LUDINGTON, MI – There is no shortage of history-meets-modern when it comes to spots around this Lake Michigan beach town. The latest example of this is wrapped in a luxurious touch – the newly opened Carriage House Suites, tucked next to the historic Cartier Mansion B&B.
Owners Jenna and Chris Simpler began drawing up plans to renovate the large brick former carriage house shortly after they purchased the working bed-and-breakfast operation last fall. With six guest rooms in the mansion, they knew they wanted to add rooms while giving the new spaces a more relaxed feel. The property’s former stable and carriage house is being renovated into four suites. These pet-friendly spaces were designed to straddle the line between vintage touches and modern comforts. Heated bathroom floors and Smart TVs await guests in suites that incorporate the old stable wall dividers – connecting with an era when the original owners kept horses, a cow and one of the area’s first electric cars, circa 1917, under that roof.
“I think people will really enjoy this space,” said Jenna Simpler. “From the designs elements – a lot of the wood and metal features – the theme we’re using throughout is keeping history with a modern touch.”
The new spaces are available for reservations this summer. They include:
· The second-floor Hayloft Suite #2 offers space for up to four people, and features a king-size bed as well as a trundle bed with two full-size mattresses.
· The main-floor Stable Suite boasts many of the working Carriage House’s original details, including the hay feeder, water trough and the stable wall dividers, which now are used to separate the suite’s sleeping and sitting areas. The original horse stalls have been transformed into a bedroom and seating area, and the cow stall is now a bathroom. Original woodwork and doors have been refurbished.
For more details on each of the four new suites, pricing and online reservation information, check the B&B’s website here.
Taking the B&B baton handoff for this 1905 estate was not an impulse buy for the Simplers. It was a very deliberate landing, propelled by their 20 years in the hospitality industry that has seen them touch down in places like The Netherlands, Chicago and out East.
“We had been looking for property for several years, and a lot of our attention was on the Mid-Atlantic region,” Chris Simpler said. “But we just didn’t feel at home there.” Like a lot of people, weathering the pandemic made them pinpoint what they really wanted. “We wanted to have our own project and not be part of something bigger. We also wanted to be closer to the people that we care about.”
Their search area was an upper Midwest oval from Missouri to Michigan. Jenna Simpler is a Michigan native, so zeroing in on The Mitten State was a logical next step. The Lake Michigan town of Ludington not only captured their attention, but it quickly had their hearts as well. Its stellar state park, popular city beaches and maritime history blend with a walkable downtown district with galleries, breweries and several restaurants.
“People love this area and they are passionate about it,” Jenna Simpler said. “There is no outsider feel here. It’s like coming back home after being gone for 20 years.”
“STAY ON PURPOSE, MAKE YOUR MARK”
When Warren and Kate Cartier had their Neoclassical mansion built from 1903 to 1905, the couple who’d made their fortune in lumber, utilities and the banking industry designed a three-story brick home with a grand staircase, conservatory and an exterior trimmed with Bedford limestone, according to an account of the family’s history by MyNorth. They were progressive when it came to home design, mixing gas and electric and giving each room its own form of temperature control.
In this way, the Simplers are forward-looking when it comes to the property, too. They embrace the vintage B&B lifestyle, but have added eco-friendly and high-tech touches. They boast the first and only electric vehicle charging station in downtown Ludington, Chris Simpler said.
They also have found a unique way to allow their guests to give back and feel like a real part of the Ludington community, if only for a few days. They invite guests to volunteer a few hours at one of three “planned experiences” Cartier Manson can help arrange with a community partner. These include:
- Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association, which cares for four area lighthouses
- Habitat for Humanity of Mason County
- Lakeshore Food Club, which runs a year-round food pantry
In addition, each Cartier Mansion and Carriage House reservation includes a $2 guest experience fee that is collected and split among local nonprofits.
Chris Simpler said this kind of “voluntourism” has been the couple’s vision for years. They think the hedonistic attitudes of comparing the size of proffered breakfasts and the length of wine lists while on vacation is giving way to people who want to connect with a place, even while they’re having fun.
“The future of travel is more hands-on,” he said. “I think people want to have a meaningful engagement with the places they go.
“If you stay at 10 B&Bs, they all start blending together. But if you actually get to help paint a lighthouse, or clean up marshland, those are the kinds of things that we know are going to stick out in their memory.”
Headed to Ludington? Here are more travel tips for that area:
Beaches, trails, waterfront eats make Ludington the ‘front door to Up North’
How to spend a Michigan’s Best summer day in Ludington
Visit this alpaca farm in Northern Michigan