Summer, Simplicity, & Sunsets

A metro Detroit couple rescued a neglected Lake Michigan retreat, where they now spend weekends ‘bluffing it’ // Photographs by Roy Ritchie


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Some people are frequent movers.

Others have a knack for renovation.

A lucky few understand the nuances of real estate.

Sal Impastato is all of the above, which explains why he’s comfortably ensconced in his third Lake Michigan-shore cottage. (He sold the last one, furnishings and all — right down to the bath towels.)

His current lakefront getaway was discovered during what so many of us do: a wouldn’t-it-be nice drive through cottage country. He and his longtime partner, Mark Bess, came upon a “complete wreck” on 1.4 acres overlooking the lake. “There were trees growing against the house,” Impastato says. That was in 2007. The following year, they embarked on a nine-month fix-up project that included trimming trees, replacing the roof and windows, and installing a new kitchen and bath.

They kept the home’s original envelope, which is just shy of 2,500 square feet, but converted a screen porch that was cantilevered on the north side of the house. “We insulated and heated the floors and installed windows, Impastato says. “Now, it’s a 12-by-16 dining room that’s warm in the winter. We put a nice Saarinen dining table in there.”

With the benefit of a little expert guidance from a friend, Royal Oak-based interior designer Richard Ross, Impastato and Bess set about creating a suitable interior. Their décor echoes the ’70s-era vintage of the home, which was designed by Kalamazoo-based architect Norman Carver, and also reflects the home’s Japanese-inspired contemporary style.

Part of the pleasure was in creating a setting different from their usual habitat. “Our home in town is a traditional in Bloomfield Hills,” Impastato says. “We also have a traditional British Colonial cottage in Palm Beach, Fla.” — a sunny escape that completes a winning residential trifecta fitting for a man who sells real estate for Hall & Hunter in Birmingham.

Throughout their third home, they were careful to use low-maintenance materials on the floors and countertops and in the landscape because, Impastato says, you don’t want to arrive and do work.

Leisurely weekends at the cottage in Glenn, Mich., near Saugatuck, take full advantage of the wide, blue horizon. The couple built an 80-step staircase that leads down to the lake, a structure that includes two sunset decks, one at house level and another just 10 feet above the beach. Both serve as platforms for “martini sunset parties.”

It’s a lifestyle he recommends for those of us who work hard at our jobs. “On Friday, we drive there and fight the traffic,” he says of their two-and-a-half-hour commute. “On Friday night, you just exhale.”


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