Otis Harbor Springs north michigan midcentury lobby

Otis Harbor Springs Is a Love Letter to Northern Michigan

For Michiganians, going up north—where idyllic small towns are surrounded by the beauty and pristine shores of Lake Michigan—is a summer ritual. Those making the drive up this season will emerge in Harbor Springs to find Otis Harbor Springs, a thoughtfully restored midcentury hotel on the bluffs.

Originally settled in the 20th century by Chicago banker-turned-farmer Joseph E. Otis as the Birchwood Farm Estate, the farmland was transformed into an executive retreat in 1958 and eventually became the Birchwood Inn.

The historic property was renovated from top to bottom by Israel Hernandez and Ty Humpert, along with Daniel Caudill, former creative director of Shinola. Kenneth Blasingame, who worked on both the White House and Camp David, consulted on design of the lobby and the lounge.

“We wanted to create a space that honors the past and future of this historic land,” says Caudill. “The spirit and visual identity of Otis is grounded in a collection of experiences beginning in the 1950s and spanning to those of our present team, who are all local to the region.”

Inside Otis Harbor Springs

Otis Harbor Springs north michigan midcentury lobby

Upon entry, guests are welcomed by calming gray-blue hues reminiscent of the waters of Lake Michigan and vintage objects scoured from flea markets and antique stores.

At the center of the main lodge is the Fireplace Lounge, which transports guests back to the living rooms of the ’60s. The space features locally sourced vintage furnishings, oversized Parsons tables, and a restored tuxedo sofa. At the heart of the space is a marble-topped bar, treated to feel like leather and look like petrified wood, donned with a handpainted mural by Detroit artist Jennifer Haver.

Guestrooms at Otis Harbor Springs

The 31 guestrooms range from studios to spacious family suites with patio spaces overlooking a central courtyard.

Midcentury inspiration remains at the forefront of the room design, with a color palette that plays off the colors of the original bathroom tile—pinks, yellows, and blues offset with creamy off-whites and a deep, earthy ochre. This sets the canvas for custom beds, luxurious linens, Italian bedside lamps, and original art from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s.

Glass waterfall desks paired with vintage Knoll leather desk chairs add a layer of sophistication, while vintage butterfly chairs punctuate the space with playfulness.

Social spaces for guests and locals

Otis Harbor Springs north michigan midcentury bar

Communal spaces include the courtyard, which features outdoor seating, bocce ball, and stone fire pits. Set under a canopy of old growth trees and overlooking the neighboring farms, the Grove offers another beautiful outdoor seating area for gathering and programming.

“We’ve created this experience just as much for locals as for our out-of-town guests,” says Hernandez. “This is a very special place that has been part of the community for many decades, and we are honored to bring back this Northern Michigan mainstay for future generations.”

Otis Harbor Springs north michigan midcentury lobby

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