Reconnect with nature in a stunning Michigan retreat under a tree canopy


This rustic woodland retreat was designed by Searl Lamaster Howe Architects in collaboration with Estkowski Construction, located near Three Rivers, Michigan. The owners, whose main residence is in Chicago, had spent five years across four states looking for just the right property to use as a family weekend retreat. They were looking for a place with serenity and a slower pace of life.

They were inspired by the idea of a sanctuary with a modern sensibility but also rooted in its place with hand craftsmanship felt on scales big and small. They were also desired an abundance of transparency and a direct connection to nature. After spending overnights in a tent on three properties, they discovered their ultimate property — a strip of land with a valley and a small creek at its heart, nestled along the edge of a state park in central Michigan.


Encompassing 2,300 square feet of living space with two bedrooms, three bathrooms, the dwelling is positioned on the site just below the north ridge. It offers expansive views of the valley during the winter months and is perched within a canopy of leaves during the other three seasons. 

Above: The low slung roof at the entry of this rustic retreat helps to make the interior spaces appear more open and expansive.


Above: A pair of laminated wood beams run the length of this rustic retreat. Thin linear suspended fixtures bounce light off of the cedar ceiling, creating a warm glow. Charred cedar surrounds the exquisite blackened steel fireplace.


What We Love: While respecting its environment, this Michigan retreat is an open, modern comfortable retreat that can accommodate friends easily. Very thoughtful design choices throughout including a skylight in the shower bathroom, wood stair tread in the living room step down to call attention to the change of elevation and the use of a wider hallway for stacked bunk beds, with drapery for privacy. We are especially loving the cozy, light-filled living room with a layering of texture and color and the exquisite blackened steel fireplace.

Tell Us: What do you think of the overall design of this Michigan retreat? Would this be your idea of the perfect getaway? Let us know in the Comments!

Note: Be sure to have a look at a couple of other amazing home tours that we have featured here on One Kindesign in the state of Michigan: Dreamy English cottage provides gorgeous curb appeal in Michigan and Inviting beach style retreat nestled on a woody site on Lake Michigan.


Above: An open concept floor plan has the living, kitchen, and dining areas sharing a common area that is separated by steps that mirror the outside terrain. The levels help to define each zone and function. Naturally clefted black slate floors are a constant, lending a layer of organic texture to this home.


Above: In the kitchen, custom wire-brushed oak cabinetry is stained a deep green and complimented by a honed Danby marble countertop. Beyond is the staircase which wraps around a screen evocative of the property’s many trees amongst the winter snow.


Above: A small hallway leads into the master suite. In the background is the top of a three-flight staircase. Storage is integrated in the custom cabinetry and paired with a compact built-in desk.


Above: In the main bedroom, the cedar ceiling extends out to the roof overhang while the corner windows help to make this compact space feel more expansive.


Above: As a retreat in a remote setting, both vanity and privacy were lesser priorities in this bath design where the view took priority over a mirror.


Above: In this spa-inspired bathroom, the soaking tub captures views of the tree canopy beyond. The vanity mirror floats in the space, providing glimpses of the shower behind.


Above: In the shower, an overhead skylight floods the space with natural light. The reflecting light off of the glazed handmade tiles suggests water pouring down the stone walls of a cave.


While spacious in feel, the house is quite compact, leaving not a square inch of wasted space. On the home’s lowest level, two pairs of bunk beds and a murphy bed allow the cottage to comfortably accommodate ten people… thirteen in a pinch! Each of the four bunks is accented with flannel drapes that provide privacy for overnight guests.


Above: Cedar wrapped bunks provide compact, cozy accommodations for four in two pairs of built-in bunk beds.


Above: This family room is located on the basement level and sits partially underground. It was designed to be comfortable and inviting for family movie nights.


Above: To avoid blocking views from interior spaces, this porch was set to the side of the kitchen. Telescoping sliding doors create a seamless connection between indoors and out.


Above: Positioned on the west, this porch, deck, and plunge pool capture the best of the afternoon light. A generous roof overhang provides shade to the master bedroom above. The structure was strategically positioned to stand clear of any mature trees. A geothermal-powered water furnace conditions the house. They were thoughtfully positioned to avoid damage to the site.


Above: The cedar ceiling of the living room extends outside, blurring the lines between indoors and out. The large glass panes reflect the forest beyond.


Above: The arrangement of the house can be clearly seen from this angle, with the master suite atop, screened porch and sundeck below, and the living room in the foreground. Two materials define the exterior – cedar (both untreated and charred) and obsidian lap siding. While a black house in other contexts might be defined by its bold distinctiveness, here it serves as a quiet background to the lush mix of maple, oak, cedar, aspen, and ash trees that envelope the site.

PHOTOGRAPHER Tony Soluri Photography





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