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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The Arclinea kitchen is finished in the same red cedar that lines the seating nook across from the fireplace (below). Photo Gallery »
Inside, the L-shaped house is divided into two distinct parts: public and private. The long side of the L contains the kitchen and dining/living area, as well as the enclosed porch, which is separated from the indoor space by retractable glass doors that can be fully opened in the summer, welcoming that perfectly honed breeze inside. The south wall is made up almost entirely of floor-to-ceiling windows, 60 percent of which are operable, allowing virtually the entire living area to be open to the outdoors in good weather.
The glass has another purpose. “In wintertime, the sun hits the concrete floor, so we’re using a passive solar technique to supplement the radiant heating system in the floor,” says Lynch. Conversely, he designed an overhang on the exterior of that wall so that the summer sun doesn’t bake.
The south side of the house also includes the short leg of the L, which contains three modest bedrooms and their respective baths —the private quarters. Connecting the two parts of the house is the entryway, which doubles as a hearth/reading nook. Odd, you might say, to have the fireplace here. And that was the Coffous’ first reaction, as well, until their architect made some convincing arguments.
“The house is about the view,” he says. “We didn’t want the fireplace to be a distraction. Oftentimes, the TV goes near the fireplace, and then it turns into: Are you watching TV? Are you looking at the fireplace? Or are you looking at the view? Everybody wants everything at once, but the reality is, to really enjoy the fireplace, it needed to be on its own.”
Lynch zeroed in on what his clients wanted: to be able to curl up with a good book near the fire. So he designed a red-cedar-clad recessed nook containing a built-in daybed across from a fireplace . . . in the hallway. Lynch can’t accept full credit for his unconventional solution; inglenooks are, after all, a centuries-old idea. “Frank Lloyd Wright used to do it in his older Prairie-school homes,” he says. “He’d isolate the fireplace with seating on both sides in an area off the main parlor. It’s taking that idea and modernizing it.”
The Coffous, who have two grown daughters, are now converts, too. “On chilly nights, all four of us cuddle there,” says Jim.
Photography: Christopher Barrett/Hedrich Blessing