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This Lake Michigan Escape Is An Empty-Nester's Dream Home

J.P. Anderson | January 22, 2021 | Home & Real Estate

A pair of empty nesters realize their dream of life on the lake thanks to an eye-catching Harbor Springs refresh by Gemma Parker Design.

“Our goal was to make it luminous, serene and relaxing,” notes interior designer Gemma Parker of the project, whose rec room (pictured) features side tables by Primitive, a Mattaliano sofa, dining chairs by David Iatesta via John Rosselli and artwork by Roger Boulay.


After a successful career in the manufacturing business, a retiree and his wife set a new goal: to make his longtime dream of one day living on Lake Michigan a reality. Finding the ideal home on the water within walking distance of Harbor Springs, Mich., they took the plunge, enlisting Gemma Parker Design to give the nearly 13,000-square-foot property a complete refresh.

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Dover Bell pendant lights from The Urban Electric Co. add visual interest to the already inviting kitchen.


“The clients entertain frequently,” notes Parker, who led the project with assistance from Samantha Vanags. “It was important to them to work with a team that focused on how they live and use their home and designed around that.” With two grown sons who visit often and a fairly constant stream of summer visitors, the clients needed lots of rooms for their family. “They also wanted a home that was customized to be reflective of who they are while also being comfortable and understated.”

One guest bedroom’s thoughtful touches include a Serena & Lily mirror and a lamp from Circa Lighting with shade customized with Samuel & Sons tape trim rows.


“To capture the spirit of lake living in a subtle way, we focused on a refined use of materials along with a sophisticated color palette and layering of textures. We always look toward the views outside the windows when we are designing homes, and it was important to us to make a close connection of the interior spaces to the surrounding landscape. Their views are absolutely stunning and it was important not to distract from them, but rather to highlight them.”

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Mac pendant lights from The Urban Electric Co., photography by Lincoln Schatz and a table by Brunswick Billiards make this game room a handsome retreat.


Talk about challenges: Not only was Parker in labor with her second child while setting up the house survey, the first exterior survey was done in -5-degree temps and knee-deep snow—and the entire project had to be complete in a matter of months due to the clients selling their other home in the area and planning a huge family reunion at the property that summer. “Despite all these obstacles, we still delivered the large portion of the project within about five months,” notes Parker. “They were incredibly decisive and trusting in the process, which allowed for us to create a beautiful home for them on a tight timeline.”

“We believe that blue and white is always a timeless, beautiful color palette,” notes Parker of their design strategy, evidenced here in the living room. “It has a soothing water quality and is serene and inviting.”


For Parker and team, the project’s success is in its relaxing vibe and seamless flow. “Whenever we start a project, we look at it holistically from the architecture to the exterior landscape,” notes Parker. “The connection of the interior spaces to the surrounding landscape is really peaceful and serene, and there was so much attention paid to every detail in the home to create cohesion throughout.”

Maureen Parker of Common Ground Landscapes created manicured grounds to match the interior’s sophisticated vibe.


Sums up Parker of the clients’ response, “They were incredibly pleased with the attention to detail and our ability to keep the project on track with such an intense timeline. They loved how customized and detail-oriented the interiors were.”


Type Single-family home refresh

Location Harbor Springs, Mich.

Architecture Nick White, White & Liebler Architects

Builder Jeff Ford, Evening Star Joinery

Interior Design and Custom Furniture Gemma Parker Design

Landscape Architect Maureen Parker, Common Ground Landscapes


Circa Lighting Lamps throughout

Holland & Sherry Various textiles

Holly Hunt Fabric on pieces throughout

Katonah Architectural Hardware Various hardware throughout

Perennials Various fabrics and rugs throughout

Primitive Various accessories throughout

John Rosselli Dining chairs and various lamps

Samuel & Sons Trim throughout

Lincoln Schatz Photography in billiards room

Tai Ping Custom rugs throughout

The Urban Electric Co. Lighting throughout

Zirlin Interiors Custom window treatment fabrication throughout

Photography by: Werner Straube