Welcome to Our Tree House!

We couldn’t be more excited to share with you our newest addition, which we lovingly call our Tree House! If you follow us on Instagram, many of you know (and saw the tiniest of sneak peeks!) that we recently became the giddy, proud owners of an adorable home in Lakeside, Michigan.

It’s been 11 years since we’ve moved to Chicago (can you believe this was almost one year ago?), and during that time, we’ve spent a handful of weeks with friends and family along Michigan’s inland lakes or the shores of the pretty Lake itself. It’s incredible how just an hour or two in the car can make you feel a million miles away from the city bustle, and we’ve always said to one another, wouldn’t it be amazing to own our own tiny slice, too? After our getaway to Sawyer this past spring, the urge only intensified, and before we could stop ourselves, we began working with a Harbor Country realtor, recommended to us by a kind reader (hi, Jen!). Along the way, we put in an offer on a home we ached for, lost it to a cash bid and did our best to convince ourselves that it wasn’t meant to be.

Several weeks later, our realtor encouraged us to check out what would – spoiler! – eventually be our lake house. Truthfully, we almost didn’t give it a chance. We had seen it pop up in recent listings, but more than once, we skipped over it simply because of the shabby vinyl siding and overgrown lawn. There was a big red flag  (no central HVAC system) and smaller ones as well (only one bathroom). But! It was a half mile walk to Lake Michigan, a handful of miles from the dunes and a quick bike ride to shops and eats. Despite the less than stellar exterior, the inside was bursting with cuteness. Everywhere you looked, it was cute ceilings, cute doors, cute floors! The heavily wooded lot lended more privacy than most homes we had seen, and it’s also where her nickname came from: Tree House.

Initially, we told our realtor that we would drive up to see it in person, if only to officially eliminate it from the running. But as the story goes, once we were inside, we didn’t want to leave. What we thought would be a quick pop in turned into an hour long walkthrough, in which we asked countless questions, FaceTimed our parents and snapped photos on our phones. Since losing out on the house we thought was The One, this girl was the First One we’d seen that made our hearts beat wildly, our palms sweaty and our speech come out a little too quickly. The entire drive home, we talked over each other, already making plans for the bathroom and kitchen. That same day, we put in our offer, and several days later (and after quite a bit of negotiating), we were under contract!

Our Tree House is an hour and a half drive from Chicago, and it’s located on a quiet street with friendly neighbors. It’s estimated to have been built in the 1920s or 30s with a footprint much smaller than we thought we wanted; coming in at just over 800 square feet, it has two bedrooms, one bath and the sweetest sleeping loft. We’re convinced that it was on the market for as long as it was for the same reasons that we almost passed it by – no furnace, overall size and (very, very) sad exterior. That said, it was well under our target budget, and the location couldn’t be beat! It was also the only house we had looked at where much of the interior charm remained. The majority of the original doors and windows are still in place, including glass knob and old brass hardware, lived-in flooring and a tall, exposed loft ceiling in the main living space. There’s quite a bit of fixing up in its future (which might be an understatement), but we can’t stop literally(!) dreaming about the possibilities.

Alright, enough already, let’s go inside!

There’s no front door, which threw us off at first. At some point, an addition was added to the front of the house, eliminating what we think would have been the entrance. Now we enter from the side, and we walk into a decently sized mudroom. I’m weirdly excited about this area – I love a good mudroom! – but it has quite a ways to go to get to its starting point. There’s a (broken down?) washer and dryer stuffed along the short wall, and the smaller of the two closets you see below houses an electric water heater.

The mudroom leads into the kitchen, which was probably overhauled and updated about 20-30 years ago. The floors were replaced with sticky vinyl, although we’re crossing all our fingers that something more appetizing lurks beneath! A bit of minor investigating felt promising, but it’s tough for us to say without ripping up large sections. Soon.

Although the kitchen is pint sized, the layout is already set up nicely. A small oddly-shaped peninsula separates this space from the main living area, and just like the mudroom, we know this kitchen has the potential to be stunning!

The main living space though? It’s already stunning! If you look closely, there were strange decisions made along the way, but as a starting point, it’s so, so pretty. The ceilings sold us almost immediately, and the handsome ladder was made using repurposed barn wood. Wall warts abound, a faux brick surround hogs the corner and that ladder may be awkwardly placed, but it all feels manageable. (Please, oh please, let those floors continue under the faux brick!) The space is long and narrow (not unlike our Chicago home!), with a set of French doors that lead into the grassy backyard.

Both bedrooms and bathroom are located right off of the main space:

The larger of the two bedrooms is an obvious addition, and it’s actually the room that juts out from the front of the house. It’s the brightest room by a landslide, with a large closet and painted plywood floors. The floors are a good inch or two lower than the rest of the home, so we’d like to raise them up eventually, most likely with an additional layer of painted floor. I’ve seen some nice looking painted plywood floors floating around the web (this one immediately comes to mind), and we think it’s a challenge we’d like to take on!

There are two sets of French doors off of this room – one leading back into the living room and the other leading out onto the deck. A knotty pine accent wall is only visible from the bed, and there’s a charming octagon-shaped window in a small nook. Here’s a funny side story: The first time we stayed overnight, we closed the doors leading into the living room, and we brought Jack and CC into the room with us as well. The next morning, both doors were still closed, but we awoke to find one miss Chunk roaming around on the other side of the doors. What. We couldn’t figure out how she magically passed through a closed door, until we realized that a single glass pane was missing from one of the doors! How a 65 lb sausage loaf fit through that teeny opening is still baffling, but at least we solved the mystery – ha!

The second bedroom is less than half the size of the master, but you might notice that both rooms have beadboard ceilings!

The bathroom had to have been updated at some point in the last few decades, but the choices left behind are already in need of an overhaul. (Think: dark beige tile and 90s-style fixtures.) Closet space from the second bedroom takes up a significant amount of square footage from the bath, and we already have plans to remove that closet to allow the bathroom to breathe. During our inspection, we learned of a minor leaky plumbing issue beneath the tub, giving us a feeling that this is going to be a down-to-the-studs room overhaul.

I saved the best for last, and it’s 100% what sealed the deal for us – the sleeping loft!

At the top of the ladder and directly above the main living space is this tucked away gem! We negotiated those vintage beds into our contract, for which I will forever have a tiny tear in my eye.

The ceilings are primed beadboard that weren’t properly installed, and although it looks decent in photos, there’s a good deal of exposed seams and dried, yellowed wood glue. The beams, while cute, are faux and rough, and of course there’s a fair amount of dangling electric, too; there’s actually quite a bit of work up here to polish this room up, but my goodness, how cute is it going to be?

That’s the entire tour in photos, but I’m working on a vlog which will follow soon! We feel incredibly lucky that we were able to make this longtime dream come true, and during the slog of the garden apartment renovation, we pushed through knowing that it would bring us one step closer to making this lake house a reality. We imagine this home to be a place where we pack in family and friends for joyous, energizing weekends, and yet we hope to spend just as many cold and rainy days tucked under blankets on our future big, cozy couch. Thinking of Jack and Chunk rolling around in the grass and lazing in the sun spots makes our hearts swell, and we can’t even put into words how we’ll feel when our baby girl pads around on the hardwood floors. (But first, she’ll learn a thing or two about laying tile and choosing the perfect shade of white paint!)

We’re looking forward to sharing every step of the process with you!

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  • Stacy G.9.19.17 - 6:17 AM

    Oh yes! What a cute house. I can see why you chose it. It is a treasure wrapped in vinyl siding. :)ReplyCancel

  • Jen9.19.17 - 7:02 AM

    Yay! So excited to have you as neighbors :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim9.19.17 - 7:32 AM
    • Jimmy9.22.21 - 4:17 PM

      No idea how these blog comments work 4 years later, but would love to know what realtor you’ve suggested as I am now looking for a home in this exact area. Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Julia | Chris Loves Julia9.19.17 - 8:27 AM

    It’s perfect. You found her! Even though we’re still on a frustrating hunt ourselves, this makes me so excited for the possibilities. And for you!ReplyCancel

  • katie9.19.17 - 8:49 AM

    Sooo cute! It looks larger in the photos, maybe it’s the loft? Big enough for a cozy weekends with friends or family, but small enough that it’s manageable – sounds perfect to me!

    We’ve been half looking ourselves, also in the Michigan area. We are in Columbus though so more of a drive for us. I’m jealous that it’s under 2 hours for you – I think we’re looking at 5-6! My husband’s family had a lake house when he was growing up, so we would like to have something similar for our own kids. Many things would need to work out for us, but still, fun to dream.

    Can’t wait to see what you do with it :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim9.19.17 - 9:05 AM

      How exciting, Katie! Always fun to dream.

      The loft isn’t included in the square footage, and that extra sleeping space and all around adorableness definitely helped in a huge way!ReplyCancel

  • Jordy Sirkin9.19.17 - 9:13 AM

    This is adorable! I cannot wait to see what you two do with it.ReplyCancel

  • Ashley - The Gold HIve9.19.17 - 9:14 AM

    This is so thrilling. I have dreams of owning a cabin in the woods, but until then, I’ll live vicariously through you. There’s so much potential here and I can’t wait to see what you do with it. Is there a nearby lake you can hit golf balls into from your front yard – a la your La Jolla retirement goals?ReplyCancel

    • Kim9.19.17 - 9:17 AM

      HAHA! the beaches of Lake Michigan are 1/2 mile away. Do you think we could make it that far?! (La Jolla, you’re next! In… 30 years.)ReplyCancel

      • Ashley9.20.17 - 11:03 PM

        I haven’t seen your swing and I don’t know much about golf, but I wouldn’t put it past you!ReplyCancel

        • Kim9.21.17 - 10:16 AM

          We’re terrible, but that wouldn’t stop us from trying!ReplyCancel

  • Kathleen9.19.17 - 9:16 AM

    That area of Michigan is my favorite place in the world (my parents have a place in New Buffalo that I go to any chance I get). There is so much to do but also just a great place for relaxing and enjoying nature. I love it during all times of the year and I’m sure you will too! Looking forward to watching your renovation!ReplyCancel

    • Kim9.19.17 - 9:58 AM

      We love hearing this! After sharing a mini tour on our InstaStories, we received so much feedback from others that have a special place in their heart for this part of Michigan. We are over the moon.ReplyCancel

  • Cait9.19.17 - 9:27 AM

    This is so exciting! I can definitely see why you chose it! Looking forward to following along with the transformation :)ReplyCancel

  • Sarah9.19.17 - 9:48 AM

    Wow! So much potential. It’s going to be amazing. :D I’m looking forward to watching this project progress!

    Just curious if you’ll get the kitchen floor tested for asbestos?ReplyCancel

    • Kim9.19.17 - 9:53 AM

      Good question! We think that the 80s/90s vinyl is laid on top of the original flooring, which might be hardwood, in which case, we should be safe. However, it’s a great point to bring up that we could get a professional opinion on.ReplyCancel

  • gigi9.19.17 - 9:49 AM

    How exciting and fortunate. A great spot for a family.ReplyCancel

  • Rachel9.19.17 - 9:50 AM

    OMG I’m in love. The inside vs. outside of this place is truly magical! I grew up going to a cabin my grandpa built in western Wisconsin that had a sleeping loft, so this brings back SO many wonderful memories. How exciting for you guys!!!ReplyCancel

    • Kim9.19.17 - 9:55 AM

      Right?! The outside is so unassuming, and then walking in, we were like, whoooaa. And I love that memory, how special!ReplyCancel

  • Daria9.19.17 - 10:36 AM

    This is SO exciting!! Congrats!ReplyCancel

  • Eric9.19.17 - 11:34 AM

    Congratulations! Mazel tov! It always amazes me when people find a new house. What they think they like never turns out to be the one, and it’s always for the best. I can’t wait to see what you do with the place and what you decide to tackle first!ReplyCancel

    • Kim9.19.17 - 12:43 PM

      Thanks! And right?? On our wish list was at least 3 beds and 2 baths with a bonus space, and what we got was 2 beds and 1 bath – but we DID get that bonus space! Plus, it’s even closer to the beaches along the lake than a lot of the homes we were looking at. We are still pinching ourselves.ReplyCancel

  • Jodi9.19.17 - 11:34 AM

    SO CUTE! And those beds??!! Adorable. I love the Sawyer area. I spent a lot of my teen years at Warren Dunes. :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim9.19.17 - 12:44 PM

      Those dunes are the dreamiest! We’re only a few miles down the road. :DReplyCancel

      • Jodi10.5.17 - 9:50 AM

        Be sure to find the clay mud creek at the southern end of the beach next time you are there in summer. ;)ReplyCancel

  • Paige Flamm9.19.17 - 2:05 PM

    So excited for you guys! This house is so cute and I can’t wait to see how you make it your own!


  • Andrew Angell9.19.17 - 2:21 PM

    Love that you have a Lakeside cottage. We too have a Lakeside cottage. Our was built in 1883 and is located in Lakeside, OH. Welcome to the cottage owning family!ReplyCancel

  • Lisa Hayward9.19.17 - 2:43 PM

    I’m so excited for you all!! and I can’t wait to see what you guys do with this place!ReplyCancel

  • Pat9.19.17 - 6:03 PM

    So many wonderful things happening for you! So much to look forward to – exciting! Do you follow JennaSue’s blog? House #4 has SO many wonderful ideas, perfect for your new little treasure.ReplyCancel

  • Michele9.19.17 - 9:53 PM

    Oh my gosh! It’s so much cuter on this inside! So much potential! Can’t wait to follow the progress!ReplyCancel

  • Nicolette9.19.17 - 10:00 PM

    OMG!! All the heart eyes. I can’t handle how cute this place is! So many things. I can’t wait to see what you do with it!ReplyCancel

  • lsaspacey9.20.17 - 7:40 AM

    So many fabulous details in there to love: the living room floors, the bathroom medicine cabinet (please say you’re keeping that!) the beds in the loft (refinishing the wood?) and those built-in end table/cubbies for those beds! Congrats on a great investment!ReplyCancel

    • Kim9.20.17 - 9:17 AM

      I had to double check the photo of the bathroom medicine cabinet… and I promise you, it’s not as nice as it looks! (It’s also not a true vintage piece by any stretch!) We’ll be reconfiguring that whole room as well, but anything that doesn’t make the cut and can be salvaged, will (or be donated).ReplyCancel

  • Tracy9.20.17 - 3:36 PM

    I can’t begin to explain my excitement!! We just bought a lake house (we live in PA). It has the same ceilings as yours and I’m dying to copy you! The walls of our house are currently painted dark colors and I’m a bit overwhelmed with what to do. So know that we will going through this together!ReplyCancel

  • AmandaKB9.20.17 - 5:01 PM

    Oh my goodness… that place is adorable! I love it, and I can’t wait to see you guys work your magic!!!ReplyCancel

  • Sherri9.21.17 - 1:40 PM

    I cannot wait to watch you transform it! We bought our own lake house last summer, just across the border in Indiana! It was built in the 50s and was definitely someone’s hobby house. We spent a lot of time and money initially just fixing up important stuff like foundation, etc but have also since ripped the 10×12 bathroom down to the studs and created a smaller 6×10 bathroom and created a laundry space. We too have no A/C or furnace, and you might be surprised how much the shade of the trees and cross breezes can keep the house cool on even the warmest days. Congrats!!!ReplyCancel

  • Jannike9.26.17 - 11:18 PM

    Adorable lake house. I think 1bath 2 bedrooms is the perfect size for a country house. Our Shacklet (shack that wants to be a chalet) is the same size plus a small camper in the driveway for visiting kids. We’ve never had a problem with only 1 bath. We have all electric heaters and no AC. But this is standard in Quebec and our place is north of Montreal so it rarely gets crazy hot. Looking forward to seeing how you make things pretty. Would love a tour of the garden/exterior as well.ReplyCancel

  • Haley10.9.17 - 8:37 AM

    I LOVE this!!! I love how it has some rustic charm, but will also look amazing with some upgrades. I can’t wait to see what you guys do with this.ReplyCancel

  • […] for blogger with cute dogs.) Living in Chicago (originally from Cincinnati), they just purchased a “Tree House” in Michigan. Similar to Chris Loves Julia, they are full-timers, but they’re also preparing their house […]ReplyCancel

  • Janelle8.25.18 - 4:22 AM

    I. Love. This. House. Love it. It’s perfect. And only 800 sq ft makes it all the more charming. Do you plan on adding hvac? I know that sounds like a silly question but I adore the wood burning stove and off grid possiblities…but that’s just me. Lol
    Can’t wait to see the final product of your hard work!ReplyCancel

  • […] So after a few days with Janis and Tom, I threw my bindle over my shoulder and headed over to Tree House. They actually hung out with Janis a while ago when they started looking for houses in the area, […]ReplyCancel

  • laura10.22.21 - 12:25 PM

    I love your house, specially the loft! What is the height of the house ceiling?ReplyCancel

    • Kim10.22.21 - 12:29 PM

      Thanks! It’s maybe 7’ in the middle.ReplyCancel


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