We couldn’t be more excited to share with you our newest addition, which we lovingly call our Tree House! If you follow us on Instagram, many of you know (and saw the tiniest of sneak peeks!) that we recently became the giddy, proud owners of an adorable home in Lakeside, Michigan.
It’s been 11 years since we’ve moved to Chicago (can you believe this was almost one year ago?), and during that time, we’ve spent a handful of weeks with friends and family along Michigan’s inland lakes or the shores of the pretty Lake itself. It’s incredible how just an hour or two in the car can make you feel a million miles away from the city bustle, and we’ve always said to one another, wouldn’t it be amazing to own our own tiny slice, too? After our getaway to Sawyer this past spring, the urge only intensified, and before we could stop ourselves, we began working with a Harbor Country realtor, recommended to us by a kind reader (hi, Jen!). Along the way, we put in an offer on a home we ached for, lost it to a cash bid and did our best to convince ourselves that it wasn’t meant to be.
Several weeks later, our realtor encouraged us to check out what would – spoiler! – eventually be our lake house. Truthfully, we almost didn’t give it a chance. We had seen it pop up in recent listings, but more than once, we skipped over it simply because of the shabby vinyl siding and overgrown lawn. There was a big red flag (no central HVAC system) and smaller ones as well (only one bathroom). But! It was a half mile walk to Lake Michigan, a handful of miles from the dunes and a quick bike ride to shops and eats. Despite the less than stellar exterior, the inside was bursting with cuteness. Everywhere you looked, it was cute ceilings, cute doors, cute floors! The heavily wooded lot lended more privacy than most homes we had seen, and it’s also where her nickname came from: Tree House.
Initially, we told our realtor that we would drive up to see it in person, if only to officially eliminate it from the running. But as the story goes, once we were inside, we didn’t want to leave. What we thought would be a quick pop in turned into an hour long walkthrough, in which we asked countless questions, FaceTimed our parents and snapped photos on our phones. Since losing out on the house we thought was The One, this girl was the First One we’d seen that made our hearts beat wildly, our palms sweaty and our speech come out a little too quickly. The entire drive home, we talked over each other, already making plans for the bathroom and kitchen. That same day, we put in our offer, and several days later (and after quite a bit of negotiating), we were under contract!
Our Tree House is an hour and a half drive from Chicago, and it’s located on a quiet street with friendly neighbors. It’s estimated to have been built in the 1920s or 30s with a footprint much smaller than we thought we wanted; coming in at just over 800 square feet, it has two bedrooms, one bath and the sweetest sleeping loft. We’re convinced that it was on the market for as long as it was for the same reasons that we almost passed it by – no furnace, overall size and (very, very) sad exterior. That said, it was well under our target budget, and the location couldn’t be beat! It was also the only house we had looked at where much of the interior charm remained. The majority of the original doors and windows are still in place, including glass knob and old brass hardware, lived-in flooring and a tall, exposed loft ceiling in the main living space. There’s quite a bit of fixing up in its future (which might be an understatement), but we can’t stop literally(!) dreaming about the possibilities.
Alright, enough already, let’s go inside!
There’s no front door, which threw us off at first. At some point, an addition was added to the front of the house, eliminating what we think would have been the entrance. Now we enter from the side, and we walk into a decently sized mudroom. I’m weirdly excited about this area – I love a good mudroom! – but it has quite a ways to go to get to its starting point. There’s a (broken down?) washer and dryer stuffed along the short wall, and the smaller of the two closets you see below houses an electric water heater.
The mudroom leads into the kitchen, which was probably overhauled and updated about 20-30 years ago. The floors were replaced with sticky vinyl, although we’re crossing all our fingers that something more appetizing lurks beneath! A bit of minor investigating felt promising, but it’s tough for us to say without ripping up large sections. Soon.
Although the kitchen is pint sized, the layout is already set up nicely. A small oddly-shaped peninsula separates this space from the main living area, and just like the mudroom, we know this kitchen has the potential to be stunning!
The main living space though? It’s already stunning! If you look closely, there were strange decisions made along the way, but as a starting point, it’s so, so pretty. The ceilings sold us almost immediately, and the handsome ladder was made using repurposed barn wood. Wall warts abound, a faux brick surround hogs the corner and that ladder may be awkwardly placed, but it all feels manageable. (Please, oh please, let those floors continue under the faux brick!) The space is long and narrow (not unlike our Chicago home!), with a set of French doors that lead into the grassy backyard.
Both bedrooms and bathroom are located right off of the main space:
The larger of the two bedrooms is an obvious addition, and it’s actually the room that juts out from the front of the house. It’s the brightest room by a landslide, with a large closet and painted plywood floors. The floors are a good inch or two lower than the rest of the home, so we’d like to raise them up eventually, most likely with an additional layer of painted floor. I’ve seen some nice looking painted plywood floors floating around the web (this one immediately comes to mind), and we think it’s a challenge we’d like to take on!
There are two sets of French doors off of this room – one leading back into the living room and the other leading out onto the deck. A knotty pine accent wall is only visible from the bed, and there’s a charming octagon-shaped window in a small nook. Here’s a funny side story: The first time we stayed overnight, we closed the doors leading into the living room, and we brought Jack and CC into the room with us as well. The next morning, both doors were still closed, but we awoke to find one miss Chunk roaming around on the other side of the doors. What. We couldn’t figure out how she magically passed through a closed door, until we realized that a single glass pane was missing from one of the doors! How a 65 lb sausage loaf fit through that teeny opening is still baffling, but at least we solved the mystery – ha!
The second bedroom is less than half the size of the master, but you might notice that both rooms have beadboard ceilings!
The bathroom had to have been updated at some point in the last few decades, but the choices left behind are already in need of an overhaul. (Think: dark beige tile and 90s-style fixtures.) Closet space from the second bedroom takes up a significant amount of square footage from the bath, and we already have plans to remove that closet to allow the bathroom to breathe. During our inspection, we learned of a minor leaky plumbing issue beneath the tub, giving us a feeling that this is going to be a down-to-the-studs room overhaul.
I saved the best for last, and it’s 100% what sealed the deal for us – the sleeping loft!
At the top of the ladder and directly above the main living space is this tucked away gem! We negotiated those vintage beds into our contract, for which I will forever have a tiny tear in my eye.
The ceilings are primed beadboard that weren’t properly installed, and although it looks decent in photos, there’s a good deal of exposed seams and dried, yellowed wood glue. The beams, while cute, are faux and rough, and of course there’s a fair amount of dangling electric, too; there’s actually quite a bit of work up here to polish this room up, but my goodness, how cute is it going to be?
That’s the entire tour in photos, but I’m working on a vlog which will follow soon! We feel incredibly lucky that we were able to make this longtime dream come true, and during the slog of the garden apartment renovation, we pushed through knowing that it would bring us one step closer to making this lake house a reality. We imagine this home to be a place where we pack in family and friends for joyous, energizing weekends, and yet we hope to spend just as many cold and rainy days tucked under blankets on our future big, cozy couch. Thinking of Jack and Chunk rolling around in the grass and lazing in the sun spots makes our hearts swell, and we can’t even put into words how we’ll feel when our baby girl pads around on the hardwood floors. (But first, she’ll learn a thing or two about laying tile and choosing the perfect shade of white paint!)
We’re looking forward to sharing every step of the process with you!