Last summer, we stayed in this modernist number by the renowned late Chicago architect Harry Weese. This summer, we moved next door to the more rustic log cabin, Shack Tamarack, that Weese designed for his family when he was 18 years old. Yes, 18 years old. It’s a beautiful example of vernacular Michigan lakefront architecture, and you can make out the formative signature details — master of space, cleverly situated bedrooms, modular hidden doors and compartments — tucked inside a traditional log cabin wrapper, made with cedar timbers from a nearby bog. Every detail is purposeful.
Some places were built for making memories, and when it comes to the quintessential family cabin, Harry Weese pretty much nailed it. Weese’s family still owns the house and has filled it regularly with friends and family for the past 82 years. Harry’s sister lives in the third house all summer long, and I love hearing stories that have played across generations of guests.
Here’s the thing: Yes, I am a sucker for smart, storied, well-designed spaces, and yes, I can be expected to properly rhapsodize about Shack Tamarack’s beautiful handmade textiles hanging from walls and slung over benches, antique rocking chairs, old wooden shelves lined with even older stoneware, and the giant stone fireplace built by hand. But I also understand what makes a place special, and it has more to do with how it makes you feel — relaxed and inspired, humbled even — than what it looks like. It’s about how spaces that truly capture a sense of place can transport you.
You know how you can read 100 picture books out loud to your kids on the same tufted L-shaped living room sofa, and they all sort of run together, like one big memory unit, each story folding into the next? Yet reading One Morning in Maine while actually in Maine, piling five deep in a queen bed looking out a giant picture window at the evergreen tree-lined coast — the same pointed evergreen trees and craggy coast in the book’s pages — is something you’ll never forget? Like you can still taste the salt in the air when you think about it? Or how you can grill fish 100 times in your own backyard, but somehow that freshly caught whitefish covered in herbs you picked from the garden next to the farmhouse you were staying in Northern Michigan will remain forever epic in deliciousness and culinary bravado. Therein lies the power of pulling yourself out of your everyday life and allowing even the littlest experiences — like, at Shack Tamarack, reading Mathilda by Roald Dahl on the porch swing and laughing until your side hurts, watching a wicked storm roll in from the pier, and cannonball contests off the dock — to live large in your memory as some of the most seminal of the trip.
I know I won’t remember all the details of how everything looked at Harry Weese’s family cabin (well, maybe the set of deer hooves that cradle a couple fishing rods over the dining room table), but I will never forget what we did there and who we were at that moment in time. Rent it at vrbo.com.