The Easy Life in Linwood Park

Maintenance-free living gives the Schlachter family more time to enjoy their Vermilion, Ohio, cottage. 

Melanie Schlachter first came to Linwood Park as a 6-year-old in the mid-1980s, after a trying family vacation in Disney World with three very young children. “After that trip, my parents decided, ‘Never again!’”

The next summer her family scored a two-week rental in the Vermilion, Ohio, gated lakeside community of Linwood Park — a 137-year-old retreat with approximately 150 cottages, as well as tennis, basketball and shuffleboard courts, soccer fields, a baseball diamond, even an old-fashioned candy store called The Stand. And it was all located a quick 45-minute drive from their suburban-Cleveland home. 

“After that, my parents bought the cottage that they own now,” Melanie says.

History repeated itself in 2017 when Melanie and her husband, Christian, who live in Chicago, bought the 1920 cottage next to her parents’ place from a longtime family friend as both a getaway for themselves and their two children and a rental property.

The couple knew their six-bedroom, 1½-bath acquisition needed a major renovation. But they weren’t prepared for what Jess Oster of suburban-Cleveland-based Oster Services found after he and his team began working on it. The cinderblock piers on which the cottage was built had sunk into the sandy soil over time, lowering the wooden floor joists to a mere 8 or 9 inches above the ground and exposing them to moisture that rotted them beyond repair.

The remodeling project immediately became a complete nine-month rebuild based on the cottage’s original footprint. The result, which blends seamlessly with its neighboring structures, ensured that the Schlachters wouldn’t be saddled with century-home upkeep.

 “Growing up, spring and fall, my parents were always busy with a project — and they loved that,” Melanie says. “But my husband and I didn’t want projects. We wanted to do it once. We wanted to relax, kick our feet up, enjoy when we were out there and not have to worry about anything.” 

The rebuild called for removing a wall between the living area and screened-in porch; opening up the kitchen; adding a second full bath, pantry and compact laundry; expanding the second-story half-bath; and crowning the cottage with a third-floor bonus room where son Jack, 13, and daughter Clara, 11, can do puzzles or watch movies on rainy days. 
The exterior was finished in white vinyl siding like that on most of the other Linwood Park cottages. But the couple took Jess and wife Alexis’s suggestions to cover the interior front-porch walls with shiplap and incorporate the Southern tradition of painting the porch ceiling a light blue.

 “Some say it’s to ward off bad spirits, some say it keeps bugs away,” Melanie says. “For us, it just resonated. … It kind of differentiates the space, makes it pop a little bit.”

 Inside, Melanie ordered the living spaces painted a pale gray and, along with her husband, began choosing durable, easy-care finishes that honored the style and period in which the original cottage was built. The Osters recommended flooring the entire place in luxury vinyl tile — a material that stands up to wet, sandy feet and climate changes that occur in an unoccupied structure that isn’t sufficiently heated or cooled — instead of the hardwood the Schlachters were considering. The indoor/outdoor rugs Melanie ordered online from Target are equally practical: She can hose them off whenever necessary.

 “In some cases, I bought two of the same rug so if, down the road, we need to swap out,” she adds. “It’s a rental. I expect some of that wear and tear.”

In the kitchen, contractors sided the island in the same shiplap selected for the porch and illuminated it with a pair of brushed-nickel pendants. A white subway-tile backsplash provides a foil for honed black granite countertops. Vintage touches include period-inspired brushed-nickel cabinetry hardware and an Edison-bulb light fixture over the white farmhouse sink.

Similarly, the bathrooms combined modern amenities with early 20th-century charm. A standout is the Alape-brand bucket sink, an interpretation of an old-fashioned wall-mounted utility sink, in the mud-room bathroom. The shower and tub/bath combo walls were finished with custom fiberglass panels by AMI that provide the look of white subway tile without the grout-line maintenance. Melanie notes that the vanity in the second-floor bath boasts a quartzite countertop.

 “It’s even more durable, supposedly, than granite and some other natural-stone surfaces,” Melanie says. “I didn’t want to have to worry if somebody put a hot curling iron or flatiron down that was going to leave a mark.”  

The Schlachters furnished the six bedrooms, all painted white and hung with white IKEA drapery panels, with the expectation of hosting Melanie’s two married siblings and Christian’s mother all at the same time. The beds sport duvets with easy-to-launder covers, part of a mix-and-match linen stockpile Melanie purchased from the likes of Home Goods and Overstock.

Jack and Clara’s rooms each sleep four in pairs of bunkbeds ordered from Wayfair. “Some bunkbeds only accommodate a couple hundred pounds total,” Melanie observes. “Each set of [these] bunks accommodate 500 pounds. So if you absolutely had to have an adult in the beds, you’re not going to break them.” 

The Schlachters’ cottage may be new, but they live in it as one imagines generations of residents did before them. Melanie describes a typical day that includes a trip to the beach, one or more Linwood Park activities like tennis, ping-pong and corn hole, and ice cream at The Stand or the Dairy Dot across the street from the community.

“Every single day we go and sit at the bluff and watch the sun set,” she adds. “It’s just tradition.”

Expert Tips for Maintenance-Free Living

If there’s one thing everyone’s learned after spending too much of the past year at home, it’s that comfort reigns.

“People want to be cozy, but they want it to look good,” says Julianne Lee, owner of Catawba Interiors. “Low maintenance definitely is a trend in and of itself.”

Luxury vinyl flooring is a synthetic tile that, thanks to modern printing advances, can be made to look like anything, from hardwood to marble. Plus it’s durable and water-resistant.

“It’s become so popular, we include it standard for kitchens, laundry rooms and bathrooms in our homes,” says Jennifer Neese of Wayne Homes. “It’s taken off, and, with more manufacturing and competition, it’s really come down in price.”

Clare Opfer of S&H Blinds says vinyl flooring has overtaken the market — to the point where consumers find an almost overwhelming amount of choices. “There’s so much out on the market that we can pretty much find what you need.”

Neese noted that another change in Wayne Homes’ offerings is that exterior doors are now fiberglass instead of steel — lower-maintenance as well as better insulated.
Doors and windows are now expected to go beyond functional toward ease of use, Opfer says. “Motorization and automation are really popular” for blinds and windows, she says. “The busier we get, the more we rely on Alexa or Google Home.”

Another interior design trend to maximize comfort is mixing patterns and textures, from throw rugs to pillows to furniture like ottomans.
Once again, durability is key.

“Everyone wants the performance fabric,” Lee says, “things that can be washed with soap and water.”