Are you tired of Michigan yet? I’m in a travel holding pattern right now, spending time with my new babe, and only in the very beginning stages of dreaming up where I’m going to take this sweet little bundle. So in the meantime, more photos of our time in Northern Michigan. We’re missing the Maine coast pretty desperately about now, but we’re so lucky to have this magical escape so close to home. Lake Michigan, farmland, farm stands, cherries, Tandem Ciders, dunes, what more?
I’ve wanted to stay in this Michigan cottage designed by the notable Chicago architect Harry Weese for a few years. Tucked into the wooded shores of Glen Arbor just a few minutes from Sleeping Bear Dunes–arguably Michigan’s most popular summer tourist destination–sits another, far more secretive jewel: a trifecta of summer lake houses Harry Weese designed in 1938-39. He had a fondness for Michigan, perhaps due to the natural beauty of the Northern Michigan, where he vacationed with his family in 1936, or the fact that he went to architecture school at Cranbrook Academy, where he befriended like-minded designers like Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen.
These days, the original two Weese family lake houses are rented out, giving lucky guests the chance to experience Weese’s genius first-hand. In the woods. On a turquoise lake. They remain Weese’s only projects in Michigan, residential or otherwise. The first is Shack Tamarack (a traditional log cabin named after the trees felled in a nearby Cedar bog). We stayed in the smaller modernist cottage–a humble testament to Weese’s preferred architectural style, though no less rustic for its simple, clean lines. Walls are covered in tongue and groove black cherry, the tiny kitchen has more hidden drawers than a cabinet of curiosities, and in such tight quarters–no more than 1,000 square feet–Weese’s clever design unfolds like a lesson in flexible space. Room-dividing sliding doors glide back and forth into the wall to double the size of the living room and bring the outdoors in.
But forget the interiors–it’s summer in Michigan, and the outdoors beckons. A hammock suspends between two trees over a bed of mossy and wildflower ground cover, and the long sun-bleached dock was our all-afternoon home base our all-American roster of lazy-days vacation pursuits: swimming, skipping stones, catching minnows, reading, relaxing, and yes, maybe even cannonballing. I love how Harry Weese pulled his color palette directly from the water. The only color used in the home–a soothing teal–perfectly matches the shimmering tones of the lake. Rent it at vrbo.com; prices start at $2,100/week.
NOTE: I wrote about our trip for the Shinola blog. There will be another post about all our outdoor pursuits, so check back. And if you’ve never heard of Shinola, make it a point: the Detroit-based company is turning out beautiful, well-designed and American-made bikes, watches and leather goods. Harry Weese would have approved.
HOORAY! I’m currently on a luxuriously long vacation “Up North”—as Detroiters affectionately call this area of Northern Michigan—with my two boys before the arrival of number three. We’re (fairly successfully) trying to shoehorn an entire summer of hiking, lake swimming, dune climbing, frog catching, pier jumping, sandcastle building, berry picking, stone skipping and ice cream licking into three weeks. And four hours north of Detroit, it’s the perfect place to try. Shimmering blue waters compete with any ocean I’ve ever seen, and country roads crisscross patchwork farmland and wind through orchards with peek-a-boo views of Lake Michigan from the tops of rolling hills. It’s ridiculously idyllic.
While here, the story I wrote about the Leelanau Peninsula came out in the July/August issue of Martha Stewart Living (a little online slideshow, not as detailed as the print version). Randy Harris is responsible for the beautiful photographs, and the magazine’s redesign looks fantastic. I overheard someone talking about the story in the checkout line at the grocery, and my face flushed.
One of my favorite places included in the piece (however briefly, in the sidebar) is the new Hillside Homestead—a farm stay b&b owned and delightfully operated by chef-turned-homesteader Susan Odom, who got the idea and honed her skills at the Firestone Farm at Greenfield Village just outside Detroit. Here, at her restored Victorian, she adds a layer of good old-fashioned historic hospitality to the local food movement, inviting guests to experience locally-sourced, home-cooked period meals around a big farmhouse table. Every last detail is straight out of the early 1900s, including the old-fashioned flowered dress and apron Susan dons for dinner, yet none of it feels hokey or overdone. From the antique wood burning stove and dry sink to the honey butter and apple jelly she makes herself, it’s all perfectly charming. When we stopped by, she was whipping up apple pie and fried chicken using homespun leaf lard, which I’ve never even heard of–apparently, all the rage in turn-of-the-century farm kitchens. Guest rooms are equally attended to, and outside, visit the pigs, chickens and an irresistible wooden tree swing, before settling down on the front porch for pastoral sunset views. Below, a few photos that do not quite do the place justice, plus a few other places to stay from the designtripper archives if you visit the Leelanau Peninsula.
In the September issue of Martha Stewart Living, I put together a tight little visiting guide to Corktown — my neighborhood for living and inn-keeping (in this post, some bonus photos by Joe Vaughn that didn’t make the story). When I opened Honor & Folly, I was excited about stepping out from behind the computer screen and introducing travelers to the neighborhood-centric Detroit I know — not the Detroit you see from 17th story of some mid-rise hotel downtown. I never gave much thought to the community of neighborhood business owners I was going to be part of, and turns out, that’s a hugely rewarding facet of owning a small business. I’m proud to send guests downstairs to Astro, because the owners, who are my neighbors in real life, are such good people and amazing at what they do. I tell guests to save room for brunch a few blocks away at Brooklyn Street Local, and to make sure to go to Mudgies for a humongous sandwich, the Lager House for a music show, and St. Cece’s for the best unassuming farm-to-table food in the most quirky, unlikely setting. I love bragging about my friend Ryan, who started an urban farm in North Corktown, and rooting on some other friends who are opening a distillery down the street. My brother-in-law runs Pony Ride–an incubator for artists, designers and entrepreneurs–and it’s been fun to watch that grow. If you could have seen this neighborhood when we moved here eight years ago, you would have never believed it would one day in the not-so-distant future end up in the pretty, iconic pages of Martha Stewart Living. There were no working streetlights, hardly any businesses, almost no one walking down the street while I pushed my baby stroller over broken glass. And now. Now I’m giving away a weekend to hang out here for fun! Excuse me while I pinch myself.
In honor of the first-year anniversary of Honor & Folly, I’m giving away a weekend in the neighborhood I love so much. The winner will get two nights at Honor & Folly*, breakfast at Astro, two drinks at Sugar House, and a $50 gift certificate to Slows. I will also give you a personal tour of the city, including stops at some of my favorite places in Detroit, from Eastern Market to Belle Isle. To enter, just leave a comment below, and I’ll announce a winner — picked at random — at the end of next week. Cut-off for entry Thursday, December 6th at 5pm EST.
[Photos, all by Joe Vaughn, from top to bottom: Honor & Folly (top three), Acre, Mudgies, Hello Records, Le Petit Zinc, Green Dot Stables, Sugar House]
*Contest assumes mutually agreed upon dates, which must fall between January and the end of March 2013. The sooner you pick dates, the more likely it will be that the dates are available, as the inn tends to book up a month in advance on weekends. If you decide to book mid-week, you will get an extra night.
I spent the past weekend with a couple girlfriends in this dream of a farmhouse, situated in the agricultural center of the Leelanau Peninsula. The owner Sean rehabbed the old farmhouse, which was built in the early 1900s and owned by the Kovalik family (the same family of farmers the road is named after). Sean grew up in Leland (he went to Leland High School and his mom taught there), and when he moved away–first to Colorado, later New York–he wanted a place of his own back home, so he didn’t have to depend on the sofas of friends and family while visiting. He’d had his eye on this place for awhile, in all its glass bubble window and faded carpet glory. No one was living there, and during the recession, after it went into foreclosure, he was able to buy it, transforming it into this impecable beauty a few years later. The interior is well-done country vintage modern–not a farm lamp or sisal carpet out of place–but if you’re anything like me, being outside in this setting with this set-up is the first matter of business. Hammock? Check. Fire pit? Check. Hulking old oak for shade? Check.
Usually, I’m partial to staying on the lake in Leelanau County, but there is something about being out in the wide open country–flanked by cherry orchards, barns and rolling farmland in every direction–that feels so peaceful and remote. The immediate property is surrounded by wildflowers, dried milkweed poufs as big as grapefruits and wild asparagus, curling above the sightline like giant tumbleweeds. Chickens roam the property and head back to the henhouse at nightfall (we boiled freshly laid eggs for breakfast). We picked loads of fresh herbs and vegetables from the giant garden nestled in front of a small rustic barn, which Sean hopes to turn into a little speakeasy some day. We made big dinners and ate around the extra-long wooden table under strung lights and a sky full of stars. There were big plans for cooking and baking (the area is known for its orchards and farms), but in the end, more time was spent in the hammock and the lake than in the kitchen. Next time we want to cook up a storm, the work space will have to be far less appealing.
Three bedrooms, three bathrooms (one with a sauna, another with a clawfoot tub with a view of the countryside). Sleeps six comfortably. Prices start at $239 a night. Rent it at airbnb.com.
My big announcement for the year: Honor & Folly is open and ready for guests! As a freelance writer (and blogger), I log a lot of solo hours behind the computer. And as much as I love to travel, the reality is: I spend the hefty majority of my time at home–with my family, in the city of Detroit. Honor & Folly is a product of wanting to interact more with other people–you know, in the face-to-face kind of way–engage in my own community, and introduce visitors to the kind of travel I love: intimate, small-scale b&bs, apartments, houses, and family-owned hotels that tell a story about their location. That create a sense of place.
My favorite part of opening Honor & Folly so far has been working with all the talented local designers, artists and artisans who have contributed handmade design and decorative objects to the space (much of it is even for sale). I love looking around and thinking about how they all spent time creating something–with their own hands–so it could be part of the Honor & Folly story. Everyone has worked so hard, and I can’t wait for guests to stay here–and to use the handmade cutting boards, sit on the wooden stools, and eat from the beautiful ceramic dinnerware by my friend Abigail Murray. I hope when travelers are thinking about coming to Detroit, they choose to stay in this small neighborhood joint, where they can go downstairs and hang out at the bar or coffee shop–and learn something about the city from people who live here. It reminds me of the way folks used to travel–a few bedrooms above the village pub or restaurant with a hearty breakfast. That’s really all you really need. Well, that and a friendly innkeeper.
Here’s the brand-new website. I hope to see you in Detroit soon!
[PHOTOS: All images by the talented Marvin Shaouni]
Progress report: We just finished painting the walls at Honor + Folly. This week, we’re starting to move in furniture, and collaborative creative projects from local designers and artisans continue humming right along. Almost everything inside will be for sale. Thanks so much for all your support and enthusiasm!
Within ten minutes of meeting Sharon, the owner of the Marston House from Monday’s post, I was standing in her cutting garden full of wild flowers spontaneously confessing my dream of opening a small bed and breakfast in Detroit.
She said she’s been reading about Detroit, and all the people who are rebuilding the city. She told me to do it. No, she insisted I do it. She told me that there are people who dream and people who do things, and it was that summer afternoon in Maine that I knew I would open Honor + Folly. I’ve been so inspired by all the people and places I’ve been writing about for the past year, I’ve decided to join ‘em. I don’t have photos yet (besides the exterior shot above), and you’ll have to bear with me while I paint, stock, source, sand furniture, adorn walls, make beds, knit pillows and hang a shingle.
This doesn’t necessarily mean designtripper is changing. Traveling is eye-opening and thrilling, and I will always be drawn to the sense of adventure and discovery that comes with exploring a new place. But I also feel a strong pull to be more active and present in my own community, in my own neighborhood. Detroit, for all its problems, is hands-down the most creative, life-affirming city I’ve ever been to (if you don’t believe me, watch this). I’m proud to say that about the city I call home, and I am excited to share it–here and with travelers.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to post regularly about imaginative, thoughtfully designed vacation homes, b&bs, small-scale inns, and family-owned hotels that inspire a different, more intimate kind of travel experience than a big hotel can provide. And who knows, maybe it is possible to be a dreamer and a doer, both. Stay tuned for updates!
We just got back from a five-day weekend in Northern Michigan, and while most of the time was spent at our friends’ beautiful bluff-side cottage in Northport on the Leelanau Peninsula, we decided to check out the Jolli Lodge for a night. Families have been coming to this rustic lakeside compound since it opened in the ’50s, and two generations later, it’s still attracting many of the same folks–like our friend Brian, who spent his childhood vacations running around the forested grounds.
The third-generation owner, Greg, tries to adhere to his grandma’s wise adage: “If the kids are happy, the parents are happy.” We concur! With a tree house in the woods, a giant beach, an old-school playground overlooking the lake, shuffleboard courts, kayaks, an outdoor ping-pong table and tether-ball pole, the place is a dream for kids. It doesn’t matter that the interiors haven’t been fussed with in decades; in fact, that’s part of the charm. Time stands still at this cluster of classic white cottages with green clapboard shutters.
While You’re There
It’s easy to get sucked into the ease of lodge living, but make sure to venture out. The Leelanau Peninsula is one of our favorite places to take our kids. Just driving around, past orchards and far-as-the-eye-can-see farmland, is a thrill. Must stops: Leelanau State Park for hiking (one of the easy trails ends at a small cluster of quiet beach dunes); The Covered Wagon for doughnuts; Windy Knob sheep farm; Fishtown for watching the fisherman come in (and picking up fresh whitefish and smoked trout at Carleson’s), and Tandem Ciders, where we all line up at the small tasting bar (hard cider samples for mom and dad and the sweet variety for the little ones).
Not everyone can swing a holiday trip to the magical winter wonderland of blonde wood, folksy Scandinavian textiles, modern, Swedish design; and meatballs, moomin cookies, and real, live reindeer. And that’s what makes my friend Joe Posch—who’s a bona fide pop-up-shop pro—such a genius. Hugh for the Holidays (a riff on the name of his last temporary retail venture, Hugh) brings the Scandinavian holiday aesthetic to downtown Detroit with vintage wooden skis, a glowing Malm fireplace and towering stacks of woolen Nordic sweaters. Fill your basket with teak Dansk bowls and vintage handblown glass by Iittala and Holmegaard, or splurge on my favorite, the sheepskin Lamino chair by Yngve Ekström for Swedese. Then go home, sit, close eyes and pretend. And don’t forget to leave Aquavit and herring by the fireplace for Santa.
Even though ClandesDine is a one-time dining event you can’t replicate if you visit Detroit, the experience is worth sharing. It really captures the creative spirit of this city. The location–this time, an old Cadillac body service building by Albert Kahn–was revealed an hour before dinner. Upon arriving, we drove into the garage and up a circular, unlit ramp to the rooftop, where everyone was immediately handed a glass of champagne to sip as the sun set. Down a flickering candlelit staircase, the rough-hewn dining room was somehow beautiful despite (or maybe because of) the peeling plaster, broken tiles and bright turquoise trim. The only decoration was an oversized American flag, which draped over a great plywood expanse of boarded-up window. Volunteers buzzed between the three room-length tables, serving five courses (butternut squash arancino with duck prosciutto; spinach and lamb ravioli; and braised pork belly with lentils and fennel), prepared by local chefs in a makeshift kitchen next to piles of building scrap and detritus. And it was better than any dining experience I’ve ever had at a proper restaurant.
Our friends Patti and Chet let us stay at their summer place in Leland, Michigan every summer, and the one-bedroom cottage on a wooded bluff overlooking Lake Michigan has spoiled our half-serious search for our own summer home (“Um, does this shanty come with a soaring bluff?”). They bought the cinder block house 15 years ago and ripped out almost everything except the rustic wood interiors. Every year, they make some kind of improvement: huge flower and vegetable gardens; a grill patio with a trickling fountain; 100-plus wooden stairs leading down the cliff to the white sand beach; the airstream at the edge of the 10-acre property with an outdoor shower surrounded by tall grasses for privacy; and an extra-long table handcrafted the old fashioned way—with crude 4×4 beams, hammer and nails.
Leelanau Peninsula is truly one of the most beautiful areas in the Midwest. And the long blue views from the cottage, with sailboats by day and freighter lights by night, are so good that fancy furniture and too much fuss might feel like competition. They did a great job with the interior, though, playing up the strengths and respecting the surrounding landscape. Big picture windows steal the show in almost every direction, and local artwork (cherries!) and leisure sport décor (taxidermy fish, deer fabric and leaning towers of stacked beach rocks on the mantle) give the rustic space just the right dash of up-north character without feeling the least bit hokey or contrived.
Designtripper exclusive: It’s only available for a few precious weeks every season (end of spring through fall), and until now, only by word of mouth. Price varies by season. To rent: email firstname.lastname@example.org.