Explore this enchanting mushroom house in Northern Michigan

Hobbit-style home located in Charlevoix

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Michael Seitz

The Mushroom House in Charlevoix

CHARLEVOIX, Mich. – A man from South Africa fell in love with the structure of a stone house in Northern Michigan and has since created and reimagined an inviting and nurturing home anyone can visit throughout the year.

The house is known as a hobbit and/or mushroom house but goes by the Thatch House. Michael Seitz, 56, used to visit Charlevoix with his ex-wife’s family, and he told me that he fell in love with the area.

'I used to go up there for the summers just for a week.'

'It was on one of the drives just to go and look at the deer and the houses that I saw this, I called it the ugly duckling, this house standing there.'

The home he bought has been rebranded to be known as the mushroom house, which Earl Young, a Michigan native, initially designed.

“It was the first home of Earl Young when he got married. He lived in it and basically had it commissioned,” said Seitz. “Young studied architecture for about a year and then dropped out of school, where he then became a realtor property developer. This was his first house, and he had it built, and he needed to do it at a reasonable cost.”

Seitz said he learned much about Young and his style through the Michigan native’s family.

Right off the bat, Seitz made it clear to address that Young, despite being a legend, was not a romantic guy and feels as if Young’s wife Irene deserves a lot more credit as she was the artist. “She was the detail person,” explained Seitz.

But time has come and gone since the Young family lived in the stone house. It started to evolve, looking like it came straight out of a Hobbit movie.

“The house was designed by an architect, but I am the designer and built it from the inside out,” said Seitz.

Seitz studied mechanical engineering but stated his style is one of a kindred spirit. “I like to build. I guess it’s a little bit like being a painter, where you paint as a hobby rather than as a career. I don’t think I’d want to be a career architect. I would love to design more but more out of passion.”

The stones that the house is made up of are from Castle Farms, about four miles from the home. The house was built by stone masons and was completed in 1920. Seitz bought the house in 2013 for under $300,000 after it was on the market for eight years. “So I literally tore everything out of the house, including the basement floor. Totally start from the basement up, would stabilize everything. Put a new foundation, stabilizers in everything, and rebuilt it from the basement to the top. Completely new floor plans, everything to what it is today, and put on the roof.”

Seitz bought the house directly from the Young family. “It was a basic little house design, and it was Earl Young’s first house when he was in his early twenties. He hadn’t developed the style or anything at that stage.”

The house has beautiful stone walls, but one of the main attractions of the Thatch house is the roof. The hobbit-style roof is made out of a material that is very well insulated. Phragmites are a common martial found in homes in England, Scotland, the Netherlands, and Germany. Seitz stated that the reed material had been used on houses for over 5,000 years. It took five months, but the roof of the Thatch house was woven by hand. The reed can stay intact for at least 50 years.

Seitz says the products and the labor used to renovate and reimage the former Young house are all local. Everything is claimed to be handmade. “I love using local material, local people. It just makes more sense.”

So why is the house called the mushroom house?

Seitz said that author Mike Barton coined the term. “This was before I built my house that really looked like a mushroom, and that house [in Charlevoix] is actually for sale at the moment. Once the Thatch house became this, you know, very large, very signature property, the whole mushroom houses thing just took off.”

'I don't want to pretend to be an Earl Young house. I don't need to, I have my own style. It's slightly different. It's a little bit like saying Mozart is identical to Beethoven, right?'

This isn’t the first house that Seitz has designed. He states that he has one in the Czech Republic and another in South Africa and is currently in the works of another home right outside Houston, Texas.

“My first house, that house I designed and built, I was 25 years old, and I built it in the hills of Quellerina in South Africa. I sold it a couple of years later when I came to the United States. I don’t own that house anymore, but I still own the house in the Czech Republic, and my ex-wife lives in that. Near that house is an old castle. It’s a very famous medieval castle known as the Křivoklát Castle.”

Seitz came to the United States 25 years ago and is originally from South Africa. Naturally, I asked him about Rodriquez, and the now Texas resident was surprised and impressed that the Detroit singer was still around. He compared his story with the Thatch house to Rodriquez’s music career.

“The Rodriguez story is an interesting parallel to my experience in Charlevoix and the Thatch house. I am here, you know what they believe is an oil man from Texas, but I am not. The people here were off-put by that. ‘Seitz comes into this house and destroys the Earl Young masterpiece’ Yet, it wasn’t a masterpiece. Young didn’t like the house. He had it built for him when he was 20-something years old. But similar to Rodriguez where the story was so twisted up, and then there’s actually a different story just like this house.”

The house is available for rent to the general public. The price ranges between $1,100-$1,600 on weeknights and $1,300-$1,900 on weekends. Click here to see available dates.