by maple and birch forests and laced with clear lakes and streams,
the northern portion of Michigan's Lower Peninsula is Hemingway
country. Here on Lake Walloon is where young Ernest spent the
first 19 summers of his life, venturing out from Windemere —
the Hemingway family cottage — to fish for trout and hunt
for squirrel. It's also where Hemingway and his first wife Hadley
married and honeymooned in 1921.
Nestled next to the
kitchen is this delightful sunroom. Southern exposure that
invites the low winter sunshine in makes it a favorite spot
on cold January afternoons.
Of course, Hemingway moved on to Paris
and Spain, to Key West and finally to Sun Valley, fishing for
bigger fish and hunting for bigger game as his fame grew and his
life became more complicated. But his time spent in the forests
of northern Michigan remained a constant influence on both his
life and his literature.
There's a bit of a Hemingway cottage industry
that's grown up in the area, but that isn't what drew Bill and
Barb Tait and their family to Lake Walloon. It was the land itself.
Creating a Family Heritage
Picture this: clear turquoise water, "as blue as the Caribbean,"
according to Bill Tait. Golf courses and ski areas just minutes
away and humidity-free summers with temperatures in the 80's.
Of course, this is a four-season country, and your idea of paradise
may not include frigid winters with blizzards blowing in off nearby
But for Bill and Barb Tait and their three
active boys, this is exactly the place they were looking for.
"We wanted a place within driving distance of our home where
we could create a heritage for our kids," Bill explains.
"We want them to want to come back here in 10 years with
their own children."
The big problem was finding a place they
could call their own. "We were lucky," says Bill, a
native of northern Wisconsin, a place with similar climate and
topography. "We spent a couple years taking long weekends
and vacations up here, talking to realtors and searching the classifieds,
but nothing turned up. Then one evening in our motel room, just
when we had about given up, I realized I hadn't yet looked in
the day's classified section lying on the floor. So I picked
up the paper and there it was. We called that night, went out
to look at the property the next day and bought it on the spot.
The owner of an Indianapolis construction
company specializing in custom built luxury homes, Bill wasn't
necessarily looking to build a new home. "Frankly, we would
have preferred to find something already built. And if we did
need to build, we weren't necessarily going to build a log home;
we weren't going to force it," Bill says. "I've seen
them in developments where they just don't look right."
But when the family saw the site sloping
through maple, birch and cedar trees toward the lake, a log home
seemed the logical choice. "The lot just cried out ‘log
home,'" Bill says.
New Home, Traditional Look
The kitchen is highlighted
by custom maple cabinets, with a hand-rubbed antique finish
and granite countertops. And while there's a formal dining
area, seating at the kitchen island provides plenty room
when the family of five grabs an informal meal.
Located adjacent to
the kitchen and dining area. This cozy inglenook has its
own hearth and direct access to the deck overlooking the
According to Richard Tuxbury of Maple
Island Log Homes, the Lake Walloon area is full of log cottages
built in the 1920s and 1930s. Many have logs that have been painted
dark brown, which seems to be the traditional finish in the area.
"If you see the new windows and a
few slightly new design features — the attached garage,
for instance — the Tait's home could be mistaken for one
of these 70 year old classics." Tuxbury says.
But the inspiration for the Tait home
came not from Michigan but from the Adirondack Mountains of New
York State, home to the great camps — like William West
Durant's Sagamore — that have influenced generations with
their rustic elegance.
"We wanted to go for the Adirondack
look, which meant dark, hand-peeled logs and no drywall,"
Bill says. "We also wanted modern features — big, open
rooms that are also warm and comfortable, for example —
in a house that looked older."
Crafted by master log
carpenter Jim Grieb, this spiral staircase features book-matched
log treads and a central support crafted from a single large
yellow pine log set into place with a crane. Hanging to
the left of the master bedroom entry is an antique mahogany
canoe said to have once belonged to Chief Petosegay, an
Ottawa Indian chief for whom the nearby town of Petoskey
The Beauty of Handcrafting
Though he is an experienced builder who has built dozens of large,
high-end homes, Bill Tait had never built a log home before. So
he did his homework, researching the basics and talking to a number
of log suppliers before zeroing in on Maple Island, a firm located
near Traverse City, not far from Lake Walloon.
"We didn't want the machined look
of uniformly milled logs," Bill explains. "The beauty
of a log lies in its imperfections, which makes each one unique.
That's why we chose to use hand-peeled logs."
The Taits worked with their own architect,
Don Scott, to develop the conceptual plan for their house, then
turned the drawings over to Maple Island's Gordy Hughes.
"There was a lot of pushing and pulling,"
Bill admits, noting the plans had to be adapted to the realities
of log construction. "Gordy would tell us, ‘We can't
do this,' and Don would say, ‘Yes you can.' In the end,
the give and take produced a better house."
The logs for the Tait home were harvested
nearby in northern Michigan. They are Michigan red pine, a timber
that reveals beautiful grains when hand-peeled. The log shell
was handcrafted over the course of about five months at Maple
Island's log yard near Muskegon, Michigan. The walls, gables and
trusses were built of full round, hand-peeled logs that are notched
and hand fitted. Then the shell was disassembled and loaded onto
nine tractor-trailers for delivery to the site, where it was reassembled
in about a week's time.
Once the shell was up, Bill (who served
as general contractor on the project) assigned a crew from his
firm to finish the house. He also relied on the help of local
log construction wizard Jim Grieb, who familiarized Bill's carpenters
with the idiosyncrasies of log construction, and also built the
home's fabulous spiral log staircase. Erected in November 2000,
the home was ready for occupancy nine months later.
Balancing the soaring
heights of the great room is a 6-foot rustic chandelier
hanging from over 8 feet of antique chain. The chandelier
is custom drafted of yellow birch twigs, birch bark and
Built with Michigan
fieldstone, the massive hearth and chimney (below) soars
nearly 30 feet to the great room's vaulted ceiling. The
foyer floor to the left is slate, while the radiant-heated
wood floors in the house are 4-inch Australian cypress,
a wood that looks like pine but is harder and bears more
color and grain variation.
A Home Run
Although the Taits have been enjoying the house for two summers,
Part of the large basement level is being
finished with a small kitchen and two bedrooms in anticipation
of when the boys (the oldest is now a freshman in college) will
return to the family home with their own families in tow. But
there's not much that the Taits would do differently.
"We were just talking about that,"
Bill says, "and Barb mentioned that maybe we should have
made the house a little smaller since everyone laughs when we
describe it as our ‘cabin in the woods.'" But as anyone
who has raised three active boys can attest, every square foot
of the 7,100 square foot house is needed so everyone has a place
of their own.
"Our whole family really loves this
house and we use it all year round," Bill says. "Even
though this was our first trip up to the plate, we really feel
like we've hit a home run."
Return to Published Articles Start Page
to the top ^^