This Incredibly Cute and Colorful Cottage Used to be a 1950s Free-Standing Motel Room

This Incredibly Cute and Colorful Cottage Used to be a 1950s Free-Standing Motel Room

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Name: Chris Murphy
Location: Saugatuck, Michigan
Size: 950 square feet
Years Lived In: 3 years, owned

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I own a vintage (and new) home furnishings store in Chicago, District Chicago. Whenever I needed a break I found myself going up to Michigan to camp to de-stress and be in nature. A couple years into this routine, I started looking for a house that would help with my escape. I wanted a place that was quiet, but not too quiet (I am from a big city after all) and still had lots of trees and nature.

The original portion of the house was built in 1950 as one of a few freestanding motel rooms along the highway. It sat at 350 square feet and had a bedroom, kitchen, and a very tiny bathroom. About 20 years ago the addition was added to the house creating two more bedrooms, a living/dining room, and a half bath. All of this still totaled up the square footage to just under 1000 square feet for the entire house. This past year, we finished up all the current renovations and now it is my dream escape place as well as an Airbnb rental with three bedrooms, one and a half baths, and a beautiful updated kitchen.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Mid-Century Rustic Modern.

Inspiration: Saugatuck is a quaint little beach town in the Michigan shore. It is filled with cottages, boats, and tons of great shopping and restaurants. It is referred to as the “Art Coast.” I own a vintage furniture store in Chicago and it focuses on a mid-century aesthetic. I wanted to bring that into the cottage but also keep a rustic beach town feel with reclaimed wood, taxidermy, etc. The house is pretty small, so I decided to paint everything bright white and have all of the color come from the furniture, art, and appliances.

Favorite Element: Vintage Preway fireplace. I brought this up from Chicago and really wanted it to be the centerpiece to the living/dining room. Every cottage should have a wood-burning fireplace!

Biggest Challenge: The kitchen. It was basically a tight walk-through from one end of the house to the other and felt very dark and cramped. When I remodeled it I decided to add a window looking out to the forest, which added more natural light. Also, I got rid of the upper cabinets, which gave the room a lighter, more open feel.

Proudest DIY: The fire pit. I wanted to create a space that people could unwind at the end of the day with friends or family. A place to tell stories, make s’mores, and drink wine. The fire pit is 18-feet diameter and houses white marble stone and local, Amish-made Adirondack chairs that I painted with pops of turquoise.

Biggest Indulgence: My bright yellow Smeg fridge. These refrigerators are fantastic, but let’s be real, they are small. This being a vacation house means you really only need food for a few days at a time, making this the perfect reason to own a Smeg fridge!

Best Advice: When dealing with a small space, make every piece count. Use items that are multi purpose to not overcrowd your space. Bright pops of color brighten every room and make people smile.


Benjamin Moore — Decorator’s White

All Vintage Furniture — District
Reclaimed Wood Coffee table — United Strangers
Giulia Shag Rug — Chandra Rugs

Refrigerator — Smeg
Cabinets and Farmhouse Sink — IKEA

All Vintage Furniture — District
Art — Chicago Artist Tim Jarosz
Art — Chicago Artist Brett Whitacre

Art — Chicago Artist Brett Whitacre

Thanks, Chris!

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