By Tom Renkes
Photos by G. Randall Goss
Among the philosophers in the early 17th century, René Descartes demanded to be doubted and challenged regarding existence, but he proved beyond that doubt, “I think, therefore I am.”
In the realm of modern living during this 21st century, Gretchen Schaller has become beholding to that element of simplicity: I live in this house; therefore, I will make it forever.
Wrapped in the warm blanket of her Charlevoix home, no matter sun or snow, Schaller has romanced her 1927 built dream into a family renaissance. “I bought this (home) 20 minutes after I saw it!” she exclaims. “To be in town where the kids can ride their bikes, go to the beach, and be closer to schools is exactly what I was looking for.”
But beyond her imagination of perfection for finding a forever home, Schaller has history within these four walls.
“I used to play in this house when the Smiths lived here,” she adds with the brightest of smiles. “Their daughter and I were best friends.”
And within a year of moving in, Schaller was approached by a woman wandering around the property who relayed a family history of building the structure. The New Orleans sugar barons came calling one day to Charlevoix, and built this very home. Long after, the Edelmans of Manhattan purchased the home, then the Smiths when Schaller lived close enough to experience the magic.
“And now me! Us!” she proudly pronounces.
With her daughter and two sons, the hallmarks of a traditional family homestead have been renewed.
“I put the energy out about the home and its origins, and the people came calling,” she finishes in a confident wonderment that would make Descartes proud.
To establish her belief in the community proving her “existence” to all, the home is ensconced in local art. Bartons, Wittys, Hoffmans all the way through to David Picketts, adorn her walls in an array of well-placed proof to the world that Gretchen Schaller loves living where she does.
“Art makes me feel happy,” she shares.
In fact, the rest of the house, while amazingly diverse in its layout, becomes mundane beyond the spiritual aura one obtains by simply walking in. A grand piano sits pining for Mozart within a great room connecting a fun game space and a fireplace with sofas and cushioned seats in between. Around the front, you walk into a more formal dining space connected to the updated kitchen by a butler’s pantry that now serves as a bar and cocktail space. Circling the first floor back to the rear through blue waves of color on the walls, you’ll find a cozy family room and lounge area overlooked by a loft where a laundry folding area allows mom to watch over kids and maybe have a glass of wine while enjoying a favorite TV show during the wash cycle. Back to the dining room for a moment, and one ogles the painted furniture of Annie Russell. Splattered with oranges, reds, greens and blues, the menagerie of hues evokes a smile without thought.
With two front porches extending from the front of the house where Romek Bukowinski created a tiled graphic, and looking through stained glass windows on the first floor by the Shadetree studio in Petoskey, the house garners a vivid outcry of a well-designed eclectic cottage. But there are two more floors to behold.
One staircase up and a master suite allows Schaller her motherly den and beyond its doorway, a complete room filled with shoes and purses. “I love my shoes,” she notes. What better way to use a spare room than to have shelves making Imelda Marcos jealous?
The third floor finds the bedrooms for daughter and sons complete with game areas, a family theater room and enough space for friends and relatives to spend a summer.
“The kids live up here with their friends,” Schaller says as she sweeps her arms around in display of the vast roominess afforded the children. “I’d rather have them here,” she finishes.
A host of contractors assisted Schaller in her dream. Blinds from Noni Pace Interiors, Bobby Wojan retooled the boiler, Cindi Malin helped with decorating, granite countertops by TJ Marble, electrical updates by Simpson Electric, and outdoor furniture by Sturgeon River Pottery owned by Schaller’s cousin, Dana Andrews, have molded the Schaller home into a mosaic dreamscape. And best of all? The home can be lived in and not broken by the process.
Descartes espoused that, “It is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” In other words, he asserted we must strip away all preconceptions before we can proceed to a position of knowledge. Gretchen Schaller is there. Therefore, she exists, and her family is better for it.
Written By By Tom Renkes, Photos by G. Randall Goss