Featured in the Spring 2018 issue of Michigan Home and Lifestyle magazine.
Northern Michigan is home to some of the most spectacular coastlines. It’s easy to understand why so many people choose to live here. Sand dunes are one of the natural features that attract many to the area – there’s nothing that quite compares to the view of Lake Michigan from atop a dune.
What is a Critical Dune?
In 1989, the State of Michigan deemed the state’s dunes to be “unique and irreplaceable” and passed a law regulating development activities in a relatively small portion of the dune system regarded to be the most environmentally sensitive. These dunes are designated as “critical dunes.”
Located on a Lake Michigan critical dune near Frankfort, MI, this 1970s-era home spoke to the homeowners when they first saw it. Though the home didn’t fit their needs perfectly when they purchased it, they saw potential for all that the home could be.
They contacted Chris Mason of Lakeshore Custom Homes about their overall desire for the home, both short-and long-term, and a plan was set in place. Minor renovations were made to the home immediately to make it more comfortable, while the long-term renovation and expansion plans were drawn up.
“Our focus with any renovation is making the additions, or our contribution to the home, look like it was part of the home all along,” said Mason. And that is what they did.
The original 2,728 square-foot home had four bedrooms and three bathrooms, in addition to the living, dining, and kitchen spaces. The plans would make this home larger and more comfortable while ensuring that the design integrity remained intact and the dunes were not disturbed.
Designed to Preserve
While Mason said that the project went smoothly overall, the biggest challenge was working around the critical dune. The state of Michigan has a large number of natural areas and resources, many of which are protected by the government to help preserve the state’s unique natural ecosystems. Critical dunes are an example of one of those natural areas. There are many critical dunes located along Michigan’s lakeshores, and because this home is positioned on top of one, Mason had to go through the government’s regulations to make the changes that he and the homeowners had in mind.
“You can’t tell now from the outside, but between the main house and the addition, there’s a connector piece where a critical dune runs underneath,” Mason said.
Once they had determined the best approach to working with the dunes, the construction of the new portion of the home became the focus. The garage was torn down to the foundation and rebuilt, extending it from the street where it originally sat all the way to the existing home. This reconstruction included a new two-car garage with a living area above, taking the overall size of the home to 4,387 square feet.
Updates and Upgrades
Not only does the new space hold an upgraded master suite and bunkroom, it also contains a kitchenette with a library ladder and additional dining and living space. Every effort was made to insure this portion of the home would be comfortable. In-floor radiant heat and extra closed-cell foam insulation in the walls insure the space is extra cozy.
Attention was paid to every detail of this entire project, with custom built-ins throughout the home, including features such as the lockers in the mudroom, entry shelving, and bunk beds in the bunkroom.
In the main part of the home, the kitchen, dining, and living spaces were opened up to create the homeowner’s dream kitchen and open living area. The kitchen includes features such as a custom hood vent, quartz countertops, white oak doors and beams, a built-in butler’s pantry replete with a barn door, and a Thermador range.
The existing stone fireplace was a focal point on its own, and when walls were removed, the decision was made to modify it so that one side burns wood and one side contains a gas fireplace. This stunning feature of the home is really a standout now, giving it the attention it deserves.
Tongue and groove cedar siding was added to the exterior, and the entrance doors are custom handmade white oak, measuring 2 ½” thick (compared to the normal door width of ¾”). Ironwood was used for the decking, with cable railing to finish it.
The home is a beautiful cohesive blending of the old and new portions of the structure. The large glass windows give the homeowners a panoramic hilltop view of Lake Michigan, and the space is bright and airy.
Of the whole project, Mason says, “Through this entire process, we became very good friends with these homeowners, and we want them to love their new home. I’m in this business because I enjoy the long-term relationships I build with my clients. Making people happy is what it’s all about.”
Read the Critical Dunes Area Program guide from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) for more information about critical dunes.
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