Northern Lights

The words “On Our Duff” engraved in a small stone pillar mark the driveway entrance to Jim and Beverly Duff’s home on Big Glen Lake. The domestic name, an obvious play on words, signals the relaxed yet refined feeling of their northern Michigan setting.

“We wanted this to be a lake house, but to also have some of the more sophisticated touches that we have enjoyed in other houses,” Jim says. The result is an approximately 6,500-square-foot, three-bedroom home that’s easygoing and elegant. “We’ve had black-tie dinners and T-shirts-and-shorts dinners at the same table,” he says.

Jim fell in love with the area in the late 1960s, after a colleague at Ford told him that Big Glen rivaled the beauty of his favorite lake in Idaho. “I was blown away by the blue color of the water, the sand dunes, and the people,” he says. He rented a cottage until 1978, when he took the plunge and built his first house, a 1970s contemporary.

Three decades later, Jim and his wife were ready for a change and razed that home. “We loved that house, but that house was for then; this house is for now,” Jim says. Even then, it took three designs before the couple settled on the updated Shingle style with expansive lake views.

“We started with a log house, then moved to a stone house when the building issues with logs became too much, and then to the Shingle style,” Jim says. Working with architects Bob Bryce and Janet Ford and Pleasant Ridge interior designer Robin Wilson, the couple drew inspiration from the home in the movie Something’s Gotta Give.

Wilson — who also has a home on Glen Lake — echoed that theme of relaxed tradition, taking design cues from the couple’s lifestyle and their colorful art collection, gathered around the world. “We started with the art and a few pieces of furniture from the other house, and built from there,” Wilson says.

A vibrant palette unites the spaces, from the sunny yellow living room to the apple-green kitchen. “Beverly is not afraid of color — it fits her personality — and they both appreciate and truly understand great style and design,” the designer says.

The lighthearted attitude that starts at the driveway extends throughout the home, making it truly welcoming, Wilson says. In summer, the home is often filled with friends and family, including grown children and six grandchildren who have their own place nearby, appropriately named “On Our Duff, Too.” “Jim and Beverly’s house is warm and inviting and truly reflects the personality and priorities of its owners,” Wilson says. “It’s beautiful, livable, and has a wonderful sense of whimsy.”

Photographs by Gordon Beall