The style and sophistication of Art Deco design had been a seductive siren calling to Chuck and Julie Kaplan for years. In response they had collected pieces enough to outfit a home. So when the decision came 13 years ago to move from Illinois to the Michigan shoreline they‘d visited for years, the call was clear and irresistible.
“We were going with the Realtor to look at a house,” Chuck recalls. “On the way, we saw this great Art Deco house with a ‘For Sale’ sign,” and the former president of the Chicago Art Deco Society excitedly asked the Realtor if they could see the home. They saw, they bought, they immediately began putting their own style imprint on the Grand Beach, Mich. home. That meant bringing together the Art Deco style that blossomed from the Paris exposition of 1925 with an updated building potential three-quarters of a century later.
The house had been built in 1935 and referenced the ones built for the World’s Fair in Chicago the year before. Therein lay its appeal -- and its drawback. It was too small for the Kaplans, who enjoy entertaining.
“We did a lot of remodeling,” says Julie. “We wanted a beach-y yet sophisticated feel.”
The roof was raised to allow for changing the 7-foot ceilings to 10 feet. The simple two-story structure was enlarged with a single-story addition: a larger kitchen that’s now open to the dining area, and better use of the space gained when the in-ground pool had been filled in. That area is now a pleasant living room/family room, with a wet bar replacing a sauna. The bar and sofa here are the only new pieces of furniture in the house; over the years the Kaplans had collected the rest, some seeming to have been destined for this place. They added a fireplace flanked by an Art Deco-style find from a Chicago power station: two large panels in tan granite, with a figure and symmetrical rays in bas-relief on each. A large, square coffee table from a trip to South Africa has the untanned, rough leather shagreen (some still call it the original French-derived chagrin).
Throughout the house, glass plays important dual roles. Its sleekness fits nicely with the polished Art Deco look, and it lets the Kaplans enjoy their private, natural setting while indoors. Hence the living room’s multiple glass doors. Wherever possible, smaller windows were replaced with larger, three-fourths-inch glass, including curved windows that follow the line of the curved hall wall between the kitchen and living room. In fact, ”All the walls are bull-nose and there are no straight walls in the house,” explains Chuck.
The front door was relocated and replaced with glass doors of frosted glass with a gracefully etched design. Just inside in the tiled floor is an Art Deco design in yellow and blue that’s inspired by a light fixture, and all the other light fixtures have some form of the design.
The Kaplans credit Michael Anthony Interiors for making their vision for construction details happen, but this is a couple gifted with bringing ideas to life. “I’m not a decorator,” disclaims Julie, but an interior decorator was never hired -- nor needed. Julie designed the unique hardware for all 56 doors and drawers. The moldings were the Kaplans’ design, too, fashioned by a local contractor with cherry wood. Julie had a small vintage cabinet powder-coated in sage green, along with a matching tea cart holding pottery.
Near the 1948 pool table is a bright array of Chuck’s in-progress art. He browses barn sales and such to collect colored glass plates, vases, and bowls that he fuses into garden art.
The couple shares the joys of antiquing. A collection of 1928 Futura-pattern Roseville pottery brightens the living room, and same-shaped Red Wing teapots line a long shelf in the kitchen. Upstairs, where the master bedroom opens onto a balcony, a French chair and tables have their own story. At the huge annual antique show in Montpellier, France, Chuck and Julie agreed to head for different sections of the massive exhibit. To Chuck’s disappointment, a patio table and chairs he immediately wanted were marked “Sold.” Later he showed them to Julie, who, amazingly, turned out to be the customer who’d bought them.
Both also love Vitrolite, brand name of the thick, smooth, wavy construction glass, and had it installed in the three and a half baths, including the new one they added upstairs. Another great find: two bronze halves of a giant clock, serving as headboard and footboard, “Definitely the focal point in this bedroom,” says Julie.
Transoms above the three bedroom doors and windows near the high ceilings and stairway let plenty of light in upstairs, the better to highlight such art elements as two framed vintage bathing suits.
“We repurpose!” Julie and Chuck smile as they agree, and their willingness to make room for the quirky may be one reason “Everyone wants to visit.” It may also be the carefully coordinated color palette, making the whole cheery yet restful.
“And we really got lucky with this private lot,” adds Chuck, while Julie waves toward the garden where his glass art catches the light.
“I get up in the morning, I feel the openness here,” says Julie. Chuck is pointing toward the Art Deco emblem in the tiles by the front door: “And we’ve got that!”