Northern Nests

On the waterfront: Two homes blend contemporary beauty with the great outdoors


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A Son's Love of Nature, Family, and Modern Design
















When your child shows a huge interest in Legos and Lincoln Logs, you might think there’s a future designer or architect in the family. As a youngster, Dave and Karen Jordan’s son, Jeff, constantly played with Legos and similar building toys, so they weren’t surprised when he received both bachelor of science and master’s degrees in architecture. But little did the Jordans guess that their creative son would also design their northern Michigan dream home.

After years of visiting other people’s getaways, two years ago the Jordans were able to call a lakeside cottage their very own. Located on Higgins Lake and facing west (for great sunsets), the contemporary, 5,500-square-foot cedar-sided retreat is the new hot spot for family gatherings that sometimes include as many as 30 guests — many of whom stay overnight.

“You wouldn’t know it from the outside, but the home has six bedrooms,” Jeff says of the sprawling cottage he started designing for his parents about three years ago, after the original home on the lot was torn down. With four and a half bathrooms, a spacious kitchen, and roomy gathering spaces, the getaway accommodates all of the family’s needs.

“Like many people who aren’t used to a more modern, contemporary-style home, my parents weren’t sure about my design suggestions initially,” Jeff recalls. “But I can be persuasive."

Dave Jordan admits that a modern bent wasn’t what he first envisioned. “We’ve never owned a contemporary home,” he says, “but as plans evolved, we fell in love with the openness. It’s great when everyone’s here (the couple has five grandchildren), but it’s also comfortable when there’s just the two of us."

With 21 miles of shoreline and deep, clear water, Higgins Lake, near Roscommon, boasts beauty all around — which is exactly why the Jordans wanted to make the most of the water views. Their site is particularly accommodating; water levels are relatively shallow a long way out into the lake, making the location great for swimming, especially for the little ones.

“Even when we’re all inside, we feel like we’re outside,” Jeff says, “and that’s mostly because of the way the layout allows for a connection with the outdoors.” A lot of windows, a wrap-around deck, seamless transitions from inside to out, and more contribute to the special connectivity to nature.

As suitable as the design is, the architect did face some challenges. “The lake lots are narrow, long, and deep,” says Jeff, who obtained his undergraduate degree from U-M and his master’s from the University of California at Berkeley. “The house had to be comfortable for two but accommodating for 30, so we stretched the design lengthwise and tucked the bedrooms halfway below ground,” Jeff explains. “It’s very functional; there are lots of places to stick people.”

Jeff worked with R.L. Zuzula Builders of Bay City, whose detail work and craftsmanship are excellent, he says.

As for the modern sensibility, the architect refers to his work as warm-modern. “A lot of people think modern architecture is imposing and cold. This home is open, bright, and airy, and the use of wood makes it quite approachable."

One of his biggest goals was to blend the home with its surroundings. “My parents didn’t want a massive, imposing house on a lake,” he says, so it was necessary to “control the volume, to not have it big and bulky.”

This summer Jeff and his family, including three young boys, will head to Higgins Lake from their home out East. Jeff will put Jeff Jordan Architects (his company) out of mind for several days for yet another memory-making vacation.

There will be swimming, boating, and toasting to awesome sunsets. The kids will skip and run along the beach, and dart between towering pines. They’ll duck in and out of an outdoor shower, splash a bit in a hot tub on the two-tiered deck, and grab lunch at the kitchen island before heading to the dock for a pontoon ride — elements of home that intertwine with nature, and are all part of the design, Jeff says.

“The kids love it, we love it,” Dave adds. “The home really is spectacular.”   


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