House of Five Gables

Perched atop a sandy knoll and surrounded by the forested dunes that define Lake Michigan’s Eastern Shore, this 3,100 s.f. country home for Chicagoans is a modern reinterpretation of the farm structures that populate this rural region of Michigan.  Like a “push-me, pull-me” toy, two identical “barn”/blocks slide symmetrically forward bracketing the middle block that slides backward thus permitting maximum exterior exposures.  Three gables roof each block while two more matching gables terminate the cross axes.  The axial plan creates vistas from inside to out and vice versa.  The focal point of three primary axes is a fireplace — the hearth, symbolic of home while the verso view is into the hinterland.

Sited amidst five deeply wooded acres, the home’s fenestration patterns have an important function in lightening the interior.  The same windows that are combined in transparent grids on the ground floor act as single monitors on the upper level to capture the sunny days that are less frequent here in the lee of the Great Lake. Inside the spare luminous spaces lusty natural materials (local riverbed stones and hickory wood floors) create a warm counterpoint to the abstraction of cool dematerialized white walls. Minimalist furnishings contribute to feelings of serenity and essentiality.

Practical industrial materials reinforce the Midwestern rural aesthetic.  Clad in vertical tongue and groove cedar siding, the “barns” are painted not-the-typical barn-red, but a bright pure red that simply says, “I’m not a slave to historical precedent. I’m just giving it an ironic nod”.  Standing seam galvanized steel roofs shed melting snow safely held by snow guards.  Aluminum clad windows and woven wire stair rails and deck enclosures add to the maintenance-free industrial format.  These taut compilations of archetypal “barns” become the culmination of a city dweller's dream — a tranquil forest retreat far from the maddening crowd.