

Photography: James Yochum
Styling: Gisela Rose

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See more photos in the gallery below.

1 Old meets new in the master bedroom, where the designers paired a new canopy bed, its headboard covered in white muslin, with a vintage settee painted slate-gray and reupholstered in plaid cotton. 2 In the master bathroom, a modern glass shower enclosure makes a pleasing contrast to the soaker tub and wainscoting. 3 Custom shelving and a vintage writing desk create a mini office in the walkway outside the guest room over the garage. 4 The designers clad the house in painted fiber cement and the windows in aluminum. They chose composite materials for the decks and columns. “We wanted the finishes to be as durable and maintenance-free as possible,” Riker says.

NEXT: Buy Guide »

Photography: James Yochum
Styling: Gisela Rose


Buy Guide

ABOUT OUR SOURCES: We attempt to provide as much information as possible about the products and professionals involved in designing the homes we show in our pages. Items not sourced here are probably not available for sale. Send questions to chicagohome@chicagomag.com. And check out Design Sources, our comprehensive list of hundreds of local home design pros, shops, and showrooms.

Interior design: Jamesthomas LLC, 2401 W. Ohio St., 312-738-7300, jtliving.com. Builder: Lake Home Builders, Douglas, Mich., 269-857-5253, lakehomebuildersmi.com. Living room: Tufted sofas, Eurocraft, 167 N. Racine Ave., 312-850-0071, eurocraftmillwork.com. Coffee table and Kent armchair, Noir Furniture LA, noirfurniturela.com. Sun porch: Rug, Ballard Designs, ballarddesigns.com. Fireplace, Vermont Castings, Cosy Warm Hearth and Patio, 13362 Van Buren St., Holland, Mich., 616-738-1090, cosywarmholland.com. Kitchen: Table, Mecox Gardens, 406 N. Clark St., 312-836-0571, mecoxgardens.com. Sconces, Pottery Barn, 1000 W. North Ave., 312-944-0467, potterybarn.com. Guest bedroom: Bedding, Eddie Bauer, 600 N. Michigan Ave., 312-951-8484, eddiebauer.com. Master bedroom: Canopy bed, Pottery Barn. Bedding, Lands’ End, 2 N. State St., 312-373-6133, landsend.com. Draperies, Smith & Noble, smithandnoble.com. Bedside tables, Noir Furniture LA.