This Lake Michigan House Was Built With Summertime In Mind

Get ready for nautical stripes, shiplap ceilings and painted floors galore.

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Pieter Estersohn

Florida designer Dana Small gave Natipernavigare all the details about her completely lust-worthy summer home in Ludington, Michigan. From picking the perfect shade of blue to mixing patterns, this lakeside home screams summer in every way.

This summer retreat on Lake Michigan looks like heaven. Your family must love it.

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We adore it. My husband’s family has been coming here forever. Homes in this area are passed down from generation to generation—his siblings all have cottages here, and our 15-year-old twins are already arguing over who gets to inherit our house, which we call Beachview Cottage.




Did it break your heart to tear down the old cottage?

It wasn’t easy. Many of our neighbors did not like the idea of us building a new bungalow. But the previous early-1900s house was falling apart after years of extreme wear—there were too many bandages holding it together. It was time to rebuild a home to last the next 150 years.

And now the new house is practically a community hub, right?

Yes! Every inch of these 4,500 square feet is designed for summertime living. We’re very social. Neighborhood kids are constantly peeking through the screen door in search of our children, Tilly and Tate. With our three overflow bunk spaces, we can sleep 22 in this five-bedroom, six-bath house. Friends come for two days and end up staying for six! And everyone around here knows that Monday at our house is margarita day. I like to try new flavors beyond the classic margarita: jalapeño ’ritas, citrus, peach-lime, strawberry-rosé.

Was the original palette blue and white, too?

It was red, white, and blue, but that felt like a novelty, so I scrapped it. I design a lot of beach homes in blue and white, especially for clients who come into my store—Matilda’s, in Stuart, Florida—and I finally got to do one for myself. From June to October, the lake water and sky here take on many different shades of blue. I picked one in the middle, a strong blue like painter’s tape. I like to add a pop of color and surprise to every room: a lime-green floor, contrasting tiles, or bushels of bright pink hydrangeas.

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Pieter Estersohn

There is so much texture. No wall or ceiling was left unadorned.

I am not a fan of drywall. Most of the surfaces are covered in tile, nickel-gap wood, shiplap, or beadboard. The rest is wallpapered—even some ceilings. On the coast, a textured wall adds depth and charm without busying things up. As for fabrics, as a rule, I never use more than two patterns per room.

You certainly don’t shy away from stripes. Was that a theme?

My signature design stamp is a room or hallway done in horizontal stripes. They remind everyone of the beach, don’t you think? In general, I love putting bold patterns, including polka dots, in unexpected places, like on a kitchen wall.

"My signature design stamp is a room done in horizontal stripes. They remind everyone of the beach."

Your life on Lake Michigan is very indoor/outdoor. Do you have a favorite space?

What I call “the cabana” is actually the first floor of the home, right off the water. We often play Jenga in our swimsuits, drink limoncello mojitos at 8 p.m., then realize the kids haven’t eaten. I’ll pop into the kitchen and whip up a meal for 5 or 15 people. I am a regular on the farmer’s-market circuit, and I love to cook. I always kick things off with a cocktail, and mocktails for the kids. Dinner might start with rainbow chard with dried blueberries, ­water­melon, and citrus dressing, topped with microgreens and crumbled feta. The main dish might be locally raised beef with an avocado dipping sauce. For dessert, nothing beats fresh blueberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream. There is an amazing blueberry farm close by and an ice-cream factory in town!

Sounds delicious! It’s not too much work?

I love to entertain, and the kitchens—there are two!—are designed to be functional and are fully stocked, which makes things really easy. The bright, color­ful cabana space plays host to a lot of good cheer.

This story originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Natipernavigare.

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