Something Old, Something New

August 2021 View more

By Kari Richardson

Melissa and Jerry Agema and their children Justin, 20, and Avery, 17, of Naperville, have been escaping to southwestern Michigan for many years of action-packed getaways. “It’s family time,” Melissa says. “We do a lot of boating and biking. It’s super active.”

Jerry’s parents, who live full time in New Buffalo, historically have been the gracious hosts of these mini vacations. But the Agema family loved these getaways so much that they longed for a retreat to call their own.
After a careful search, they were pleased to find the perfect spot in 2019: a 1,900-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath home on a wooded and secluded two-acre-plus lot in Union Pier. The property includes a luxurious saltwater pool and accompanying pool house, which the active family converted into a workout room.

While the Agemas fell in love with the bungalow’s Napa Valley vibe, the 32-year-old home needed modernizing. A full-house makeover added modern touches such as quartz countertops, white cabinetry with gold accents, a wine fridge, and new living room furniture from Ethan Allen.

Not everything is brand new, however. The retreat still features many of the artworks, books, and decorations passed on by the previous owners—an art-loving couple who built the cottage in 1989.

“We wanted to maintain the aesthetic of the house and keep its history,” Melissa says.

Artworks and accessories on the bookcases were left by the previous owners, a touch of history in the remodeled retreat.

A clear panel on the staircase, which leads to a loft sleeping space, keeps the aesthetic open and inviting.

Connected to the kitchen, the family room is the place where family and guests play board games or simply catch up.

Jerry and Melissa Agema fell head over heels for the bungalow, which reminds them of properties in northern California’s Napa Valley. The southwestern Michigan retreat is wooded and secluded, a world away from their Naperville home. Deer and other wildlife frequent the property, which the couple purchased in 2019. They are planning an addition in 2022 to add another two bedrooms and two baths.

The saltwater pool, measuring 38 feet by 15 feet, is the place to be on hot days. The site for parties, the space includes a sound system and new hot tub. A nearby pool house has been converted into a home gym so the family can stay on track with workout routines while on retreat. In addition to active pursuits and dining at local restaurants, Melissa Agema enjoys gardening at her Michigan home, spending hours working in the soil. The front porch comes alive with containers brimming with annuals.

Michigan-based Designsmith Spaces led a kitchen remodel that added quartz countertops, iridescent subway tile, and modern appliances. Melissa Agema was unsure, at first, about the oversize lighting fixtures and large cabinetry pulls in the relatively small space, but now she loves the effect. “I trusted them and it turned out great,” Melissa says.

Photo courtesy Melissa Agema