11772 S Watch Hill Dr, Empire, MI 49630, US

The Beach House on Storm Hill

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Every now and then, a home is built with such care and quality, in such a spectacular setting,that it deserves its own story.   Jim Bagaloff,  developer of the prestigious Storm Hill property on Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula, where the Beach House is located, describes the setting as a blend of Napa Valley and Cape Cod. Napa for the vineyards and orchards that flourish on the peninsula (known as the Mitten State’s pinky finger); Cape Cod for the silky dunes that roll down to fresh, azure-colored Lake Michigan waters—where unlike the ocean, nothing bites or stings.   Also unlike Napa and Cape Cod, the Leelanau Peninsula is still relatively quiet and undiscovered. The Beach House sits on a lovely, wooded acre-plus and 150 feet of Lake Michigan shoreline with a view of uninhabited South Manitou Island on the horizon. The home is a stone’s throw from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and its miles and miles of preserved silken beaches. From Storm Hill, it is a short walk into the laidback village of Empire—where kids play outside safely, the new library is a town project, and the burgers at Joe’s Friendly Tavern are house-ground. This small-town atmosphere is marked by a wealth of low-key sophistication. Just miles from Empire, up around incredibly beautiful Glen Lake, for example, Chef Guillaume Hazaël-Massieux, a graduate of L’Institut Paul Bocus in Lyon, prepares authentic French cuisine served in an intimate country setting at his restaurant La Becasse.   The Storm Hill development, once the estate of 19th-century lumber baron Harvey Wilce, consists of 76 acres, 2300 feet of lake frontage, a common area for tennis courts and corridors where deer, turkey and other wildlife freely roam. As the Storm Hill lots have sold over the years, a number of stunning homes have been built. But none with quite the level of craftsmanship as The Beach House, finished in 2010. “The creation and concept in every half-inch of every single piece of material was our concept,” says the homeowner about he and his wife. We both have had quite a bit of building development experience and Storm Hill was our finest creation.” Colleen Johnson, Owner of In-Site Design Group, Inc., also had extensive involvement with the project, the homeowner says. Johnson, an award-winning interior designer, is owner of the foremost experts in designing luxury homes in the nation.   The stone masonry in the home alone is exceptional. Each of the stones—70,000 pounds in all—used on the exterior and in the four fireplaces (two gas burning and two wood-burning) were  hand-selected in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and in Canada for their variation in color and uniformity of size. Four of the region’s best known master masons intentionally chose each stone for color, then placed them fair and square with even reveals.    The list of fine details continues with the stunning mottled, mountain ash floors imported from Austria, fine tile-work throughout and mechanical redundancies to give the owners comfort and peace-of-mind. Even the outlets set into the kitchen’s granite countertops  were hand-painted by an artist to blend into the granite pattern. Meticulous trim-work and joinery, solid wood paneling, beadboard installed without a single visible seam and the great room’s barrel-vaulted ceiling traced by mahogany beams—all the fine workmanship in this home is only rivaled by the ever-changing watery views from floor-to-ceiling windows. And that view is simply unparalleled. Take a seat at the dining room table, for example, and you’ll feel as though you are dining on the deck of a ship.    As grand as its construction and design, The Beach House is very much an intimate home designed for relaxing. The couple who built it have spent over a decade with their children and grandchildren here, creating a wealth of memories. Among those memories are “camp outs” when Grandma bedded down with her grandkids in the bunk-room with its eight hand-crafted mahogany bunks designed to feel like berths in a ship.    “The screened porch is a magical place for me,” her husband adds. “The sound of the waves and wind in the mornings releases the stress of life.” Both husband and wife treasure the small seating area around the kitchen fireplace. “Years ago, in the show ‘Little House on the Prairie,’ the family had the coziest fireplace in the kitchen, he says. “We recreated it in the home and it is always our morning coffee go-to place where we plan our day and discuss ideas.”     As much as they regret it, it is time for the couple to pass the home on to another family to build their own storybook memories—perhaps for generations.  “This is a legacy home,” says the homeowner. “A hundred years from now it will still be standing and looking as exceptional as it does now.”

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Peter Fisher

Peter Fisher

Coldwell Banker Schmidt, Glen Arbor

(231) 735-4405

[email protected]

Coldwell Banker Schmidt, Glen Arbor