This Magical Vacation Cottage Sparks Major Joy

Enchanting is an understatement. Designer Kate Marker’s quaint Michigan masterpiece is filled with an eclectic blend of old and new pieces. HGTV.com takes you on a tour.

Photo By: Margaret Rajic

Photo By: Margaret Rajic

Photo By: Margaret Rajic

Photo By: Margaret Rajic

Photo By: Margaret Rajic

Photo By: Margaret Rajic

Photo By: Margaret Rajic

Photo By: Margaret Rajic

Photo By: Margaret Rajic

Photo By: Margaret Rajic

Photo By: Margaret Rajic

Photo By: Margaret Rajic

Photo By: Margaret Rajic

Photo By: Margaret Rajic

Photo By: Margaret Rajic

The Story

Chicago-based designer Kate Marker doesn’t usually believe in fate, but all signs pointed to the fact that a 1,400-square-foot, one story cottage in Union Pier, Michigan, was destined to be hers. It wasn’t just the picturesque surrounding town or the fact that she could hear waves crashing on the nearby beach from the home’s entryway. “It smelled like the right place,” she says. “That cottage-y, cabin-y smell and vibe.” Kate and her husband purchased the 1920s house immediately and soon got to work gutting the entire space. In just two months — “My fastest project ever!” — Kate and her team took the home from a ho-hum space with zero updated amenities to a curated, eclectic cottage filled with vintage touches, natural materials and some pretty edgy pieces. Oh, and did we mention you can rent it out?

And They Called It: The Leo Cottage

Scroll through this gallery and you’ll understand. The name fits the cottage in a perfectly indescribable way. Maybe it’s because Kate christened it after her father, Leo, and her grandfather, also Leo. Or maybe it's because the space is creative, relaxed and happy, astrological traits associated with the Leo zodiac sign, which Kate loves. She even incorporated the star sign into the cottage’s logo. Fate’s final play: Two stone, lion-like gargoyles (original to the cottage) greet guests from atop the surrounding white picket fence. When Kate saw them, she knew she was home.

The Living Room

The cottage feels edgier than Kate’s usual clean style, but hints of her signature curated hominess are ubiquitous. She designed the space not just for her own family — they use it as a vacation getaway — but for renters, so the furnishings are functional as well as beautiful. In the living room, antique beams on the sloped ceiling hover over a Lee Industries couch. Vintage chairs from France and a sliced teak coffee table add natural texture.

The Kitchen

Old and new meld together in Kate’s layered cooking space. Believe it or not, the kitchen flooring is original to cottage. Yep, it dates back to the 1920s. Kate had it restored and then extended the pattern throughout the rest of the room. And check out the salmon-colored Big Chill fridge — it’s one of Kate’s favorite pieces. Oh, and that rustic island is totally vintage. Kate designed the cabinetry to match the island then topped the look off with antique wooden stools.

Kitchen Vignette

Kate focused fully on creating a charming space for renters, so incorporating the mood of Union Pier into her design was important. “The town is the cutest, most picturesque place full of bakeries and coffee joints,” she says. The cottage’s color scheme — salmon pink with shades of faded greens and taupes — certainly echoes the quaint community, as does its mix of vintage patterns, natural materials and antique-ish textures. Here, Kate Marker Home accessories pop against clean white walls and a Big Chill stove.

A Statement Cabinet

Kate bought this Chaddock Home cabinet on the spot at High Point Market and a surprise was waiting inside: House of Harris wallpaper — an exotic touch that adds character to the otherwise neutral piece. Most importantly, the wallpaper design features majestic felines, which pay homage to the cottage’s subtle lion theme.

The Game Room

This “room of memories,” as Kate calls it, was originally a porch, but she opened the space up and reinsulated it to create a nook for playing games. The vintage Kate Marker Home chairs are so cozy that it’s easy for Kate and her family to disconnect from technology and spend quality time together in this space. Bonus: The patterned Lee Industries sofa folds out, creating ample sleeping room for renters and guests.

A Vintage Flag

A faded flag adds a classic American feel to the game room. It’s vintage, of course, so those weathered, frayed edges are legit. Kate and her husband found it on Martha’s Vineyard, brought it home, framed it and hung it on the wall using a pulley system.

The Dining Room

The cottage's best parts are the unexpected nooks tucked away like little surprises. As well, “Every room is full of unique accessories,” Kate says. “Each cup, every trinket is special: there’s Kate Marker Home pieces, vintage finds from Michigan and elements from the surrounding town.” Her navy and blue dining room, complete with sliding barn doors and a rope pendant from Amazon, is a nod to the cottage’s nautical side.

The Master Bedroom

An unexpected standing tub is the masterpiece of this room — which was originally a living area with an attached powered room. Kate opened it all up by nixing the powder room and floating a standing tub, which she had splatter-painted mint green. “The tub is special for a couple who might be staying in the cottage, but also for an everyday mom with kids,” Kate says. Now, the stunning space is her favorite room in the house — for obvious reasons.

The Charming Guest Bedroom

Certain architectural details caught Kate by surprise during the reno, like the old chimney her team uncovered when opening up a wall in one of the guest bedrooms. Kate rolled with it though, using reclaimed wood to create rustic shelving, which she styled with Kate Marker Home trinkets. The other stunner in the room: Brooke and Lou Lyla wallpaper. Kate took the name of the wallpaper as yet another meant-to-be moment. Lyla is the perfect blend of her daughters' names, Myla and Lilly.

The All-White Guest Bedroom

Perhaps the calmest space in the cottage is the neutral guest bedroom. Rustic ceiling beams and the original woodburning stove — one of the pieces Kate and her husband fell in love with when they purchased the home come together to create a dreamy haven for reading, relaxing and just chilling out.

The Bunk Room

The home may not be large, but it can sleep up to 10 guests comfortably with ample storage space for suitcases etc. In fact, this gleaming bunk room fit two full beds. The cutest part? We vote that Wayfair star pendant. It’s shining down on a boho World Market pouf and a one-of-a-kind vintage Kate Marker Home rug. Magical.

The Bathroom

This sweet bathroom, grounded by star-patterned tile flooring, boasts a nautical navy and white palette similar to the dining room. A Watermark Fixtures sink, taupe scones from Amazon and a supercute woven basket bring a homey feel back into the space.

The Back Yard

The cottage’s garden is just as special as the home itself. It winds through the entire property, which also plays host to a renovated gazebo, an outdoor shower and a backyard game garage (the spot for ping-pong tournaments). Simply put, the cottage is “delightful,” Kate says, “and happy — every person who’s stayed here says so.”