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Modern House on the Prairie

In Michigan City, classic ideas find crisp new expression in up-to-the-minute glass and cedar

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Because the back of the house faces the woods, the homeowners rarely need to draw curtains. Photo Gallery »

 

SIZE: 2,700 sq. ft.
TYPE: Single-family
LOCATION: Michigan City, Indiana

When Jim and Sara Coffou decided three years ago to build a home on the two-acre plot of land they’d bought in Michigan City, Indiana, their motivation was not long walks through the countryside. “We’re not nature people,” Jim says flatly. “We were in it for the house.” Both lifelong architecture, design, and modern-art buffs, the couple had always wanted to build their own modern house—and they’d envisioned it standing alone on a prairie, surrounded by open land. A sort of Farnsworth House, denuded of its protective forest.

After a few weeks of searching for just the right architect, the Coffous went with Brad Lynch, of Brininstool + Lynch, falling for his style “hook, line, and sinker,” says Jim. On the firm’s Web site, the couple saw a house located in Peru, Illinois, with the same sort of wood-slatted “rain screen” that now makes up the façade of their home. Lynch came up with this concept years ago while driving through the countryside and observing old barns and corn cribs, many of them clad in horizontal wood siding. He created his own version of this look out of slats of red cedar, giving typical modernist structures a hint of country.

But the screen on the Indiana house is not just an homage to agrarian architecture. It serves two practical functions. The first is that it gives the façade of the home, which can be seen from the road, a sheath of privacy. The second is that the open slats that extend over the enclosed porch temper the wind that comes in off Lake Michigan. As for tempering those Midwest mosquitoes, the open slats are backed with an insect screen.

 

Photography: Christopher Barrett/Hedrich Blessing

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