Michelle Adams purchased the living room’s antique marble mantel from a local architectural salvage shop; the coffee table is a vintage Eero Saarinen piece by Knoll; the chrome side table is from Flair.


Step Into Michelle Adams’s Airy, Art-Filled Lake Michigan Oasis

The Lonny magazine founder transforms a ramshackle house into a backdrop for laid-back, modern living.

January 4, 2023

“Our neighbors called it Grey Gardens,” laughs Michelle Adams, describing her 1890s Dutch Colonial on Lake Michigan. While the comparison might be an endearing one for a design aficionado like Adams—she’s a brand consultant (Adams Creative Studio), blogger (The Maryn) and former editor (she cofounded Lonny magazine)—it seems that, to her neighbors, the nickname wasn’t meant to be quite so flattering, in light of the house’s less-than-stellar previous state.

When Adams and her husband, Steve, bought the four-bed- room house in 2020, it was in rough shape. “It had sat empty for a few years and needed a lot of work to restore it to its former glory, both structurally and from a design standpoint,” she recalls. “The age of the home definitely presented challenges, simply because you never know what you’ll find when you open up a wall in a house this old.”

  • “I collect art that makes me happy or evokes some sort of emotion,” says Michelle Adams, who filled her 1890s Lake Michigan home with a mix of personal treasures. “I really don’t think there are any rules to hanging art—I enjoy layering pieces behind lamps, plants and anything else that looks fun!” The front door is original to the house. The vintage bench, rug and art are from Bluedoor.

  • Adams had Öken House Studios custom-make the chunky console, inspired by a piece in photographer François Halard’s former Soho loft; above it is a print by Cy Twombly, a photograph taken by Adams in Hawaii in an antique frame, and a Tom Borghese painting. The chair is by Mark Grattan


Luckily, Adams found a “phenomenal” partner in local builder William Charles of William Charles Custom Homes. “We addressed everything from rotting wood siding to new windows, roof, plumbing and electric,” she says. In the 1990s, a previous owner had installed Federal-style moldings that weren’t historically accurate to the house; using a room that had (thankfully) remained untouched as their guide, Adams and Charles had new custom trim and baseboards cut to match. Yellow-tinged floors were stripped and stained white (a brightening trick that also helps hide the sand that the two dogs track into the house, Adams says).

“I’ve never been into overly formal dining rooms—they can feel pretentious—so the enormous fancy-pants chandelier that came with the house presented a bit of a design challenge,” says Adams. She ultimately decided to keep it, tempering the opulent effect with minimalist furniture (a Swedish trestle table from Judy Frankel Antiques, CB2 chairs) and modern art (from left, Painted Paper Shapes #3 by Seraphina Neville from Artfully Walls, a Cy Twombly print from Yvon Lambert Bookstore, and a Karen Lyons painting).

  • More art fills a corner of Adams’s living room. On the top left is a collage of Paul McCartney Polaroids by Jeremy Kost, a gift from Lonny co-founder Patrick Cline that nods to Adams’s namesake, the Beatles song “Michelle.” A Noguchi lantern hangs above an Ikea table with a custom tablecloth in a Tensira fabric; the Bertoia chair was a $20 score at the Chelsea Flea Market. The throw pillow is in Atwood fabric by Schumacher.

  • Adams, an avowed fan of all things striped, sits atop an antique settee from Elsie Green; the side table is Noguchi, and the chandelier is original to the house.

The original kitchen was nothing short of a disaster. “It could be described in one word: vile,” Adams recalls. “There was a dead possum in the fridge, more mice than I care to admit, and random acorns and walnut shells laying around.” Not to mention the obvious design flaws: low ceilings, sticky metal cabinets, peeling vinyl floors, a choppy U-shaped layout. Adams and Charles took the space back down to the studs, reinforcing the floor, raising the ceiling and, crucially, filling up holes to keep out any future visitors of the murine variety. Adams chose classic materials like Belgian bluestone flooring (heated, to account for Michigan’s famously cold winters), white-painted beadboard, and Carrara marble countertops. “Even though everything was brand new, I wanted it to feel like some aspects of the design might have been original to the house,” she explains.

Inspired by a favorite Sag Harbor, New York, kitchen designed by Mark Cunningham, Adams kept things feeling bright and airy by forgoing upper cabinets. (A separate walk-in pantry provides plenty of storage space, she notes.) The tole chandelier from Vaughan “looks vintage and is in line with the oversize antique lighting throughout the house.” A Sawkille Co. stool sits next to a vintage island from Lulu Cadieux. The sink and faucet are Kohler.


Adams envisioned a more modern way of living when it came to the decor: “I wanted our home to feel like an East Coast beach house—something you might find in Bellport, New York, or in the Hamptons; relaxed, unpretentious, inviting yet sophis- ticated.” The high-low mix of furnishings embodies the elevated approachability that Adams championed as an editor: iconic designer pieces by the likes of Eero Saarinen and Hans Wegner sit alongside artisan-made goods, flea-market finds, and even the occasional Ikea standby. Easygoing white indoor-outdoor fabric covers much of the upholstered furniture; stripes—Adams’s favorite motif—make frequent appearances.

While the house’s bright white walls are covered in Adams’s large collection of paintings, photographs and prints (she is also a consultant for the online art shop Artfully Walls), it’s the windows that command most of the attention thanks to the house’s “brilliant use of sight lines.” From one side of the living room, for example, one can see all the way through the first floor to the backyard; on the wall facing the front of the house, windows are perfectly centered on the garden. “Living here has taught me how impactful it can be to pay attention to those sorts of details,” notes Adams. “There’s basically magic everywhere you look.”

  • In the primary bedroom, a Serge Mouille–style light fixture hangs above the bed, outfitted in Cultiver linen sheets and a Haven throw; the rug is from Upstate Rugs; the framed print is by Emma Lawrenson from Arfully Walls.

  • A small dressing room was turned into the primary bath, with a Waterworks pedestal sink, sconces and floor tile.


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