A perfect building site is worthy of the perfect home. I think that’s what architect Hank Louis (Gigaplex, Park City) accomplished with this house. It’s set in Wisconsin’s northwoods. With the design, Louis acknowledges the forest with the front cabin-like elevation. It looks out to a pristine lake, and he references it with the shingling and decks on the lakeside elevation.
To say that the lot is perfect doesn’t mean that I didn’t see challenges to the home’s design. The driving vision to the design was to connect the home to the lake, views, and forest. To do this he worked with the steep slope of the lot and sought to minimize sightlines to other homes and the road.
From the front, it looks like an unassuming cabin with a minimal vertical presence, a simple entrance, and a screened porch. But, with this home, there’s also a suggestion of something more: the board and battens on the exterior are oriented vertically instead of traditional horizontal application, the railings surrounding the porch off the kitchen are minimized, and the concrete has a horizontal pattern from the wooden forms. The horizontal lines root it visually to the land, similar to the works of the Prairie School.
The rear of the home, as seen down the slope toward the lake, features a
continuation of the roof shingles down the face, a treatment one sees often in coastal or lake homes. It is only from this view that one sees the lower level of the home.With so many windows, it’s obvious that this is the view side of the home, and there isn’t a room that hasn’t a view to the lake and abundant natural light, as well.
The main floor is a singular open plan interrupted only by a central fireplace. The living area end has cathedral-like views to the forest through windows reaching from the open-gabled roof to the floor. To the left is a window wall; the sliding glass disappears to connect the patio with to form one large entertainment area. With the window wall open, I could hear the loons calling as I made these photos.
Looking the other direction, one can see how the glass wall looks out to the lake. The fireplace unit is concrete and stone, created with wooden forms for a horizontal pattern and a naturalistic motif, the same method used outside. We will see it again in the lower level.
The soaring open ceiling extends uninterruptedly to the opposite end of the home.
On the opposite side of the fireplace unit is an intimate seating area by the hearth. Families often tell me that hearthside-seating areas are their most favorite and most well used parts of the home. The windows by the long dining table are carefully configured from table top up for views to the lake. The same vista can be enjoyed while working in the kitchen.
The screened porch occupies the far end of the home. Sitting at the table offers a sense of being in a tree house as it hovers over the forest and looks out to the lake. Here Hank Louis relies again on disappearing glass doors to connect the screened porch with the kitchen and dining areas, as you can see from the second photo. The technology of the windows efficiently insulates, as windows never have done in the past. This allows for creating architectural connections while extending enjoyment of the home seasonally even in the Great Lakes region.
While the upper level with its open plan can be considered the social space, the lower level is more private and where the bedrooms are found. Concrete is the most prevalent material, but the design manages to keep the space warm and inviting with the use of wood, high ceilings, wide hallways, and attention to scale and maintaining clean uncluttered lines.
This entry to the master bedroom seemed to me to be created for a person with a camera.
The materials and connections to the outdoors were both important to understanding the home, calling for the photographs to be taken both midday and in the evening. I used very little supplementary light. There were a multitude of great details that I am omitting in this quick tour.
A beautiful building site, and I couldn’t imagine a more perfect home. Kudos, also, to North Fork Builders of Montana, the contractor.
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