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

By Marion Laffey Fox
May 27, 2003
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 livingroom, he and wife Violet enjoy unobstructed views of Good HarborBay and Manitou Passage, where vessels float across the horizon,navigating between the St. Lawrence Seaway and Chicago. Designed byLouis DesRosiers, their 3,600-square-foot retreat is the result ofa long and exacting process.

"It all started 30 years ago when we began coming up toHomestead Resort in Glen Arbor with our two babies. The wholefamily adored summering on the beach, so we often talked aboutbuying something, but it never made economic sense," says John, whocalls himself a very pragmatic accountant. But when a parcel ofland with views of the channel and distant islands came up for salein 1993, the couple found its beautiful sand beach and vistas ofunspoiled forest irresistible.

After buying the property, the Melstroms reached an impasse overconstruction details. "We're compatible, but have very differentideas," says Violet. "I need my cocoon and John needs big spaces tofeel free."

To accomplish the couple's disparate goals while maximizing thestunning waterfront site, Louis settled on the concept of apavilion. From the beach, a line of columns suggests a classicalGreek temple on a raised platform of Idaho flagstone-as free andopen as John's wildest dreams. Within, cozy crannies satisfyViolet.

Sited westward to bask in the sunset and its afterglow, thehouse is sheltered by a deep overhang that Louis insisted upon. "Asromantic as it sounds to have a western view, you must always plana sensible overhang to protect your eyes from glare and reflectionon the water," he says. "That overhang allows occupants to gaze atthe brilliant sunsets for which this side of the lake is sofamous.

"Glass wraps the entire living space to protect it from theelements," he adds. "We named this particular area 'the gatheringroom' because that's its main purpose. It is perfect for emptynesters communicating in a part of the space, or for entertainingthe family in the entire grand space."

Within this room, a massive fireplace of Indiana limestone andMichigan fieldstone features a cantilevered raised hearth, with logstorage below. Tongue-in-groove cedar paneling marches right intothe kitchen, to help it blend with the rest of the space. Cabinetswear the same paneling, and a 14-foot granite counter doubles as aneating area and serving buffet. To maintain an airy feel, interiorcolumns (rather than walls) define the spaces and stairways featureglass rails. The palette is purposely soft and monochromatic.

Originally, the house had three bedrooms: two small ones onopposite ends of the first floor and a large master with porchdominating the second. That was before Louis had an idea for thestorage area over the garage. John recalls hearing him shout from aladder, "What would you think about putting a bedroom, bath, andkitchen up here, reached by spiral stairs?" The space now providesadditional sleeping quarters for the Melstroms' children and theirfamilies. John says, "It's everybody's favorite spot."

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