Pontiac Lookout Cottage
- To overcome the challenges of a very constrained site.
- To respect the history of the site and the original octagonal structure.
- To take full advantage of the views of the Straits of Mackinac.
Pontiac Lookout Cottage, completed summer of 2007, sits on a constrained site at the edge of a high bluff on Mackinac Island, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, with a 270-degree view overlooking the Straits of Mackinac and the Mackinac Bridge. The cottage radiates from an octagonal space at its heart and integrates interior and exterior views creating the indoor/outdoor living for which Mackinac is famous.
Pontiac Lookout is a stone outcropping on the Pontiac Trail named after Chief Pontiac. The first house on the site, an octagonal structure, was built by the owner of Mackinac Island’s world renowned Grand Hotel, as a personal retreat from the hotel. The original house was added onto over the years, burned down, rebuilt and then added onto again; most recently in the 1990s, when a tower and a second floor were added. Only the sunroom, with windows on three sides, captured the breathtaking views, while the rest of the house turned its back, with literally no views from the second floor.
The new owners were a husband and wife, both doctors and university professors from Chicago. The wife had spent summers on Mackinac Island from childhood. When her future husband was courting her, he would walk around the island, passing by this site and dreaming of owning it. When in 2001, some fifty years later, he had the opportunity to buy it he didn’t think twice.
The site is extremely constrained between the bluff and the right-of-way setback of the road, narrowing down to as little as eleven feet of buildable depth. A portion of the existing house encroached into the setback; this area was able to be reused as long as the exterior walls remained. The constraints of the site were overcome by utilizing the existing encroachment and by jogging and cantilevering the separate masses of the screened porch, the kitchen and the dining room between the bluff and setback.
The client wished to retain the original home’s octagonal space in order to celebrate the site’s rich history that had been lost throughout numerous remodels. The high cathedral ceiling, however, impeded on the desired expansion above. Today, the heart of the house is an octagonal space sited on the footprint of the original octagonal house. This space, defined by tapered octagonal red oak columns supporting a perimeter beam, was opened up to enable better circulation and views. The floor of the master-suite, above, was raised in order to accommodate the high-beamed ceiling of the octagon room.
The site has some of the island’s most impressive views of the Straits of Mackinac. The new home takes full advantage of the 270 degree view, which includes the Mackinac Bridge, Round Island and the Grand Hotel. The spectacular views were essential criteria in the organization of the new plan. The main floor’s open plan was designed to take advantage of the views through the interior as well as to the outside.
The home fully integrates the client’s vision from the design of the home and its integration with the site, to the door knobs and custom designed furniture. It is full of special details and finishing touches that reflect the unique qualities of “Mackinac living”.