My mother and I purchased the historic Riverside Inn in 1997. Over the past 20 years, many ideas have been tossed around including moving the bar into the west porch dining room (as an example of one of the more dramatic ideas), but for the most part everyone wanted to keep the layout of the inn the same, recognizing updates to the 115 year-old space were inevitable.
We got our feet wet during a 2001 kitchen and bathroom renovation with Greg Shugart which was a complete remodel of the kitchen, many mechanical upgrades for the entire building, bringing the bathrooms up to code, and adding the basement with the wine room. These updates carried us for 16 years before we were forced to address the condition of the hardwood floors and eroding subfloors in the bar and dining room areas. Over the past 115 years, the original boards had been sanded to the point where structural integrity became questionable in some places and the bar itself was sinking. Total replacement was necessary and we figured given the amount of work required to replace the floor joists and hardwood flooring it made sense to tackle the entire first floor, with the exception of the already renovated kitchen and bathrooms, at the same time.
We considered the project in 2013 or 2014 but couldn’t get it off the ground as a result of timing issues. Then in 2015, Barbara Balongue began talking to us about her design company Balongue Design. We spoke on and off and brainstormed over cocktails at the bar but no concrete plans were made. In the late summer of 2016, I asked Barbara if she had time to do it the winter of 2017. She said sure, but then I didn’t hear from her and figured we were postponed again. Boy was I wrong. Barbara came in like a whirlwind and we had a beginning design in no time. We hired Maple Hill Builders, and the project was off– all in a matter of a few weeks.
Since we didn’t have everything completely ironed out prior to starting, we had a lot of decisions to make in a very short time. We started the project on January 20 and had to be finished by April 25 in order to open for the season on time. This was not a lot of time for what we had to accomplish! Plus, this is a 115 year old building! I knew something would come up. In 2001, when we were excavating for the basement, I received a call telling me I had to get to the inn immediately. As they excavated for the basement the structural integrity of the building started to fail. The building was going to come down in some places if we didn’t get a very large beam installed to shore it up. I knew that unforeseen issues were a very real possibility this time around as well. In 1902, things were built a little differently – as evidenced by the actual tree beams we found when we opened up the floor! (wood floor joist photo)
Although we got a late start, Barbara kept reassuring me that we could get it done. She has many contacts across the country who helped expedite many of the projects – including the custom banquette seating which happened to be done by our dear customer Phil Swy’s contract seating company (MTS Seating). Ironically, Barbara has worked with Phil’s firm for years, but never met him personally and they share the same summer town! Funny.
Looking back on the project, we feel very fortunate for the opportunity to work with Maple Hill Builders who did an outstanding job from start to finish and have continued to offer support and assistance in all the months following. We can’t say enough about what a pleasure they were and are to work with.
Other contractors that contributed to the success of this project include Buhr Electric who painstakingly wired the two dozen Edison bulb and Ball Jar pendants suspended from our reclaimed wood chandelier and all of our new lighting throughout, Creative Solutions Custom Painting who transformed our walls, MTS Seating for all the new bar stools and chairs, Twin Bay Glass who installed the stunning mirrored walls in the dining room so that no matter where our guests sit they have a good view, Cadillac Cut Stone who built our custom bar, Great Lakes Stainless for creating custom shelving above the bar, Brittany Mechanical for installing all of the plumbing, Royal Floor Covering for our smart new carpet and Main Street Gallery for all of the art on the walls (for sale, btw).
All in all, we couldn’t be more pleased with the way the renovation turned out. Barbara’s design concept was both refined and approachable and allowed us to update our space and our capacity while preserving the familiarity and friendliness we aim to provide. Her creativity and vision, the professionalism of all of our contractors and subcontractors, the support of the community and the hard work and dedication of our staff, who helped put everything put back together, all contributed to an outstanding end result and we can’t think of a better way to celebrate our 20 years here. Thank you all!
Please join us on September 16th from 11:30 for our 20 Year Celebration Open House featuring live music by Blind Dog Hank and a complimentary lunch buffet & don't forget to enter our GIVEAWAY for a chance to win a Cocktail Cruise on Lake Leelanau aboard the Rivergril followed by dinner for two! Hope to see you then!