By Glen Young
While not all things old can be new again, innovative ideas can certainly breathe new life into old places. Including old homes.
Such is the case with the historical and now renovated home of Dr. Chaim Colen, a well-traveled neurosurgeon dividing his time between Petoskey, Grosse Pointe, and West Palm Beach, Florida. Colen purchased the iconic home at 102 Division Street, overlooking the Penn Plaza and Stafford’s Perry Hotel in downtown Petoskey, intent on turning the long neglected building into a showplace.
After nearly two years, thanks in equal measure to Colen’s steady vision and the hard work of local builder James Cesario and his crews, the dream is fulfilled. Now the home, more than a century old and a landmark in the downtown area, is again ready to welcome family and visitors for another century or more.
Sitting on a lot near the corner of Division and Rose streets that once housed Petoskey’s original Presbyterian Church, and perhaps later an Episcopal Church, the house had been divided into as many as seven separate apartments before Colen purchased it in 2013. Cesario’s crews have since transformed the former warren of rental units, creating instead two separate and impressive dwellings under one roof.
Cesario therefore understands better than anyone how “the house is a story in itself,” and how the plan took the building, “from flophouse to fabulous.”
Colen’s goal called for turning the multiple units instead into an open floor plan, with two separate but connected residences, so Cesario says, “We took it straight down to the bones and redid it.” He says the project therefore required “a great deal of engineering,” as load bearing walls were eliminated to provide the space and ease of movement now found inside.
“We basically started with new footings,” Cesario explains. The original dwelling “wasn’t designed structurally to handle an open floor plan.”
The success of the project is immediately recognizable, particularly on the north side, as the large entry doors open into an inviting front room, kept light with Pakistani marble floors. At the north end of the room, the kitchen offers what the original property owners thought inspirational views of Little Traverse Bay. Colen jokes, “I like doing dishes and having a great view will only add to it.” Accents of blue pearl granite, the same granite in the kitchen countertops, thematically tie the counters to the floors.
In addition to a full complement of Viking appliances, the kitchen also boasts a Vinique wine cooler, patented by Colen, the name a blend of “vintage” and “unique.”
Not all the compelling accents are new, however. Colen determined to keep a few key features of the existing home, including some interior doors and more. “I wanted to retain original features where I could,” he explains.
Such an original detail is a newel post at the top of the winding mahogany stairwell leading from just inside the front door here to the large master bedroom on the second floor. Cesario says he tried to talk Colen out of installing this stairwell, but recognizes now how it “is really the focal point of the whole house.”
At the top of the stairs, in the large master bedroom, African teak replaces the mahogany and marble of the main floor. In the northwest corner, at the top of a 42-foot turret, the room provides additional sweeping views of Little Traverse Bay and downtown. Outside, a vintage wrought iron rail rims the balcony, another decision to retain the original where possible.
The upstairs master bath offers side-by-side Kahani copper sinks, as well as a claw-foot bathtub. A nearby bureau boasts other authentic touches, including a 1904 letter addressed to the residence, as well as a bottle of Sparkle beer from the original Petoskey Brewing Company.
On the lower level, Colen plans to outfit a bedroom/television room with Murphy beds for his children. A walk-in shower in the nearby full bath features a Petoskey-stone themed brain pattern.
On the south side of the home, the renovation is more understated, but no less thorough. Hardwood floors run throughout the living areas and bedrooms, while bathrooms offer updated fixtures and comforts. The same inviting views are shared by both residences.
Where possible, Colen says, “I did everything in threes,” adding, “Two is linear, and three is infinite.” Kitchen drawers come in threes; decorating features like model sailboats and mirrors, appear in threes as well. There is even a custom-made ceiling fan sporting three blades rather than the traditional four.
“I call it Spanish-Mediterranean style,” Colen says of his decorating approach. “I like things very
eclectic,” he adds, pointing to accents like a Sputnik-style chandelier, modeled on an original at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
Other accents include commissioned paintings from area artists, as well as a sea anemone-like chandelier above the main floor gas fireplace. Interior walls feature a “blue ice” paint finish, while the exterior finish is “Perry” yellow, a gesture to the nearby Perry Hotel.
Old homes certainly require special care, as well as periodic updates. In the case of Dr. Chaim Colen’s Division Street home — times two — that special care in the form of updates is evident around every corner.
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