Growing up, Glencoe native Katherine Eckert Grunder spent summers in western Michigan. For two weeks each year, her family would rent a cabin and fish, swim, and barbecue under the stars.
Memories of those carefree days have tugged at Eckert Grunder ever since—throughout her studies at Parsons the New School for Design and afterward, as a project manager at Daniel Frisch Architecture in New York (she now heads her own firm). Though happy in Manhattan, she never stopped thinking about the possibility of a lakeside home—a place her whole extended family could enjoy, as in years past.
A decade ago, Eckert Grunder's brother, Tad Eckert, snagged a parcel of land tucked between piney woods and a lake in the southwest corner of the state. In partnership with Frisch, the siblings designed a two-story house that blends modernism with their love of the outdoors.
“It plays on the idea of a glass box, bringing the outside in,” she says.
The first level of the four-bedroom house has a master suite and free-flowing kitchen, dining, and living-room spaces. Floor-to-ceiling windows with sliding glass doors offer views of the woods in one direction and a patio overlooking the lake on the other.
Natural materials abound inside. Floors laid with wide planks of espresso-stained white pine echo the tall trees on the north side of the property; two fireplaces are made with the same bluestone used on the patio.
An ethereal floating staircase, welded onsite, keeps vistas unobstructed. “As you’re walking down, the beautiful views are a nice start to the day,” Eckert Grunder says.
When it came time to decorate, she enlisted the help of her mother, who grew up in Grand Rapids and first introduced the family to Michigan’s natural splendor. “She’s always had a passion for design,” says Eckert Grunder. “I knew it would be that much more special to work on the decor with her. We worked as a family to design a dream family home.”
They outfitted the space with a mix of old (Mom’s influence) and new (daughter’s). A diseased English elm became a dining-table top with the help of Brooklyn-based Uhuru Design; a chandelier of clustered pendant lamps by Studio Frederik Roijé hangs overhead.
In the breakfast nook sits a 1960s walnut credenza plucked from an antique store in Chicago. Organic flourishes include a repurposed wasp’s nest hung from the ceiling and backyard birds’ nests displayed with old vases and artwork purchased at Ox-Bow, the nearby artists’ community.
Upstairs, three airy bedrooms and two bathrooms nicely accommodate children and guests. (Both Eckert Grunder and her husband, and her brother and his wife, had babies this spring.) At the top of the stairs, a 16-foot window seat with a built-in bookcase and toy drawer looks out on the forest.
The Grunders’ Michigan trips have expanded from one visit per year to at least three in summer, plus major holidays. “We fish on the lake, we have a boat and do a little tubing and swimming, we kayak and paddle boat,” the designer says.
She clearly thinks the decade of work she poured into the house was worth it—for herself and for her growing family. “The next generation will enjoy it, too,” she says.
Architect: Daniel Frisch, danielfrisch.com. General contractor: Jim Van Horn, Van Horn Builders, vanhornbuilders.com. Landscaper: Mike Onderlinde, Forget Me Not Landscape & Nursery, fmnlandscape.com. Living room: Marni Overleaf Yellow Tibetan wool rug, therugcompany.com. Madame X coffee table, thebrightgroup.com. Vintage Paul McCobb credenza, Lincoln Antique Mall, 3115 W. Irving Park Rd. Sofa, montauksofa.com. Hans Wegner lounge chair, Morlen Sinoway, 1052 W. Fulton Market. Side tables, westelm.com. Floor lamp, jonathanadler.com. Console behind sofa, B&B Italia, bebitalia.com. Dining room: Chandelier, Studio Frederik Roijé, roije.com. English elm table, uhurudesign.com. Gubi chairs, Morlen Sinoway. Master bedroom: Cole & Son wallpaper, leejofa.com. Vintage snowshoes, bluestarantiquepavilion.com. Vintage dresser, Anna’s Antique + Art Consignment, 531 Bank Ln., Highwood. Vintage console, Wright20, 1440 W. Hubbard St. Chairs, roomandboard.com. Rug, the Rug Company. Bedside tables, crateandbarrel.com. Floor lamp, West Elm. Art, ox-bow.org. Vintage throw and pillows on bed, Jayson Home, 1885 N. Clybourn Ave. Breakfast room: Pendant light, davidtrubridge.com. Credenza, Lincoln Antique Mall. Powder room: Wallpaper, cavernhome.com. Vessel sink and faucet, Kohler, us.kohler.com. Mirror, West Elm.