Bay Street Cottages
In a fairy-tale town, a cozy community takes root
There are chapters and chapters of fairy-tale facets to Harbor Springs: The stories of well-connected resorters finding refuge from daily hubbub in this quiet, exclusive enclave; the inspirational lakeside setting that fuels the souls of painters and poets; and the Loch Ness monster that lives deep in the Bay and feeds on capsized sailing school students before they have time to clamber up the centerboard.
OK, fine. I made one of those up.
But I did half-expect to follow a trail of bread crumbs leading to the front porch of Chris and Linda Misanko’s cottage.
Talk about a storybook setting.
Once upon a time, the Misankos visited Harbor Springs (it was about 10 years ago). They stayed at the quaint and colorful Veranda Bed & Breakfast, and fell in love with this area that entices so many to change their zip code.
In 2006, the Akron, Ohio, natives returned for another vacation, and after seeing Bay Street Cottages featured in a national magazine, the Misankos stopped by Rob Mossburg’s downtown office at The Cottage Co., the neighborhood’s developer.
At the time, their 1,000-square-foot future cottage was roofed in and under way, but not finished. The Misankos toured and quickly committed to purchasing the home. They also took the standard floorplans offered by The Cottage Co. and tweaked some components to make the layout fit their lifestyle. For instance, they created a loft space in the open air above the living room and bumped out the railing along the edge for dramatic appeal.
When they moved in March 2008, Linda set about infusing her style. Since we’re writing a story here, we’ve decided to make up a new word to describe it; we’re going to call it “electric cottage,” Lily Pulitzer-meets Pottery Barn, frivolity-meets-Frontgate, pizazz- meets ... well, you get the idea.
“We wanted a place to make you smile,” said Linda, herself a vibrant character who prefers to be as brightly dressed as her home’s decor. “I’m a color nut.”
Interior design details include two lengthy oars flanking the fireplace, items Linda kept for the day she’d have her place by the water. Reclaimed oak floors, shipped from old barns and buildings in New England, add more charm.
There are elegant aspects throughout, found in the tumbled marble countertops, white and cottagey kitchen cabinetry, hand-painted tiles behind the oven (too pretty to catch spaghetti-sauce splash) and signature artwork by Petoskey artist Valerie.
The master bedroom capitalizes on the compact square footage, with just an armoire and a bed, shifted to an angle a la Pippi Longstocking. “I bump everything,” Linda divulges.
And it works. The decor comes together in attractive, amusing and clever ways, from tiny little flipflops on a shelf, to a miniature Valerie the size of a Saltine on an easel in a bathroom cabinet, to curtain tie-backs with a swirly pink ball on the end flipped up to work new duty as towel holders.
“It’s all very whimsical,” described Linda, a former interior designer in Houston.
Out back, a coveted peek at the bay is another treasure (the view’s a little wider in the winter months) right down the road end to Zoll Street Park. On a square patch of patio, two Adirondack chairs add the punctuation to the Misanko’s piece of paradise.
“We fell in love with Harbor Springs,” said Chris. “It’s a good place to close your eyes on a wintry day and think about summers in Harbor Springs.”
“You don’t need thousands of square footage,” Linda added. “It’s a pocketful of sunshine.”
Mossburg, The Cottage Co. owner, highlights another prominent purpose behind this near-to-town collection of adorable abodes: The walkability factor. Mossburg has long been a proponent of development that takes advantage of existing spaces, rather than building new on the outskirts of a town. He and his wife, Vee, live above where they work on Bay Street, across the street from Harbor’s harbor.
The site where Bay Street Cottages are located was previously a hotel, and waste materials from its demolition were recycled into the latest incarnation of homes. Maximized on-site filtration makes storm-water runoff fish-friendly, while the in-town approach mitigates suburban sprawl.
“When we started planning this, in 2000, ‘new urbanism’ was quite young still,” Mossburg said. “The city leaders in Harbor Springs deserve a bunch of credit for getting on board with this concept.”
In fact, every time the Mossburgs sell a Bay Street Cottage, a percentage of the profits is donated to the Little Traverse Conservancy to fund preservation of a centennial farmstead in Harbor Springs.
The Misankos are in tune to this philosophy, too, as they tool around town on their bicycle built for two, walk to favorite restaurants and shops, and tell their tale of living in a storybook community.
“Once you’re here, it’s just magical,” Chris said. “We get up here and it’s a real escape.”
No bread crumbs necessary.
At a glance, the Misanko cottage ...
Bedrooms: Two, guest and master
Baths: Two full
Square footage: 1,000 approx.
Bay Street Cottages overview: 18 planned cottages, 13 finished and occupied; two courtyards
Builder/developer: The Cottage Co., Harbor Springs
Features: Near to downtown shopping and dining, Zoll street beach, Jean Jardine park, historic Wequetonsing
Issues » September and October 2009 » Bay Street Cottages