With four stories and two sets of spiral stairs, this quirky west Michigan retreat — the tallest house in town — is lovingly referred to as ‘our birdhouse’
FEATURE | cover story
What a View These two third-floor swivel chairs are favorite spots for homeowners Lisa and Ennio Petrella. Two army cots with Hedge-house feather beds are for extra guests (they can sleep 24 guests!). "We love the beautiful views to Lake Pentwater and the channel to Lake Michigan. We can sit here and watch all the large boats go in and out of the Pentwater Yacht Club," says Lisa.
The first thing your eye is drawn to on the third floor of Lisa and Ennio Petrella’s cottage is a pair of swivel chairs. Your first thought is likely to be, “I wish I were sitting there!” The comfortable seats look out to the tip of west Michigan’s Lake Pentwater and the adjoining channel to Lake Michigan, just a few feet from the Petrellas’ home. “We can just sit there for long periods of time and relax,” says Lisa, who runs Troy-based Lisa Petrella Interiors. “In the summer, we watch large boats go in and out of the Pentwater Yacht Club. In the winter, you see ice floes.” There’s no TV on the third floor, she adds — just the two chairs and the views beyond. “This is our quiet room, for sitting and reading and daydreaming,” she says.
The couple discovered the 12-year-old home four years ago. “We were actually looking for a Victorian, as there are so many in that area,” Lisa recalls. But then they set eyes on a quirky six-bedroom, four-story home that was built by a man from Chicago who apparently had a passion for “partying,” as Lisa puts it. “It has two spiral staircases and seven balconies,” she says, “and we can sleep 26 people!”
— Lisa Petrella
Ship Shape! The vacation home, which sits on land where there once was a furniture factory, was purchased four years ago. It has two sets of spiral staircases. Shown here is one of the stairways. Lisa fashioned a third-floor landing area with this table and mirror pairing. Little Dexter loves the comfy master bedroom, of course.
After the original owner sold it to new homeowners, who lived next door, they moved it 35 feet to make room for a new home they were building. When the Petrellas purchased the cottage, they knew there were changes to be made. Lisa’s keen eye quickly took in the spaces and made a list of necessary design modifications. “For one thing,” she says, “there were no closets in the bedrooms!”
Renovations began the day after Christmas, and by June the Petrellas were enjoying their newly designed, charming getaway. Over the winter, tradespeople were hired to install engineered wood floors; add new kitchen counters and cabinetry; add 10-inch shiplap throughout; paint walls in pretty Snowfall White (by Benjamin Moore); renovate two of the four-and-a-half bathrooms; add on to the deck; install new window treatments; create a fire pit area; refurbish an old shed by adding a new roof, cement floor, and electricity; and more.
The home, which is four stories ("We're the tallest house in town," Lisa says), has six bedrooms. Ennio's favorite seat is this wooden daybed swing on the second-floor deck off the master bedroom, facing the water. Lisa designed it and the craftspeople at South Carolina-based Lowcountry Swing Beds created it. The mattress can be left outdoors, thanks to an outdoor Sunbrella fabric from Schumacher.
The family room features sunny fabrics and cottage-style appeal. "I wanted oranges, blues, and reds," Lisa says. She called on some of her favorite fabric companies, including Pindler, Schumacher, Kravet, and Ralph Lauren when making her selections.
The Petrellas also embellished the landscaping, which had 127 flourishing cedar trees when they bought the home. Now complementing the treescape, which provides great privacy, are black-eyed Susans, daisies, flowering cherry trees, Annabelle hydrangeas, hostas, and sea grasses. (“We planted anything we could think of that the deer wouldn’t eat,” Lisa says.)
In the powder room, Ennio installed west Michigan nautical maps as wallpaper. The couple then placed map pins on their favorite locations.
Then there’s the interior design. Lisa fell in love with a large Indian head cigar poster that she purchased at an antiques store just steps from the cottage, and that was her jumping-off point. “I wanted the home to be bright, with a lot of white, and then I brought in splashes of color that’s in that artwork — oranges, blues, and reds.” She also “shopped my own house in metro Detroit. Plus, I had things in storage, as many designers do, so that came in handy.” She says she also purchased some items, including a great room chair and some outdoor furniture, from Four Hands. A wave of sunny patterns adorns the cottage’s spaces, from gingham and plaids to koi-themed beauties. Polka dots, Ikat, and seersucker add splashes of fun. Lisa called on some of her favorite companies, including Pindler, Schumacher, Kravet, and Ralph Lauren, when selecting her fabrics.
The dark brown bunk beds, left by the previous owner, were painted a lake-inspired blue. Ennio installed west Michigan nautical maps as wallpaper in their powder room. They then placed map pins where their town, their cottage, and other favorite spots are located. Lisa selected a stained V-groove paneling for the ceiling. “I wanted it to look like a boat deck,” she says. The finishing touch? A nautical-style light fixture.
— Lisa Petrella
Destination West The dining room table invites everyone for everything from card games to dinner.
Summer is a busy time. If the Petrellas aren’t cruising the waters on their pontoon, which is docked at the local marina, there are sailboat races to attend. In July, the couple throws a huge Fourth of July party; come August, they look forward to the town’s annual Homecoming Celebration. “There’s something every weekend,” Lisa says.
Stay Awhile There's no place these homeowners would rather be than sitting on their waterside deck and taking in waterway activity.
With four stories, two spiral staircases, and those sunset-view balconies, no doubt there are several delightful perches that lure at the Petrella cottage. A favorite for Ennio is the wooden daybed swing off the master bedroom. Lisa designed it and the craftspeople at South Carolina-based Lowcountry Swing Beds created it. She also hired Designer Furniture Services in Pontiac to make a mattress that can be left outdoors, using Sunbrella’s ticking from Schumacher. “I wanted the swing to look vintage and old,” Lisa says. “Ennio sleeps there sometimes in the summer, usually after a few Oban scotch whiskies and a cigar!
“The house — I like to call it a ‘birdhouse’ — is perfect for us and our visiting family and friends,” Lisa continues. “And Pentwater is a cute little town with a farmers market, fun shops, and parades that are so Norman Rockwell-ish. Ennio asked me once, ‘Why didn’t we do this 20 years ago?’ ”