Modern Makeover

A Harbor Springs getaway evokes Cranbrook’s Mid-century design legacy // Photography by Justin Maconochie
Built in 1919, this cottage, located in Harbor Springs on Little Traverse Bay, accommodates lots of family gatherings year-round.

Immersed in the world of the Cranbrook Educational Community in Bloomfield Hills from a very young age, it’s no wonder this homeowner would someday embrace the idea of paying homage to modern design in one of his houses. That someday is now, and that house is his Harbor Springs cottage, which overlooks Lake Michigan’s captivating Little Traverse Bay. The getaway, originally built in 1919, formerly evoked a warm cottage motif, filled with family mementos, lots of built-in bookshelves, and corner cabinetry. It served the homeowner and his family well over the years, but he sensed it was time for a change.

“My wife actually put the Mid-century idea in my head,” he says. “When designer Florence Knoll passed away (in early 2019), we read the obit in The New York Times and the last sentence was a quote from Florence (who attended Cranbrook’s Kingswood and the Cranbrook Academy of Art). She said something like, ‘Wasn’t I lucky to grow up with the Saarinens (Eliel and Eero, renowned father-son architects/designers) at Cranbrook.’ At the time, we were in New York and my wife said, ‘Let’s go to Knoll Furniture and buy something to remember her by.’ At this point, we’d had our cottage for 20 years. We went to the store, looked around, and said, ‘Let’s redo our whole cottage!’ ”

In the ensuing days, the couple, who also have homes in Bloomfield Hills and Florida, wondered if a Mid-century look could actually work for what was an historic, charming structure.They ran it by interior designer Ann Heath Templeton, of Duncan Fuller Interiors Inc. in Birmingham.

“Ann said, ‘A 100-year-old cottage?’ ” the wife recalls with a laugh, “but she went there, looked around, and she finally said, ‘I think it will be great and it will work.’ She gets us and we get her. If she had thought it wouldn’t work, we wouldn’t have done it.” Once Templeton came on board to orchestrate the new look, it came together swiftly.

“The husband grew up surrounded by Saarinen design and those design philosophies,” she says. “He told me, ‘I want that back in my life. I want the cottage to do it.’ ”

Templeton, who had worked on the cottage previously, removed built-in bookcases, scalloped valance work, and corner cabinets. Instantly, those changes created a simpler look. “We cleaned it all up and painted it, and then changed all the lighting, which really helped,” says Templeton, who selected elements from The Urban Electric Co. “We managed to make the lighting seem appropriate.”

A lot of the furniture now calls to mind Cranbrook’s design legacy, explains the man of the house, who graduated from Cranbrook in the 1980s. Some of the art on display was procured by David Klein (who also attended Cranbrook), of the David Klein Gallery in Birmingham and Detroit.

Clean-lined Cranbrook-inspired design can be seen throughout the main areas of the cottage.

The couple also purchased a painting by McArthur Binion, who graduated from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in the 1970s. “We have a lot of items that hearken back to Cranbrook days,” says the husband, who attended Cranbrook from Kindergarten through 12th grade. The couple’s children followed in their father’s footsteps and attended middle school and high school at the esteemed educational community.

Furnishings in the cottage include iconic Tulip chairs and a table, which Eero Saarinen is best known for and designed for the Knoll company. “It’s a favorite of so many,” Templeton says.    Eight of the blue leather chairs surround the dining room table. Other stars are cozy Womb chairs, in red, in the television/sitting room, which formerly served as the home’s screened porch. Designed by Saarinen, at Knoll’s request, the Womb chair was groundbreaking; the Mid-century design supports many comfortable positions, which is how it received its name. A Womb loveseat also adorns the space.

Looking from the living room into the dining room gives one an artistic perspective.

“One of our favorite touches is how we made the long, narrow living room more intimate,” the designer says. “Before, people would have to speak loudly to each other, but now they can sit on this great ottoman and easily talk to the whole group.” The sectional is a Florence Knoll-inspired design by A. Rudin. Joseph D’Urso for Knoll swivel chairs are placed near a window. “In those chairs you can look out the window or face either end of the living room for conversation,” she says.

In the game room, the colors of the chairs echo the room’s custom woven rug. The table, made to look as though it’s Mid-century, was designed by Templeton. “They wanted to use the room for lounging, games, and additional dining space,” Templeton says. “The base of the table has an electric lift so it can be at cocktail height or table height. The top is Micro glass; it’s very durable and lighter weight.” The designer loves the multicolored Platner chairs with the table. “It’s a great spot for puzzles, too,” adds the wife. In the kitchen, “We rebuilt the island to make it longer. It works well for entertaining, and they entertain a lot,” Templeton says.

“I love that all of this means something to the homeowners,” she adds. “Every time they walk into their cottage, they’ll feel comfortable and will enjoy it. It’s a memory for him of Cranbrook.”

Visitors are often pleasantly surprised by the new look. “When our three children first saw it, they walked in and they were like, ‘Oh, my,’ and then they said, ‘We love it; it’s comfortable and beautiful,’ ” their mother recalls. “We got the stamp of approval.”

A rainbow of hues.


Ann Heath Templeton, Duncan Fuller Interiors Inc., Birmingham,

Chairs, Dining – Tulip Armchairs, Eero Saarinen, Knoll; Spinneybeck Fabric, España Blue Leather
Light, Ceiling – Morris Ribbon, The Urban Electric Co.
Table, Dining – Large Oval Table, Eero Saarinen, Knoll
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, White Dove

Deck – Richard Collie, Collie Construction, Harbor Springs

Chairs – Warren Platner Lounge Chairs, Knoll; Knoll Textiles Fabric, #K1021 in Poppy, Kiwi, Vermillion, Tinted Gold, Avocado, Periwinkle
Light, Ceiling – Custom, The Urban Electric Co.
Rug – Custom, Stark Carpet, Troy
Table, Game – Andrew Owen Designs, Detroit

Appliances – Viking
Cabinets – Collie Construction, Harbor Springs
Countertop – Butcher Block
Countertop, Bar – Marble
Lighting, Overhead – Antique
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, White Dove

Northern welcome
A variety of trees and verdant plant life border the cottage’s driveway.

Armchairs, Swivel – Swivel Lounge Chairs, Knoll; Sheepskin, Tennant & Associates, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Artwork (left) – Erik Madigan Heck, Staley Wise
Artwork (right) – Kelly Reemtsen, David Klein, Birmingham
Ottoman – A. Rudin; Velluto Pelle Fabric, Spinneybeck
Pillows, Accent – Glam Sheepskin, Garrett Leather, Tennant & Associates, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Rug – Altman, Sea Breeze, Stark Carpet, Troy
Sconces – Wallmount Regular Polished Nickel, Pop, The Urban Electric Co.
Sofas – Two-Piece Sectionals, A. Rudin; Company Natural Fabric, Great Plains by Holly Hunt, Tennant & Associates, Michigan Design Center, Troy
Table, Coffee – Maya Lin, Knoll
Tables, Occasional – Small Round Table, Eero Saarinen, Knoll
Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore, White Dove

Dining Furniture, Outdoor – Zeya Dining Armchairs and Chaise Lounge Chairs, JANUS et Cie
Lounge Furniture, Outdoor – Arbor Sofa and Lounge Chairs, JANUS et Cie

Armchairs, Red – Medium Womb Chairs, Eero Saarinen; Knoll Textiles, Diva Color Poppy
Loveseat, Red – Womb Sette, Eero Saarinen; Knoll Textiles, Diva Color Poppy

Construction – Richard Collie, Collie Construction, Harbor Springs