A Short Drive from Chicago
The Heister cabin.
By Megan McKinney
When Mark Heister “retired” from his pedestal as Chicago’s premier fashion designer in 2009, decades before the expected age, he left clients in near tears. Heister was not merely a Chicago favorite; his designs were sold in fine specialty stores internationally and featured in such American publications as Town & Country, Harper’s Bazaar and Women’s Wear Daily. Mark Heister designs were—and are—classics. Therefore, many of those devastated ladies—who number some of the chicest in town and around the world—are still wearing their vintage treasures. The Heister “eye” is that sure.
Furthermore, Linda Heister, Mark’s wife and muse, unquestionably one of the best-dressed women in Chicago, shares his impeccable taste and worked closely with him during the years the Heister label reigned at the Apparel Center.
Twenty-five years ago, when the Heisters were seeking a weekend refuge from their glamorous but exhausting business, they discovered this circa 1932 log cabin in Michiana, Michigan.
According to Linda, “This Harbor Country village is 70 miles from downtown Chicago but a world away from city stress; it offers fresh clean air, peace, quiet, beach, restaurants, antiquing, rejuvenation, magic and is only a little over an hour’s drive from town. Located in a canopy of 100-year-old oak trees, the birds sing and the waves of Lake Michigan whisper a peaceful recipe for complete relaxation. On a clear day you can see the city of Chicago from the beach.”
The Heisters bought the romantic log cabin in the early 1990s and spent weekends hunting authentic antiques to furnish it. They limited purchases to those from the between-the-wars period, including 1920s flatware on the table at mealtime. The result is a charming time capsule—with modern amenities. One of the first items purchased was a 1930 Avalon gas stove, which Mark restored piece by piece.
The second purchase was a buffalo head for above the fieldstone fireplace (for a house located in the city of New Buffalo). The cabin is filled with many collections, including hickory furniture, taxidermy reminiscent of the great Adirondack cabins in the east, arts and crafts art pottery, graniteware, dinnerware, linens, Indian blankets, interesting rugs and cast iron…and, yes, they actually use it all.
The cabin was the first built by Bill Jasch, developer of Michiana. At the time the area was all forest on the lake and Jasch envisioned nothing but rustic log cabins nestled in the woods. The Heisters’ mission was to preserve the original concept of this historic prototype, which has become known as the “Michiana Log.” Located 200 steps from Lake Michigan, it is built on a field stone foundation and surrounded by rhododendrons and lush greenery. The property boasts wraparound porches that create a tree house hideaway feeling.
The front porch.
Featured last month in The New York Times, the house was also the subject of stories in the October 2012 Country Living Magazine and October 2010 Midwest Living Magazine.
The great room.
Among the vintage features persevered in the great room are its trussed, vaulted ceiling and curtains made from Hudson’s Bay blankets. Other period detailing throughout the cabin includes pine floors and—lining the walls—marvelous wood paneling, which has acquired a deep patina through its 85 years.
The back porch.
Sleeping options expand with need. In addition to two formal bedrooms and a den with a built-in sofa, the above L-shaped sleeping porch is a continuous stretch of screened windows. It is also home to a wood stove.
Guest bedroom with French doors to the long L-shaped back porch.
The den easily converts into another bedroom.
The charming country kitchen.
The lower level includes a full bathroom and an additional sink for potting, with a door opening directly to the outside grounds.
The surrounding property is both inviting and restful after a week in the hurly-burly of the city.
An Adirondack cabin would not be complete without its namesake chairs.
The cabin and its surroundings are—like Mark Heister fashion designs—classic. And they rapidly transport those within the space to a gentler, less hectic time.
After selling their Gold Coast apartment, a duplex, and acquiring a lovely house outside of town, the Heisters no longer require the tranquility the charming cabin brought to their previously hectic lives each weekend.
The peaceful property seen above is now on the market in move-in condition. Everything is included with the sale—period furnishings, collections, even the buffalo head, bed linens and silver flatware—all in the impeccable Heister taste.
Editors’ Note: We at Classic Chicago were attracted to this extraordinary property in early April through an article in The New York Times. Here is the link: www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/realestate/700000-homes-washington-pennsylvania-michigan.html.
Robert F. Carl