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Holiday Inn

It’s “come one, come all” at a Florida couple’s vacation home in Michigan

Written by Krissa Rossbund
  • Werner Straube

    Snowflakes fall gently outside the window as friends and family congregate by a crackling fire. Stories and laughter echo the good cheer radiated by homey ornaments and twinkling lights. The romance of the season is so tangible, you can almost hear Bing Crosby crooning “White Christmas.”

    Like the proprietors of a memorable resort, Amy and Gary Norcross wanted their vacation home on Walloon Lake, Michigan—appropriately dubbed Holiday Inn—to exude a gracious welcome to everyone they host, especially at Christmas. Originally from Arkansas and now residents of Jacksonville, Florida, Gary and Amy bring their Southern hospitality to each place they call home.


    Residential designer: Gary Nance,Nance Design, Inc., Carmel, Indiana; 317/663-4793;

    Interior designer: Tom Stringer Design Partners, Chicago; 312/664-0644;

    Contractor: Matthews Construction, Petoskey, Michigan; 231/439-3661; Facebook: Matthews Construction.

    Cabinetry designer: Jill Brecheisen, Kitchens By Design, Petoskey, Michigan; 231/347-8400;

    FOYER—Wall paint “Simply White”: Benjamin Moore; Pendant light “Moravian Star Pendant,” sconces flanking doorway “Linear Lantern 2” in antique brass, both by E.F. Chapman for Visual Comfort: Circa Lighting; Rug “Navy Star Wool Micro Hooked Rug”: Dash & Albert, an Annie Selke company; Table “Antique Swedish Oval Pedestal Table”: Briggs House Antiques; Settee “Italian Antique Pine Bench”: James & Jeffrey Antiques; Bench fabric “Joya Stripe” in Tropic: Kravet; Pillow fabric “Penhaggon” in Sky by William Yeoward: Designers Guild; Ceramic stool “Studded Garden Seat” in white: Emissary;

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    “We love ascending the road here, seeing the trees covered in snow and Christmas lights,” Amy says. “It’s like an old movie—that’s why we call it Holiday Inn. We know a great celebration is to come.”

    The Norcrosses’ affinity for Michigan stems from Gary’s childhood summers here. A second home on Walloon Lake made sense. Gary’s mother lives in her own retreat on the opposite side of the lake. And now the Norcross children have one single place that they know as home. “We moved a lot for Gary’s job,” Amy says. “Our kids have lived in different places, but they always know Walloon Lake. We wanted a permanent footprint here, a place where everyone would gather.”

    Design: Nance Design, Inc.; Construction: Matthews Construction, Petoskey, Michigan; 231/439-3661.

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    Architect Gary Nance, celebrated throughout the Midwest for his lake cottage designs, carved out all of Amy and Gary’s wishes on the property they bought. In addition to the main house, a guesthouse and a hobby barn offer spaces for the family to watch movies, play pool, and house Gary’s antique cars. After six months of planning, Nance advised the Norcrosses to hire a designer to tackle the interiors. Most of the tear sheets that Amy pulled were projects by Chicago-based designer Tom Stringer—whom the couple hired.

    “My own vacation home is 45 minutes away, so I understood Amy and Gary and what they wanted,” Stringer says. “I’m a big believer in multigenerational homes. Some families arrange a time share and divvy up the time. I think that a family home should accommodate everyone at once. That’s what keeps families together. Amy and Gary felt the same way, so we knew our work together would be a good fit.”

    Wall paint “Pale Oak,” paint for console table “Stone Hearth”: Benjamin Moore; Fabric for draperies and pillows flanking fireplace “Lanterns Multi”: Elizabeth Eakins; Drapery trim “Gresham Tweeded Tape Border” in Prussian Blue: Samuel & Sons; Rug similar available as “Riptide”: Watson Smith; Chandelier “Bonfire Chandelier” with shaded lights, console table at window “Sansom Console,” red table lamp discontinued, similar items available: Currey & Co.; Sofas “Corolla,” blue chair by window “Monarch Side Diner”: Charles Stewart; Sofa fabric “Rough Copy” in Oatmeal: Perennials; Blue chair fabric “Timor” in Tide: Holland & Sherry; Wood chair with packages antique Windsor-style, chairs and stool in foreground, chest at left of fireplace, telescope, table at red woven chairs: homeowners’ collection. Fabric for red chairs “Bedrock” in Lacquer Red: Robert Allen; Chairs flanking fireplace “Barnsley Swivel Chair” by Tom Stringer: Jaime Stern Design; Swivel chair fabric “Castor” in red from the Seville collection by Jane Churchill: Colefax & Fowler; Custom coffee table in distressed walnut finish: Tom Stringer Design Partners; Blue lamp on chest “Dragon Blue-and-White Chinoiserie Lamp” discontinued, similar may be available: Arteriors Home; Red check fabric for sofa pillows “Oskar” in red, discontinued, similar available as “Ikat Check” in red: Kathryn M. Ireland; Blue-and-white fabric for sofa pillows “Cotton–Rabanna” in color L-198: Fermoie; Red woven chairs “Riviera Deck Chair”: Mainly Baskets;

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    Tear sheets in tow, Amy provided Stringer with a few directives that inspired his vision for an environment that the extended Norcross family will enjoy for years to come.

    Order number one: the palette. With a no-apology attitude about her yearning for red (she admits that it’s driven by her University of Arkansas roots), Amy wanted the hot hue strewn throughout the interiors. It’s a perfect foil come Christmastime when the house is bedecked in holiday adornments. Then there was blue. Amy prefers it in a strong value. Stringer’s challenge was to blend the two colors in a sophisticated way.

    Red furniture pushes the living room to radiate a festive complexion. Anchored by a granite fieldstone fireplace with barn-style doors that disguise a TV, the space boasts comfortable chairs upholstered in red fabric. In a shade that mimics Santa’s suit, loose-weave wicker chairs at the game table introduce texture.

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    Blue’s quiet role in the living room—on pillows and a chair—takes a bold turn as the house progresses. A white  kitchen is electrified by a cobalt island that transitions the kitchen to the dining room and is courageous without being outrageous. A similar shade shows up inside the game room bookcases, where knotty pine was stained a blueberry shade. It’s enhanced by light blue chairs around the table.

    Cabinetry: Kitchens By Design; White cabinet paint “Simply White,” ceiling paint “White Dove”: Benjamin Moore; Backsplash tile “M-200 Gloss White Brick”: Wizard Enterprise; Island lighting “Lumley Pendant”: Currey & Co.; Sconce lanterns flanking windows “Valencay Wall Lantern”: Vaughan; Curtain
    “Birds” in Lake on Logan White: Galbraith & Paul; Placemats “Confetti Placemat” in Coral, napkins “Ming Border Napkin” in white and navy, napkin rings “Constellation Napkin Ring” in red: Kim Seybert;

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    The dining room wall nods to the living room’s fieldstone fireplace. Rush-seat dining chairs circle a table that expands to seat upwards of 20. When crowds gather, eight chairs from Amy’s warehouse of furniture goodies intermingle. Enter rule number two: heirlooms.

    Chandelier discontinued, similar available, sconce “Normandy 2-Light Sconce” by E. F. Chapman, both for Visual Comfort: Circa Lighting; Table custom design: Tom Stringer Design Partners; Chairs “Oak Ladder Back Country Chair with Rush Seat”: Jonathan Charles; Fabric for chair cushions “La Rue” in Denim: Pindler; Rug “Fine Soumak–Antique Baktiari”: Peerless Imported Rugs; Antique console table at bar: Carl Moore Antiques; Blue-and-white lamps discontinued, similar may be available: Arteriors Home; Red lamp discontinued, similar available as “Carnelia Table Lamp”: Currey & Co.; Blue-and-white vases and pitchers: homeowners’ collection.

  • Werner Straube

    Amy and Gary have always kept treasures that are meaningful to the family. A storage unit filled with heirlooms was like Santa’s workshop to Stringer, who pulled family pieces that help make his interiors -intimate and real.

    “There has to be an emotional connection,” Stringer says. “And that only comes through familiarity to some of the objects. A house is not home until there is a story attached to it.”

    Rug “Chalet Stripe Wool Woven Rug”: Dash & Albert, an Annie Selke company; Table “Salem Dining Table”: Bob Timberlake; Chairs by window “Monarch Side Diner”: Charles Stewart; Chair fabric “Timor” in Tide: Holland & Sherry; Hanging light “D Arcy” by Thomas O’Brien, lighting above shelves “Dean Picture Light” in Natural Brass by Alexa Hampton, both for Visual Comfort: Circa Lighting; Fabric for Roman shade “Quilt” in red: Kathryn M. Ireland;

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    Amy checked off her final requisite—floral-pattern fabric—in the master bedroom, where it hangs as draperies. Other bedrooms were made cozy and happy, including a blue bunk room with painted red beds. The bunk room was set into motion by Amy, who hopes that grandchildren are not too far in the future.

    Wall paint “Stone Heart”: Benjamin Moore; Bed “Copley”: Palu; Sheets and pillowcases “Diamond Pique”: Matouk; Duvet: Ferran New York; Large pillow fabric “Stockholm Stitch”: Lewis & Wood; Bedside tables: Tom Stringer Design Partners; Bedside table pulls “Rosette” 6PBY: White-chapel, Ltd.; Lamps “Clover Lamp”: Port 68; Bedside lighting “Studio Swing-Arm Lamp” by Visual Comfort: Circa Lighting; Chair: Lee Industries; Chair fabric “Dylan” in Sunset: Pindler; Ottoman: homeowners’ collection. Ottoman fabric “Celsius” in Lava: Savel; Rug: Watson Smith; Throw on ottoman: Sferra;

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    The Norcrosses now spend summers and winter holidays in Michigan, and while both seasons load their memory banks with great stories, something extra-special surrounds Christmas.

    “We already have memories here,” Amy says. “My son-in-law asked for my daughter’s hand here. We laugh until we cry, and as soon as you pull into the driveway, your shoulders drop. There’s no to-do list like in our main house. Here, it’s about what book am I going to read next. This will always be our home.”

    Architect: Gary Nance   Interior designer: Tom Stringer

    Wall paint “Slate Blue”: Benjamin Moore; Beds “Island Bed” in Tomato, blue chests “Nellie Two-Drawer Bedside Table”: Maine Cottage; Sheets and pillow shams “Marlowe” in Ocean: Matouk; Bed skirt fabric “Plumbridge” in Americana: Pindler; Fabric for paisley pillows “Kashmir Paisley” in Red/Blue: Peter Dunham Textiles; Bed cover “Diamonte Coverlet”: Kassatex; Bedside lights “Graves Hand-Rubbed Antique Brass Task Wall Light” by Suzanne Kasler for Visual Comfort: Circa Lighting; Rug: Watson Smith; Stockings similar items available: Pottery Barn;