Michael’s Laid Back Cottage

updated Dec 19, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Name: Michael Jon Watt
Location: Traverse City, Michigan
Size: 818 square feet, with a full basement
Years lived in: 2

We first got a glimpse of Michael’s wonderful cottage in Traverse City (home of the Cherry Festival!) during Small Cool 2010. As illustrated by the hefty number of “thumbs up” on his entry, his style is clearly in line with the aesthetics of the Apartment Therapy readers. With that in mind, we’re thrilled to bring you a full tour of his home.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Aside from clearly having a talent for interior design, Michael also does great work in 2D. He is a graphic designer with this his own studio, Imagodeo and is the mastermind behind a fun sideline business making custom Transit Scrolls (which we featured in our post about the hot trend earlier this year).

His home is personal and beautiful, taking advantage of the abundant light by using warm, creamy paints and the homey vibe by including cozy textures. Its a clean, crisp look, but one that is the absolute opposite of “cold”. Michael’s photos of his home are a bit like a love letter; with each of the details featured – from the gleaming floors to the carefully updated kitchen – this is a home that is so well tended that you can tell is truly loved.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: My style has a laid back cottage vibe. A bit of California beach infused with a touch of Granny Chic. I am particularly drawn to vintage items with a nice worn look. I eat off vintage Fiestaware. I use cloth napkins. I prefer everything to be tidy and in order. My goal in life is to never appear on the TV show “Hoarders”. There is something very soothing about a rather neutral color palette, the way hardwood floors feel on my bare feet, and the smell of lilacs right outside my window.

Inspiration: I’m inspired by my mother’s cottage in the Napa Valley. The memories of my grandmother’s dairy farm in Wisconsin. The proximity of my house to Lake Michigan. The way bluish shadows are cast on snow in the depth of winter.

Favorite Element: The original hardwood floors and plaster walls, including a plaster crown molding in the living room. Oh, and I also love the magazine and toilet paper holder built into the bathroom wall!

Biggest Challenge: My biggest challenge has been adjusting to small town life again after being in Los Angeles for almost 20 years. I’m content, but I miss Trader Joe’s!

What Friends Say: My friend Sara calls my home, “Serenity Now”. My mom says it’s the cleanest house she’s ever seen. My friend Gina says she feels like she’s on the set of an HGTV show (is that good or bad?). Basically, people seem to love the style and feel right at home.

Biggest Embarrassment: Honestly? The jumble of wires under the desk in my office, and my old, yellowed fiberglass garage door (picture not included).

Proudest DIY: I would have to say giving my kitchen a makeover with a very modest budget. I did a ton of research on the web and discovered that you could paint laminate cabinets (I had hideous cabinet doors from the 80’s with faux oak trim). I painted the cabinets, added hardware, took down a hideous fluorescent light and replaced it with a fixture from Schoolhouse Electric (in Portland). I also added simple architectural detail on one wall using five pieces of board, some caulk and paint. Voila! Custom wainscot. You’ll have to see the before and after photos!

Biggest Indulgence: You mean after actually buying the house? The biggest indulgence was purchasing 2 Tolix Metal Chairs (in gun metal) for my kitchen. I bought mine from Sundance Catalog. I lusted after those chairs for a long time.

Best Advice: Go with your gut. If you are drawn to something, it will probably fit into your home and “style”. Editing is one thing, self-doubt is another. Don’t be afraid to paint wood (it’s not sacrilege). Don’t buy a matching “bedroom suite” …EVER. Get a steam mop if you have wood floors (it changed my life) and definitely paint test swatches before you commit to a wall color.

Dream Sources: Nate Berkus. Oh wait. You said source, not date. Okay…Nate Berkus.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Resources of Note:


    • Living Room and Bedroom – Old Prairie, Benjamin Moore
    • Kitchen – Distant Valley, Valspar
    • Kitchen Cabinets – Betsy’s Linen, Valspar (I used Zinser Bullseye Primer on the cabinets. No sanding or prep needed! Paints directly onto laminate or wood.)
    • Office – Coastlight, Glidden
    • Bath – Wicker Mat, Ralph Lauren
    • Hall – Hutchinson, Ralph Lauren


    • Kitchen Table – Custom
    • Tolix Chairs – Sundance Catalog
    • Ceiling Fixture – Schoolhouse Electric,
    • Vintage Phone and School Slate – e-Bay


    • Sofa – Pottery Barn Greenwich Sofa custom slipcovered in cotton duck by Todo Es
    • Chair & Ottoman – Norwalk Furniture custom slipcovered in Luxury Linen by Todo Es.
    • Wicker Chair – Ikea (painted black)
    • TV Stand – Target on-line (I distressed the top and re-stained it)
    • Grainsack Pillows, Blue Wooden Stool and Antique Table – Rose Bowl Flea Market (Pasadena CA)
    • Large Vintage Poster – From a now defunct store in the Napa Valley
    • Seagrass Rug – Natural Area Rugs,
    • Mercury Glass Table Lamp – Pottery Barn
    • Low Bookshelf on Wheels – LACK Shelving, Ikea. Turned on it’s side and customized with DIY wheels from the hardware store.
    • Red Eiffel Tower Print, Leaf Prints – All


    • Savannah Bed, Pottery Barn Bed & Bath
    • Seagrass Rug – Natural Area Rugs,
    • Dresser and Chair – antique
    • Lamp – Target


    • Vintage Metal Desk – $50 Craigslist. I had it sandblasted and powder coated for a steal!
    •Bus Scroll Art – My Etsy shop, Transit Design,
    • Shelving – BILLY Shelving Units, Ikea
    • Map Bulletin Board – An Ikea magnetic board that I decoupaged using vintage maps from e-Bay.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Thanks, Michael!

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