AT THE FOOT OF A NORTHERN MICHIGAN SKI HILL, A RETRO A-FRAME CABIN SHELTERS COMFY FURNITURE, HOMESPUN DECORATIONS AND DREAMS OF MAKING A SEASONAL HIDEAWAY A PERMANENT HOME.
Suited up in violet snow gear, 4-year-old Margo Hall tucks into her dad’s lap on the family sled. Their ride, a Polaris Dragon Switchback snowmobile, has considerably more horsepower than Santa’s reindeer. Today it’s parked outside the cabin while Margo and Mike snap a holiday photo. Mike’s wife, Courtney, and his son, Harrison, 14, are the other half of this adventure-driven foursome who can’t wait to spend winter break at this escape three hours north of Grand Rapids, Michigan. First stop: The slopes. Or the ice. Or the snowshoe trails. When 30 inches of fresh powder sparkle, anything’s possible. “We are at the base of Nub’s Nob ski hill, so we can ski in and out of our back door,” Courtney says.
Mike and Courtney met just seven years ago, but they both grew up near here in Petoskey, a small town on Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay. “We didn’t know each other then—we have a 15-year age difference—but we had a ton of mutual friends,” Courtney says. Experiences overlap, too. On winter nights, the Halls eat at the same Boyne Highlands Resort they each visited as kids. They take Margo and Harrison to skate at the same winter sports park.
One adventure is wholly new, though. Four years ago, the Halls purchased a 1962 cedarplanked A-frame chalet as a vacation home. Its 1,500 square feet include a soaring central living space with kitchen and loft, plus bedrooms on either side. The Halls passed on major improvements, but they did paint the fireplace surround white and the exterior a handsome dark forest green that recedes into the trees. Their decor is a comfortable mix of contemporary prints and furniture, snuggly textiles, and lots of sentimental treasures (especially at Christmastime).
Each year after Thanksgiving, the Halls start making weekend cabin trips to get ready for the holiday season. Courtney’s family always cut its Christmas tree at Bill’s Farm Market. Now, she, Mike and their kids visit that same 100-year-old farm to get what she calls their Clark Griswold-style tree. Come Christmas morning, it’s hard to tell what excites the kids more—opening gifts or heading to the ski hill when it opens at 9 a.m. But no question, the hardest part is heading back south in January.
This year, they won’t have to. Mike and Courtney recently sold their Grand Rapids house. They’re making their funky A-frame chalet home, not just for the holidays, but for every day. They plan to renovate and expand a little, but the things they love most won’t change: “The kids will be in nature and surrounded by our family and closest friends,” Courtney says. “We can’t imagine raising them anyplace else now.”
ABOVE Cut circles from inexpensive vintage postcards for ornaments. Search by theme (such as winter sports or holiday cooking) on Etsy or Ebay. LEFT When not filled with gifts, the living room’s swinging porch chair is a favorite reading nook for the kids. BELOW This print of Boyne Highlands Resort comes from Roo Kee Roo, a pair of brothers whose art often reflects life on Michigan’s lakes. OPPOSITE “I love styling the fireplace throughout the year,” Courtney says. “White paint just gives it a neutral palette.”
OPPOSITE The Halls (and their Boykin spaniel, Jackie) love being outside in winter—but a hot toddy is never far away. RIGHT Accessible via a spiral staircase, the playroom loft features a vintage lounger the Halls nabbed at the Allegan Antiques Market. A sheepskin rug cozies up the rattan piece for winter. BELOW Even though it doesn’t quite jibe with the Halls’ modern style, a white ceramic tree passed down from Courtney’s great-grandmother comes out faithfully each year.