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A Hideaway on Secret Lake (Photos)

A North Kingstown cottage with a unique “Shaker meets Shanghi” style

So Rhode Island Magazine ·

What was once a tiny cottage is now a lovingly built home. From fun pops of color to one-of-a-kind woodwork, this labor of love has everything needed for lakeside living.

Like many Rhode Islanders, Michael Gloor hadn’t ever heard of the appropriately named Secret Lake neighborhood in North Kingstown. “I found it by accident. I moved up here from Wakefield and found this property serendipitously,” he says. But the cozy, one-time summer camp-style cottages that peppered the coastline weren’t all charming, especially the one Michael eyed as his future home. “It was definitely a shack, a falling down dump.” The home’s dilapidated condition was less of a challenge and more of an opportunity for Michael, an applauded custom furniture designer whose work has been featured on the HGTV television series Modern Masters.

Michael bought the home for a low price and lived there for a while before
mapping out a plan to make it more livable, more functional and more aesthetically pleasing. “I rebuilt the whole thing,” he says, explaining that he bumped out sections but for the most part, kept the original footprint intact.

Some years later, Michael met his now wife, Susan McGregor, and eventually moved into her home, renting out the Secret Lake cottage. After Susan’s children were raised, the couple began talking about Michael’s passion project and how they could transition his existing abode into a long-term home for the two of them.

“Seven years ago we started renovating it,” recalls Susan. “We had to work a lot with what was here. For planning purposes, you could no longer build out because we’re close to the water. We ended up having to go up instead of out, so it’s quirky in the sense we were working with what had been there.”

Though Michael is the craftsman, the couple collaborated on their home’s design goals for its third reincarnation. “We wanted to make the most of the view because it’s so fabulous. The living room walls are mostly glass. The top floor is kind of like a treehouse. Strictly speaking, it’s the master bedroom and bath.” The couple says the unique position of the house gives the illusion that it is just two floors because of the natural grade of the land, but in sum, the house has three floors. Because of various building limitations, this rendition is structurally independent of Michael’s original renovation, but the woodworker’s keen sense of design and diverse building experience has created a space that works harmoniously together.

“Everything in it he designed and built apart from the framing, which he actually helped with,” Susan says proudly. “All the woodwork he has done; it’s pretty much a reflection of all his work as an artist.”

“It’s a relief that it’s finished 99%,” Michael says with a laugh. “It’s still a bit of a work in progress.” Critical to smaller homes, Michael utilized “every nook and cranny” to create multifunctional spaces and adequate storage throughout. “It’s about 1,650 sq. ft. but if you walked in, you’d guess about 2,200 sq. ft. It feels much bigger than it actually is."

Though the kitchen is small, it’s big enough for Michael, who Susan says is the home’s chef, to indulge one of his other passions. But his favorite space is the living room, where natural light pours in and the surrounding tranquil landscape is unrivaled. “The room is ‘outside’ the original house,” Michael explains. “You’re looking out and the lake is right there.” Susan too, feels most at home in the space. “In the living room, you can sit there and look out and see the water, the trees and we watch the birds,” she says, “and the bedroom such a beautiful spot. The whole house is extraordinarily peaceful; almost any room has a view.”

Though Michael’s talent with woodworking from the creative to the functional is apparent throughout the home, Susan’s eye for décor and color is palpable. “We have very similar taste, which makes it easy,” she says. Though the interior aesthetic is a celebration of their surroundings, it combines with the unique architecture and the couple’s affinity for local artwork to create a cohesive vision without a defined genre. “It’s very eclectic, it’s not one thing,” Susan says. “I choose the colors. I’m not afraid of color; I like strong color, but we tried to complement the view so [the palette] is inspired by the trees and water.” They also designed the fireplace, a focal point in the main living space, together.

One of the areas the couple would like to further elevate is the exterior landscaping. They began this past spring by adding various greens and easy-maintenance shrubs with the hopes of extending the plantings in the future. The slightly elevated entry is canopied by the natural arch of a mature elm tree. The one-of-a-kind front door was crafted by hand by Michael. It features a stained glass panel, which is a copy of a panel from the door to Susan’s home in London when she lived there many years ago. “It pulls on my past,” she says lovingly. A little bridge leads to the main entry. “[Michael] calls it ‘Shaker meets the Orient.’”

Though the couple insists there’s still some work to be done on the home, all evidence is to the contrary. For this secluded home on Secret Lake, it’s clear the third time is the charm.

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