A tiny house full of lots of heart

Ellen Blau calls her 850-square-foot home on Cooley Lake a “living heaven.”

“It’s just peaceful,” she said. “Whenever I’m out, I miss the feeling of being here.”

She always dreamed of living near the water. Growing up on Long Island, her father always had boats. As an adult, she spent her summers, and some winters, at a second home in Harbor Springs.

“It was beyond peaceful, even in the wintertime,” she said. “As soon as I got on the road to go there I just calmed down.”

Blau relocated to her petite charmer in White Lake a year ago. She previously lived in a 1,400-sqaure-foot loft in Royal Oak after falling in love with loft life while living in Ann Arbor, but her dream was to live on the water.

“I bought a loft in Royal Oak, decorated it. It was fabulous,” she said. “That was going to be my last stop, but in the back of my mind I’m thinking, ‘I’m getting older and what do I want to do for the last 10, 15, 20 years of my life? Where do I want to be?’ The idea came into my head that my real dream is to live on the water.”

Blau’s initial plan was to build a tiny house consisting of just 650-square- feet, but she eventually partnered with a realtor to find her dream tiny house. Nestled on Cooley Lake, she found an 850-square-foot, 1925 cottage. Although the house had been “superficially updated” in the past, it needed to be extensively renovated to fit with Blau’s vision. Still, she saw potential.

“I knew it was going to be a money pit,” she said. “I knew and I didn’t care.”

The lot had previously been combined with the one nextdoor, but it had been split into two, making for a 30-by-120 foot space. Blau says she originally had intentions of leveling the house and building new, but because of the size

of the lot construction would have had restrictions. Instead, she decided to work with the existing space.

Blau found plans for a house and partnered with Dan Stanton of Farmington Hills-based DLM Renovations for the five-month renovation project, which included taking down the chimney, repairing the foundation and installing an 18-foot doorwall.

Inside, revamped elements include a redesigned bathroom and kitchen, including tile backsplash that extends onto the fireplace wall. Reclaimed barn wood accents the fireplace and makes up shiplap on the high ceiling in the living room. The flooring, which Blau says she wanted to look like “from an old farm house”, was one of the most important pieces. The pine flooring is new, but meant to look old. It was distressed before being sanded, painted and sealed.

Above the kitchen work area a Koi fish pond mural adorns the top trapezoid-shaped wall, as well as appears as a bookcase backing inside the glass-front kitchen cabinets.

“That’s probably my favorite part of this house, that wall,” Blau said.

In the living room and dining area, Stanton replaced several mismatched windows with a series of clerestory windows. Each window sill is adorned with some of Blau’s favorite pieces from her vast antique purse collection. She began collecting in 1988 and even belonged to an antique purse collectors society. Today she no longer collects and has sold off most of her collection, though she proudly displays what remains.

The kitchen cabinets are accented with a touch of color in the orange glass pulls, which Blau had specially made.

The orange accents are pulled together in the guest bathroom, where a round talavera ceramic sink sits front and center. The shower curtain and waste basket also match, something Blau says she doesn’t normally do.

Outside, a composite wood deck makes up the majority of the lakefront. Railroad ties frame the pavers down to the lake, and a wall of trees offer privacy. Blau had all of the grass removed to make it as maintenance free as possible.

“My friend said, ‘You’re going to need a shed, where are you going to put your lawnmower?’ I looked at her and said ‘Lawnmower?!’ I am trying to make this house no maintenance.”

Along the side of the house Stanton created a temperature-controlled outdoor shower using a stainless steel lamp from the old cottage, and an old outdoor water pump makes for a makeshift foot bath. Her dog, Sky, a one-year-old Labradoodle, “loves to go swimming.”

Once the renovations were complete, the only original fixture left in the cottage were the interior doors.

“Dan told me at the end that he thought I was crazy when I told him everything I wanted to do,” Blau said. “In the end I wasn’t so crazy.”

The finished product is comfy and warm. It is all tied together with intriguing art and unique collections from around the country.

“I got my tiny house, “ she said. “In the end, I ended up with exactly what I wanted.”

One response to “A tiny house full of lots of heart”

  1. Justin Green says:

    This is my mom’s house – you did a great job capturing it’s essence. Kudos!

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