An aban­doned 100-year-old farm­house in western Michi­gan is full of pos­si­bil­i­ties for a young fam­ily will­ing to see the home’s po­ten­tial.

Cottages & Bungalows - - Contents - BY JO­LENE NOLTE

Check out the first in our six-part se­ries on a young fam­ily’s ren­o­va­tion of a 100-year-old aban­doned farm­house in western Michi­gan.

See­ing a di­lap­i­dated farm­house that had just turned 100 years old and had

sat aban­doned for decades, you might run away in fear of ev­ery­thing in­volved in get­ting it up and in work­ing or­der. Where would you even be­gin? Ren­o­vat­ing, es­pe­cially when it comes to a his­toric prop­erty, has great re­wards but can be daunt­ing. But rather than balk at the chal­lenge, the Bridger fam­ily em­braces it. They have ren­o­vated sev­eral old cot­tages pre­vi­ously, and for the rest of the year Cot­tages & Bun­ga­lows will fol­low their process as they ren­o­vate this aban­doned 1916 farm­house in western Michi­gan.


The Bridgers, Chris­tine, Gabe, Emelia (7), Jen­son (5), dog Lad­die and cat Jack, en­joy the char­ac­ter of a his­toric cot­tage and the process of mak­ing it their own as they plan and scour sal­vage yards and flea mar­kets.

The cou­ple, ex­ec­u­tive cre­ative direc­tors in Chicago, may spend most of their time in the city, but their hobby—ren­o­vat­ing his­toric cot­tages while stay­ing true to the homes’ char­ac­ter—comes from see­ing the value of these dis­ap­pear­ing his­toric homes and the re­wards of res­cu­ing them. One at a time, they pre­serve homes like this farm­house that would oth­er­wise be de­mol­ished or sit va­cant in dis­re­pair. In this new se­ries for Cot­tages & Bun­ga­lows, Chris­tine will guide us through the process from start to fin­ish in their cur­rent project, ren­o­vat­ing an aban­doned farm­house built in 1916.


The home has many strikes against it—it sat va­cant for decades and was on the mar­ket for over 200 days. It also suf­fered “a bad ad­di­tion in the ’70s,” Chris­tine says. The orig­i­nal house was a mere 480 square feet, and the sub­se­quent ad­di­tion does not suit the home’s age.

But Chris­tine and Gabe were not fright­ened by these chal­lenges. They bought the farm­house with­out see­ing it in per­son. They sent their con­tract­ing part­ner, Jon Faris, owner of Par­a­digm Ren­o­va­tion, out to see the prop­erty, and he gave the thumbs up. While the house was di­lap­i­dated and small, the cou­ple saw pos­si­bil­i­ties.

“We see po­ten­tial where oth­ers may just turn away,” Chris­tine says. “It just takes a lit­tle bit of imag­i­na­tion and a leap of faith.” Some of that po­ten­tial in­cludes the home’s pic­turesque lo­ca­tion. “It backs up to an ap­ple or­chard” on one side and woods on an­other. It’s near a win­ery, cider mill, sev­eral small farms, a fives­tar restau­rant and is not far from Lake Michi­gan.


Chris­tine and Gabe want to turn the orig­i­nal square footage into the liv­ing room and re­move the sec­ond story, so it will have a cathe­dral ceil­ing. “We al­ways try to stay pe­riod cor­rect,” Chris­tine says. “I find it much more in­ter­est­ing to take cues from orig­i­nal de­sign de­ci­sions.”

The whole fam­ily, Emelia and Jen­son in­cluded, en­joy scav­eng­ing for unique pieces at garage sales and even the side of the road. The kids like to com­ment on their par­ents’ de­sign de­ci­sions and floor plans, some­times with ap­proval and some­times with crit­i­cism.

To help keep the price down, stay pe­riod cor­rect and give their cre­ativ­ity more room, they like to browse lo­cal flea mar­kets and sal­vage shops. Since the fam­ily has con­nec­tions to the area—they come here for sum­mer va­ca­tions and for getaways through­out the year—they know the lit­tle shops and some lo­cal crafts­men like Big J. “The only way to get in con­tact with him is to show up at his home,” Chris­tine ex­plains.

For this home, they are adding an­other chal­lenge. While open to select ex­cep­tions, they are pri­mar­ily look­ing for pieces 100 years old or older. They also plan to keep the home pe­riod cor­rect by keep­ing it white and by out­law­ing board and bat­ten and me­tal roof­ing.

Stay tuned through­out the year to see the trans­for­ma­tion take place—and get a peek into how the Bridgers work their ren­o­va­tion magic.

“We see po­ten­tial where oth­ers may just turn away.

It just takes a lit­tle bit of imag­i­na­tion and a leap of faith.”

Want to see more be­hind the scenes from the re­model? Fol­low along with the Bridgers’ ren­o­va­tion ad­ven­tures @cot­tage­fam­ily on In­sta­gram.

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