Tish fulfillment was the idea when the retired Chicago owners of a New Buffalo weekend house situated on a bluff overlooking LakeÂ Michigan decided to demolish the vacation home they’ve owned for more than 20 years and build anew. In addition to adding more space for visiting friends and family, the couple wanted a chef’s kitchen with dramatic lake views for the wife and a soundproof music studio for the husband, who has been jamming with the same rock-and-roll band for more than five decades. “The Beatles were their inspiration to become a band in 1965,” the wife says. “Over the years at our parties, they would play in the backyard.”
At the recommendation of their landscape architect, Douglas Hoerr–who was the one to suggest a rebuild–the couple commissioned architect Kathryn Quinn to design their new abode. With builder Greg Kaiser leading the construction, Quinn conceived a larger cedar-shingle home with brick and stone accents. “This style is less authoritarian in its architectural elements than others,” she explains. “It has a little more ad hoc-ism, so there can be funky bay and asymmetrical windows, for instance, rather than everything rigorously the same, as you find in classical architecture.”
In other words, it’s a little more relaxed–a word that describes the property upon sight. Native trees screen the neighbors, while the evergreens that flank the entrance to the motor court act “like two arms welcoming you,” Hoerr describes. Lining the front of the house, a brick knee wall defines an outdoor foyer landscaped with perennials, flowering trees and naturalistic shrubs. “We created a sense of place the minute you enter the driveway,” the landscape architect says. “It’s more personal and intimate than most front yards.”
The sense of intimacy carries into the interior, where stained-wood paneling defines the front foyer and the stairway. Quinn placed the latter element not in the center of the home, as might be expected, but instead along a bank of leaded-glass windows overlooking the lush plants and vibrant flowers in the front garden. A long hallway connects the kitchen, on one side of the home, to the wing containing the master suite, on the opposite end, and Quinn made sure spaces flow seamlessly from one to another, sometimes linking in unexpected ways. “There’s always another view, another exit, another perspective,” the architect says. The dining room, for instance, has a leaded-glass window that offers a view to the main corridor and connects to the living room through a double-sided fireplace.
To personalize rooms, ceiling treatments give each space its own unique character. In the kitchen–ideal for a chef, as the wife desired, with appliances like a Wolf range and a Sub-Zero refrigerator–painted tongue-in-groove ceiling paneling complements the wall color and highlights the custom white cabinetry. Designer Andrew Noha, who has worked with the couple on four other projects, brought in quartzite countertops and a ceramic-tile backsplash laid in a subway style. An iron chandelier ties in with yet another leaded-glass window in the interior, which offers a glimpse of the stairway. “You see a lot of different elements at the same time in this space, so we were very conscious of that when selecting color and light fixtures,” Noha says. “This way, it all flows.” Fulfilling the wife’s request for a connection to the outdoors, Quinn designed the kitchen to lead directly to a terrace as well as a screened-in porch. “It’s very tied to the outside and has huge views of the lake,” she says.
As for the husband, his coveted space is his music studio, which Quinn placed on the lower level. “We covered one wall of the room with the house brick–a recall to their ‘garage band’ days but, more importantly, for its acoustical merits,” she explains. “The floor is elevated above the concrete slab so all their wiring can run under the floor to the control room, so no tripping hazards will occur.” One wall of the room is angled, also for acoustical properties.
Within these new spaces are familiarities, as Noha repurposed many of his clients’ furnishings. A wine-tasting table and chairs from the game room in the former house, for example, have been pulled into the breakfast area, where new William Morris-inspired draperies add color and interest. Likewise, a mohair-covered sofa, two chairs and a cocktail table in the master suite were recruited from another residence. “The clients like a warm house, so we recombined things,” Noha says. “The structure is very architectural, and it makes a statement on its own.” One way it does this is through built-in cabinetry, which appears in spaces such as the living room, dining room and master bedroom. “It extends the design spirit of the residence while still allowing for the homeowners’ existing furniture within the framework,” Quinn says. “Everything is fairly seamless; it’s an ensemble.”
To celebrate the end of the project, the owners hosted a party for the entire team who helped to bring their dream home to life, complete with live music by the husband and his band. Although often the site of large family gatherings, the house functions equally well when it’s just the two of them. “At night, we hang out by one of the fireplaces, and in the summer and fall we just love the screened-in porch off the kitchen,” the wife says. “We can watch the sunrise from our home in Chicago, then drive here to watch the sunset in our backyard in Michigan on the same day. Life is good beyond belief.”