Harmony on the Horizon

She wished for cozy corners; he wanted wide-open spaces. Architect Louis DesRosiers made them both happy with this house overlooking Lake Michigan.

Glass House Porch

The Melstroms' house exudes a honey-hued glow at dusk.

Bruce Buck

"When I come here and walk in the door, all my cares melt away," says John Melstrom of his home on Lake Michigan. In the living room, he and wife Violet enjoy unobstructed views of Good Harbor Bay and Manitou Passage, where vessels float across the horizon, navigating between the St. Lawrence Seaway and Chicago. Designed by Louis DesRosiers, their 3,600-square-foot retreat is the result of a long and exacting process.

"It all started 30 years ago when we began coming up to Homestead Resort in Glen Arbor with our two babies. The whole family adored summering on the beach, so we often talked about buying something, but it never made economic sense," says John, who calls himself a very pragmatic accountant. But when a parcel of land with views of the channel and distant islands came up for sale in 1993, the couple found its beautiful sand beach and vistas of unspoiled forest irresistible.

After buying the property, the Melstroms reached an impasse over construction details. "We're compatible, but have very different ideas," says Violet. "I need my cocoon and John needs big spaces to feel free."

To accomplish the couple's disparate goals while maximizing the stunning waterfront site, Louis settled on the concept of a pavilion. From the beach, a line of columns suggests a classical Greek temple on a raised platform of Idaho flagstone-as free and open as John's wildest dreams. Within, cozy crannies satisfy Violet.

Sited westward to bask in the sunset and its afterglow, the house is sheltered by a deep overhang that Louis insisted upon. "As romantic as it sounds to have a western view, you must always plan a sensible overhang to protect your eyes from glare and reflection on the water," he says. "That overhang allows occupants to gaze at the brilliant sunsets for which this side of the lake is so famous.

"Glass wraps the entire living space to protect it from the elements," he adds. "We named this particular area 'the gathering room' because that's its main purpose. It is perfect for empty nesters communicating in a part of the space, or for entertaining the family in the entire grand space."

Within this room, a massive fireplace of Indiana limestone and Michigan fieldstone features a cantilevered raised hearth, with log storage below. Tongue-in-groove cedar paneling marches right into the kitchen, to help it blend with the rest of the space. Cabinets wear the same paneling, and a 14-foot granite counter doubles as an eating area and serving buffet. To maintain an airy feel, interior columns (rather than walls) define the spaces and stairways feature glass rails. The palette is purposely soft and monochromatic.

Originally, the house had three bedrooms: two small ones on opposite ends of the first floor and a large master with porch dominating the second. That was before Louis had an idea for the storage area over the garage. John recalls hearing him shout from a ladder, "What would you think about putting a bedroom, bath, and kitchen up here, reached by spiral stairs?" The space now provides additional sleeping quarters for the Melstroms' children and their families. John says, "It's everybody's favorite spot."

That applies to the whole place. "When we first had the house I worried about everything being perfect all the time," Violet says. Now, she finds perfection in each relaxing evening.

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