The Little White Barn in Fennville, Michigan, had not been touched since the early 1900’s when Gabe and Christine Bridger with Company + Cottage decided to renovate it into the family cabin they had dreamed of since dating. Preservation and working within the original footprint were both guiding principles during the entire design process and eight month renovation – a design challenge that led to a sense of pride once completed. The Little White Barn fully demonstrates the company motto, “Life is best lived in good company.”
Christine shares a little of their story and how the Little White Barn came to be below, or pick up the July issue of Country Living to experience the space.
Gabe and I both grew up on farms (Nebraska and Indiana) our entire lives and have always been drawn to the simplicity and charm of old barns. Gabe spent his childhood summers in Michigan and fell in love with the surrounding old cottages and Lake Michigan beaches. When we first started dating, Gabe took me to his family’s cottage in Macatawa, Michigan, and I fell in love with the area as well. We dreamed of someday having a cottage of our own that we could build family memories in.
Fast forward a decade, two kids and two dogs later … when we stumbled upon an old barn across the street from Lake Michigan about 20 minutes away from his family’s cottage in Fennville, Michigan. It’s worth noting that you won’t find many rural and beachy options around. This Little White Barn (LWB) sat on two wooded acres and hadn’t been touched since it was built in the early 1900’s. We fell in love immediately with the familiar shape and original bones. We decided to follow our heart and try our hand at a barn conversion.
The renovation took eight months from start to finish and wow was it a handful. The LWB was taken apart board by board, then reframed to withstand the fierce lakeside winds, then finally put back together board by board. Preservation and working within the original footprint were both guiding principles throughout our entire design process – a design challenge that led to a sense of pride once completed.
The other thing that was important to us was mixing history with innovation. Knowing how much our family loves to entertain, our kitchen was a top priority in the renovation. Craftsmanship and attention to detail are extremely important to us when it comes to design decisions and selections. We started by designing an open kitchen, dining and living space to encourage guests to be a part of the cooking experience. We knew that we wanted our base cabinets to blend in with the original barn beams and open shelving instead of top cabinets to give it a casual look. We turned an old trophy case with a cement top into a unique island that seats eight.
We actually spent quite a while trying to find the right appliances as they play the largest role in the overall kitchen experience. Knowing we wanted something minimal in look but that could accommodate cooking for and hosting larger groups, we went with Monogram. Each Monogram appliance is hand-crafted and has many details that you don’t find in other appliance lines. From our 48″ gas burner range with six burners, griddle and heat lamp to our smart hearth oven, we knew that we’d experience cooking in a whole new way.
We never thought we’d need so many cooking options in one kitchen until we experienced everything first-hand. We will be simultaneously baking homemade pizzas for the kids in the hearth while grilling up steak on the griddle. Then once the pizza is done, we throw in veggies into the hearth since it’s already fired up to crisp them up like nothing we’ve ever experienced. It’s pretty addicting – we’ve even stopped using our microwave just to see how it cooks up less gourmet food like hot pockets and smores. I should have figured that with a busy family and so much land to roam free, that a heat lamp would come to the rescue – now I can’t imagine my life without it.
With all of the wonderful wineries and breweries around, our beverage center really comes in handy, especially given that our french door fridge is stocked full with fresh fruit and veggies from all the local farms in the area. We appreciate having the flexibility to arrange our fridge in different ways with the drop-down tray and quick space shelf. And last but not least, after we make a mess in our kitchen, it’s easy to clean up with our Monogram dishwasher. Having a top shelf designed for just cooking utensils makes it easy for us to separate our silverware in the standard lower rack compartment.