Inserted into the back of the high sand dunes that define Lake Michigan’s southeastern shore, this 5,000 square foot country home for a Chicago family rises 3-½ stories on the street façade to satisfy a program that specified on a sixty foot wide lot a five bedroom house with all rooms lake facing.
DNR dictated rear yard setbacks from the face of the primary dune and five foot side yard setbacks from the county set the perimeters. By burying slightly over 50% of the lowest level, the architect was able to fulfill the zoning requirements for a 2-½ story structure, its configuration on the lake façade. The cross-gabled stair tower that forms the center of the tripartite front façade is offset half a story from the body of the house to mitigate the steep grade change.
Flanking the tower two single-car garages are separated and set back to minimalize their street presence while maximizing a central green sward. This is a modern reiteration of the Midwestern rural vernacular. Sears Roebuck pattern book cottages originated in communities such as this one along the lakeshore while their counterpart farmsteads filled inland acreage. All were built of native wood. Some expressed their idiosyncrasies, as does this version.
Like a barn, this gabled structure is clad in vertical tongue-and-groove cedar siding. Unlike its antecedents it is painted marine blue, an ironic nod to its lake front setting and a break with precedent. The white standing-seam roof, clad windows and steel railings while practical materials for its site also reinforce its navyesque persona. Square awning windows used in gridded combinations or separately enliven the facades and fast-forward the house into the Twenty-first Century.