The #HTlakehouse is our 5th home. On a long walk the other day, Hannah and I were reflecting on our 5 homes, all so different from one another! We lived in new construction in the country, moved to a condo walkable to shops and resultants, renovated a mid-century home in the woods, moved back to a tiny condo near the city, and finally, moved out toward Lake Michigan. These living experiences were vastly different from one another, and we learned so much about ourselves with each one. It's been an unpredictable journey, and one that neither of us could have truly estimated. Sometimes we get asked if our plan was to move so frequently all along. And the short answer would be "NO WAY!" When we found the EGR condo (#2 of 5 of our home babies), we thought we'd live there until we had children. But after we caught "the bug," we began what seems like a never ending process of moving. This time around, it feels different. More on that later. Today, we're chatting about these 5 vastly different experiences, and which is our favorite!
1. New Construction in the Country
Our first home was set in a suburb in a more rural setting (for those of you local to GR, it was in Hudsonville, near Borculo). The home was 2,000 square feet, brand new construction (we built it, with Hannah's Dad as the GC). The home was situated on a tiny pond which sat in front of a field with cows and even a buffalo or two! We LOVED the actual house. Hannah was just dipping her toes into "interior design," and this was her first significant foray into designing an entire home. This was the only brand new home we've lived in. While we love the character of the homes we have renovated, living in new construction was a dream. The walls were straight, floors were perfectly level, and the mechanicals were brand new--which made the cost of utilities and ownership low.
The thing we miss the most? THAT NEW HOUSE SMELL! In addition, we often reflect on the beauty of the vaulted ceilings and abundance of windows that gave the home a light, airy feeling. The home also had large closets (the master closet was the size of our current master bedroom!)
The main reason for engaging in our first (of what we could have never expected would be many) moves, was our discontentment with the location. While living in the "country" was quiet, it was not for us, especially at that stage of our lives. We were craving more walkability, energy, and proximity to restaurants and activities. We found ourselves driving to downtown Grand Rapids or Holland nearly every day to grab dinner, go for a walk, or meet up with friends.
What we loved: New construction with open floor plan and high ceilings, giant closets, attached 2 stall garage
What we didn't: Location, no walkability to shops or restaurants, 30 min drive from GR & Holland amenities
2. EGR Condo
Our second home was in the heart of East Grand Rapids (corner of Lake and Wealthy, across from Reeds Lake). This condo was on a 5 mile running path and was walkable to shops and restaurants. The location simply could not have been better for the lifestyle and pace that we liked to maintain! The condo was 1,150 square feet, which was plenty of space for the two of us; though it did lack storage. That said, we never felt cramped, but didn't have any unused space. The building itself didn't have a ton of character, but we liked the simple concept. We walked the neighborhood/lake every single day...having the ability to jump out of our front door and walk to whatever we wanted (coffee, groceries, dinner, or for pleasure) was absolutely amazing. It also had views of Grand Rapid's best inland lake, Reeds Lake.
Looking back at this living experience, there were a few negatives of living here too. The noise could at times be a bit frustrating. The community held many events, which typically began or ended in the corridor of town we were living in (the Saturday morning 5k's that began at 6am were quite the wake up call!). We also felt like the location was very public, overlooking a lakeside park that was frequented by many. Sometimes we loved people watching, waving at friends in the park! However, there were times that we didn't love that we could see someone we knew at any moment while enjoying a morning cup of coffee on the porch, in our pajamas! We definitely desired a little more privacy. (Funny for two bloggers...but I digress...)
Overall, we loved the hustle and bustle and energy from the neighboring high school; an epicenter of action for the city. Friday night football games were so much fun to listen to.
What we loved: Location, Reeds lake views, access to 5 mile running trail, walkability to shops and resturants
What we didn't: High property taxes and condo dues, lack of privacy, no garage
3. Ada Midcentury House
Ah, the Ada house. Of all of our homes, this one was the hardest to leave. When we bought this house (full story here), we truly envisioned ourselves growing older with a family, enjoying the large yard and big fireplace. We know all of you knew us better than that, and predicted we would sell in less than a year...well, haters, we made it 1 year and 1 week! ;)
We were on a wooded acre in a cozy neighborhood filled with wonderful families. This house was about 20 minutes from East Grand Rapids (because we walk the EGR lake path, it's often served as our barometer for how far away things are from "the city!"). We truly loved the privacy provided by the wooded lot, and it's suburban charm, laden with trees. In time though, we grew to dislike the abundance of trees. We spent many Saturdays blowing leaves or raking twigs off the roof. The yard was high maintenance! (Although, we redid the entire yard just before selling, so likely, it requires way less maintenance now!). Before moving in, we spent a few thousand dollars removing trees that were dead or too close to the house. In addition, on two separate occasions, a storm took down 2 of our trees, so we had to hire someone to remove them. In the summer, we found that the trees made the house feel dark. Sometimes, we would get in the car, leave the neighborhood, and realize the sun had been out!
Now, these minor incoveniences were balanced by many wonderful attributes. This house was special. The mid century architecture was one of a kind, and we will always miss the brick fireplace, bright sunroom, and original MCM fixtures. I absolutely LOVED the tri-level floor plan. The space was well utilized and it was very homey. We lived in our kitchen and dining area, playing scrabble, planning for the future, working, eating and entertaining.
What we loved: Floor plan, quiet neighborhood, sunroom, MCM charm
What we didn't: A drive from shops and restaurants, limited walkability, dark shadows from abundance of trees, high maintenance yard
4. The GR condo
We entered into the condo experiment after a 3 week road trip out West. While at a coffee shop in Salt Lake City, I saw this condo listed and had a crazy idea. Why don't we sell more of our possessions, further delving into our minimalist mindset, and see if we can downsize enough to get entirely out of debt (more of that here), to attempt to escape Michigan's miserable winters via a second property in better weather! Hannah was initially cold toward the idea. After all, we were truly in love with the Ada house. Somehow, I convinced her being out of debt and being able to spend a month or two a year in a warmer climate instead of the frozen tundra was enough to give it a spin. Though it was very shortlived (we only lived here six months), we liked the location. It was close to EGR (Less than 1`mile) and in a large walkable neighborhood. We truly didn't mind the small space. We were able to get rid of a dramatic percentage of our belongings (about 75% to put a number on it!). There was an absence of any real storage, which was frustrating at times. We also missed having space to host friends and family. It was a little too tight for dinner parties, and definitely too small to host guests from our of town. This "tiny living" experiment was a 2 year plan....Ultimately, we left this home due to finding a deal that was just too hard to pass up for our future...enter #HTLakehouse!
What we loved: Low maintenance, close to everything, low cost of living
What we didn't: No garage, inability to host guests due to size, proximity to neighbors, no private outdoor space
5. The Lakehouse
Oddly, this story also begins in a coffee shop. One cold December day, Hannah, her sister and I sat in a coffee shop in Holland when she spotted this lakeside abode. We both scan the new listings on the MLS every single day, usually a few times. When she saw the location of this house, a stone's throw from the lake, she had to show it to me, We scheduled a showing and saw it needed an IMMENSE amount of work, which better explained the aggressive price. We decided this property would be ours in one way or another-- as our home, an AIRBNB, or a cottage. Before our renovation and basement addition, this house stood only 980 square feet, so only marginally larger than the condo! This home was originally built in the 1940s as a summer home, thus the lack of storage and small features. We added 300 square feet to the basement to make it a more ideal home for when we have children, and renovated it extensively. We put more into this home and yard than we anticipated, including adding a trex deck in the backyard; but so far, it has been entirely worth it. We hosted 5 guests the first week the home was completed. It was perfect proof that you don't need a large home to accommodate many guests! The house slept 7 wonderfully; we realized this would make the perfect long term cottage. (Read more about this house purchase here!)
We love the proximity to the water, and the lake lifestyle, which is more relaxed and fun than the pace of the city life we've experienced! We are able to walk to the beach, a local restaurant, and groceries! Downtown Holland, with a bevy of coffee shops, restaurants, and shops, is just a short bike ride away. We walk, bike, or kayak every single day. It is the absolute best walking neighborhood, boasting gorgeous lakeside cottages and lake front mansions, all beautifully curated with large front porches, colorful hydrangea bushes, and adirondack chairs, We often comment that the area reminds us of New England, specifically Catham, Cape Cod. We catch he sunset every evening, either by a walk to the marina, or by bringing our beach chairs to the end of the street with a glass of wine!
What we love: Lake lifestyle, water views, proximity to beach, can accommodate many guests, close to coffee/restaurants, manageable yard
What we don’t: One small bathroom, detached one stall garage
Ultimately, we are in love with the lakehouse. Location is EVERYTHING. While we may have not predicted that Holland would be "for us," we feel more at home here than anticipated. We have realized, we are definitely water people. Our plan (for real this time!) is to keep this house for a handful of years. We are living here full time for now, soon to make this home an AirBNB/seasonal cottage.
Have a question about any of our properties, cities, renovations or moves? DM us on Instagram!
Thanks for coming along!
Hannah & Tyler
We are a home renovation and real estate duo currently sharing the renovation of our Holland cottage, along with flips and new builds. We created this blog as a resource for our readers, helping home owners, travelers, and future friends to learn how to renovate efficiently, and affordably!