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When Mike and Lisa Merelli made their first visit to Hearthside Grove, they had no intention of buying into a motorcoach resort anywhere. Yet they kept feeling drawn to supersized Lot 157.

The visit fell on Mike’s birthday—his 57th, and he was born in 1957. Call it fate, call it just a good fit, but the Colorado-based couple say there’s not a touch of buyer’s remorse as they spent their first summer in Northern Michigan.

“Neither of us had stepped foot in Michigan, except for changing planes in the Detroit airport. Colorado people tend to be snobs, thinking we have the best scenery in the world. We got a good lesson. This is phenomenal.”

The Ultimate in Customizability

At first glance, the lot itself was nothing to write home about, Mike says. But while it started as a blank canvas, covered with a few native plants and little else, it had limitless potential. At 11,600 square feet, it was also one of the largest in the park, an appealing quality to a couple who otherwise live on 21⁄2 acres in Denver and own a 500-acre tract else-where in the mountains. At Hearthside, they never felt cramped, the couple said, and saw the potential peace-inspiring value of the adjacent pond as well as the magic that park landscapers had elsewhere been able to create.

If they (or someone else) had dreamed it up, they added it. They built the Phase 5 bungalow, which at 22′ x 46′ feet allowed room not just for a professional quality kitchen, but also two bathrooms, a bedroom, a loft, and a large living and dining area with a massive projection TV. The large lot allowed room for a detached garage, a major plus given that one of Mike’s hobbies is classic car collecting.

They also spent considerable time thinking through how the landscaping would enhance their use of the space and were very happy with an outcome that includes beautiful colorful plantings throughout the property, as well as four water features. Within those, there are two waterfalls and a stream encircling the fire feature to create an island effect.

A pergola shelters the outdoor television, cooking area and bar. They even added a small fountain along the street side, behind a tree-lined privacy screen, as a sort of gift to others who might be strolling by. When the initial plan to landscape around an existing maple tree didn’t work, they saved the tree’s trunk, and a local crafts person carved it into a base for their powder room sink—a highlight for Mike, a wood-working hobbyist.

High-Tech Meets The Great Outdoors

The couple fully integrated technology into the design, too; electric roller blinds can be raised or lowered over the two full walls of windows; the TV screen drops down to cover the fireplace when it is not in use. They can control lighting, heat and other features from around the world, by phone. The work has paid off in a space that is perfect for entertaining, both Mike and Lisa say, and staying in place so long has allowed for new friendships to flourish.

They get out, too. Lisa says she loved visiting City Park Grill and seeing Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bar stool. And Michigan will be a base for exploring farther east. Their Colorado friends, originally in shock at the decision, are starting to understand.

“What I told friends is that this is an area where you can peel back the layers one at a time … We’re both lifelong residents of Colorado. Michigan is a new adventure for us. It’s a whole new chapter.”

The bungalow’s glass wall folds open to let the outside in. Indoor and outdoor spaces blend in the evening, too, where TV-watching from the stream-surrounded fire pit is a favorite evening activity. The striking interior includes colorful furnishings and paintings by a local artist. Hearthside customizes each bungalow and lot for fully integrated living. Kitchen and bath areas feature copper accents, the bath a custom-carved sink base.

If this sounds like the kind of luxury and customizability you’d like in your Class A home-away-from-home, click here for information, floor plans and images that are available in the amazing new Phase 5, here at Hearthside Grove!