Take an inside look at the architecture of a beautiful lakefront home design and build. From rebuilding the bluff to framing the view to defining spaces, the architecture team made very conscious choices on color palette, symmetry, compression, hardscaping, materials and sightlines to deliver on the vision of the Highland Park homeowners.
I’m Scott Simpson with Scott Simpson Design Build. We’re nearing the completion on the job here in Highland Park on the lakefront for this wonderful client moving from Michigan to what will be a great family home for them.
Clients are going to move in next week, but we always like to, at this time in the job, sort of take stock of what we were trying to do, did we accomplish it and how did it turn out?
It’s a super unique site on Lake Michigan with seventy-five feet of private beach frontage, which is spectacular, and it’s a relatively narrow lot, so we had to be very, very clear about what our program was and how we were going to organize the spaces inside so that we would take advantage of the beautiful views.
The other thing that’s really interesting about this space is the way the staircase works within the entry hall space. It comes up and goes around you, over your head and then continues up again – gives us this feeling of compression – where you come in the door and as soon as you get passed this landing, everything opens up to you again. There’s a beautiful chandelier. You can see the views of the lake and this notion of compression at the front door is nothing new. It’s robbed from Frank Lloyd Wright. So you’re saying that this low ceiling here would be called “compression”? It’s not “low ceiling?” No, cause “low ceiling” sounds bad. It’s compression.
You almost have this infinite space feeling up, because it’s a tall ceiling and an infinite view looking out, because all you see is lake. There’s nothing blocking your sightlines here. All you have is horizon. You get a sense of what the house is but you’re in a space that still just feels right-sized.
So, the windows that we have on the house, as you can see, they’re a fixed transom above a casement, and the lower casement window doesn’t have any muntins or any divisions in it. It’s just a nice big sheet of glass. We actually set the height of that casement and the height of the transom, so that when they stood in those rooms based on their height, and they’re pretty tall, that they wouldn’t have anything impeding their view.
You’ll see on the first floor on the porch area. We’ve got some stone, here, that was sourced in Wisconsin. There’s actually a color palette here that was very conscious. We’ve got a standing-seam metal roof and the gutters and downspouts are the same material that match that color as well. We’ve got cedar shakes in different sizes and different patterns. You’ll see, up in the gables, we’ve got a diamond pattern.
So, I’m standing in the Family Room – beautiful Lake behind – but when I’m over here, I’m also now standing in the Dining Room and beyond me is the Kitchen. The way the owner wanted to use this space was to have one, big great open space. So, when we have big spaces like this, we want to make sure that you feel as though there is a distinct space for a kitchen, there’s a distinct space for dining and there’s also a distinct space for family and we do that by using trim. So, there’s a beam that bisects this door, right here, and that separates family space from dining space, and we also further sort of articulate what’s happening architecturally by adding additional beams. The beams that you see in the ceiling here create a sense of symmetry on a wall that actually is asymmetrical, and it’s always the situation of how do you handle the TV and the fireplace? We want to make sure that you’re still feeling like the spaces are distinct, even though we’re in a giant, wide-open place.
An interesting thing happened during a construction site meeting. The owner was standing here and we had, sort of, rough framed in where the shower was going to be and she stood and said, “I want to take a shower and watch the lake” – and we made a field change to expand and open this corner up. That’s part of the fun of taking design through construction is this opportunity to make changes, so that the house really becomes what an owner envisions and challenges me to think differently about the space. I had it in my mind on how it’s supposed to be and the way it turned out is ten times better.
The backyard, when we first arrived at the property, was split right down the middle. One half was about five feet taller than the other half, and the backyard full of bushes. You could not see the backyard, let alone see the lake. We knew the lake was here cause we could hear it. This bluff was full of trees that they thinned out. It actually is going to help the life of the bluff, too, letting sunlight down to the plants that need to add structure to the Bluff.
We have a platform here that will load them onto their funicular, which will help them get down to the beach.
We’ve got a fire pit here done by our landscaper Midwest Arbor, who is fantastic and there’s elements of this as well as the patio that help tie into the house, as well. The stone for the walls matches the stone on the front of the house. The stone on the fireplace matches the front of the house – all consciously thought of in team with Midwest Arbor and the landscaper and the homeowner, as well.
In order to move the project forward and expedite the construction schedule, not only did we get to work as quickly as possible in the backyard and kinda move our way out – but one of the other things that we did was we brought in a crane to lift the soil boring equipment over the existing house so that we could get those things moving forward. It helped expedite the project by 3 or 4 weeks.
It was important for our clients who are coming from Michigan, and relocating here to bring a little bit of Michigan with them. This tile is actually comprised of five different colorways. It’s handmade by a company called Pewabic in Michigan. The owner and I stood and rearranged tile by tile by tile until we got it to be just perfect.
So, right off the entry hall we’ve created this little jewel box of a room that is the owner’s bar. We have built-in refrigeration, glass cabinets for storage and display. We’ve created a big accent wall here that has specialty lighting. While it’s small in scale, it’s big on personality and we painted the cabinets the trim, the wall, even the ceiling, all the same really beautiful charcoal blue. And that, combined with the beautiful quartz counter, just gives the space a moody personality a little bit of a darker space compared to the rest of the house, which is really just neutral.
Also part of what makes this house special, too, is the fact that we’ve got an elevator that goes from the basement, first floor, second floor. Not only is it easy to move things up and down the stairs, but they can live here forever.
One of the things that I love the most in architecture is finding ways to make spaces feel harmonious. And for me the easiest way to do that and what feels the best to me is symmetry – when you have things on one side being the same as what you see on the other.
It’s exciting for us to see everything that we dreamt up together during design actually come to fruition. It’s not just about the finishes or the lighting or all of those things that are beautiful. It’s about the actual construction of the space and making sure that everything that the owner was hoping to achieve has been achieved.
This is their house now and we want it to be their house, but, at the same time, we’ve really owned it for the last year and it’s hard to give up. Yeah. It’s the emotional ownership. And, so, for probably the last month or so, I’ve been making a little space to let them in. I don’t like it, but I have.