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Grand and Gracious on the Lake

With all the hallmarks of a classic lake house on the outside, the interiors of this timber frame are a grand surprise.

Written by Suzanna Logan
Photography by Joe Hilliard


Northern Michigan’s prestigious Lake Walloon is a feast for the eyes. But it’s not just the undulating crystal blue waters that feed one’s appetite for nature — the hundreds of architectural beauties that dot the 30 miles of shoreline beg for a closer look too.

In this exceptional terrain you’ll find a smorgasbord of Victorian-inspired houses, modern marvels and rustic wood retreats. But these are outliers. Here, the quintessential cottage is earmarked by gray clapboard siding with chunky white trim — maybe a red accent here or there to distinguish it from the neighbors. And it was exactly this breezy coastal look that Dave and Janice Underwood were after when they built their 14,000-square-foot hybrid timber home on a sprawling double lot with 400 feet of water frontage.

“We wanted that nautical, traditional looking lake house from the exterior,” explains Dave. “But when it came to the inside, we didn’t want to have a home that looked like half the homes on the lake. We wanted something unique.”

To this end, the couple ditched overt lake house style and opted for an elevated take on life on the water, crafting interiors that feel more European seaside manor than Michigan lake house. “People are stunned when they walk in and see the timber frame and height of the ceiling,” explains Dave. “It’s almost like walking into a church.” 

The three-story home’s timber frame is truly what sets the tone for the grand interiors. The great room has all the gravitas of centuries-old architecture with its 32-foot cathedral ceilings, massive 12-by-16 timbers and collection of arched glu-lam trusses. “With an expansive space like this, you need those heavier timbers that are fitting with the lodge-like aesthetic,” explains Christian Gudmand, owner of Hardwick Post & Beam, the home’s timber framer. “They give you a sense of grounding and stability in the structure.” 

The liberal use of stacked stone in the main living spaces and indoor-outdoor entertaining areas reinforce a sense of permanence and continue the home’s old-world design sensibilities. In the kitchen, a stone arch above the island echoes the curve of the glu-lam timbers; the material, quarried from New York, also elevates the walls of the butler’s pantry and a pub-style nook. From the adjacent dining room through sliding doors, the same rock carries into a covered entertainment space, complete with an outdoor kitchen, a retractable wall and a built-in hot tub.

Keeping their sights on creating stand-out character throughout the interiors, the Underwoods opted for reclaimed Douglas Fir timbers for the home’s frame (with the exception of any curved, glu-lams). Sourced by Pioneer Millworks from three separate factories across the eastern United States, the antique timbers were re-sawn but maintain evidence of their former life. “From an architectural standpoint, the reclaimed lumber has a character that is very difficult to replicate, so having that warmth and history built into your home is really special,” says Christian. 

Janice adds that, if you look closely, you can spot nail holes from the timbers’ original factory days, as well as sap drippings here and there — a tangible reminder of the home’s organic origins. “Even after 75, 80, 100 years, you still have these signs of life,” she says.  

Along with the frame itself, the owners continued their commitment to infusing a time-honored quality into the home with finishing touches, like hand-painted stained-glass windows and custom-crafted wrought iron touches. “It is a big home, but with the stone, wood, glass and metal, it just all comes together to give it that warm kind of feeling,” says Janice. 

Both the stained glass and iron elements appear in the primary suite, where the home’s grand theming continues. Rustic lodge meets refined luxury in the expertly designed his-and-hers retreat. The exposed timber frame and stone fireplace anchor the space with more masculine architecture, while feminine touches like elegant, white paneled walls, shimmering damask bedding and cascading, floral-print draperies create a balanced yin-and-yang effect. Tucked into the corner of the room, a sitting area wrapped in windows is designed for soaking in the lake views from the comfort of the skirted, amethyst-colored couch. 

In addition to the chic primary suite on the main floor, the home features three guest bedrooms on the elevator-accessible upper level. Each has the atmosphere of a five-star hotel, with calming color palettes, bedding layered to perfection and thoughtful touches, like a stocked coffee bar. One bedroom functions as a private apartment with a separate entrance, full kitchen and sitting area, built-in bunk beds and a second primary suite. “We were able to stay in that part of the house while they were finishing the home,” explains Dave. With building far behind them, it’s now a favorite spot for guests. 

Another family-and-friends-approved spot is the home’s lower level, which boasts multiple seating areas, a theater room, professional golf simulator and decked-out game room with an 18-foot-long shuffleboard and pool table. But the notable amenities don’t stop there: a crafting room, exercise room with steam bath, and a fully stocked bar round out the offerings. “It really is a wonderful home to entertain in,” affirms Dave. “You can find a comfortable spot to get away by yourself or be a part of a little bit of everything.”

Across all three levels, the home is a testament to the couple’s commitment to create spaces that feel equal parts “wow!” and “welcome!” But even with all of their efforts, Dave and Janice agree that the lake will always be the main attraction — whether for boating and fishing or just enjoying the views— and they wouldn’t have it any other way. 

“We have traveled all over the world, just shy two continents and a few states to hit all 50, and you couldn’t want for more beautiful scenery or a more peaceful, tranquil setting,” says Janice. “We have been here seven years, and I still go to the windows to take pictures.” 


Home Details

Square Footage: 14,636

Bedrooms: 4

Baths: 7

Timber Provider/Designer: Hardwick Post & Beam


See Also: Design Considerations for a Waterfront Home

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