Beauty and the Beach
A new house in Michigan makes a gentle impression in a dramatic landscape
Architect Laurence Booth, who designed this lakefront house, says he likes the way “its crisp rectilinear shape plays against the curvilinear dunes and the swaying pine trees.” Photo Gallery »
Talk about floating above the fray. Architect Laurence Booth designed this Michigan getaway home to cantilever out over a dune. The sand below it comes and goes as it pleases. “It’s like a platform,” says Booth, describing the 2,300-square-foot house he built for Irving Stenn and Judith Racht, who live in Lincoln Park. “The foundation is smaller than the house, so the sand shifts underneath.”
Booth’s plan captivated Stenn and Racht from the get-go. They didn’t want to just enjoy the spectacular view of lake, dune, and forest—they wanted to be engulfed by it. “I wanted the house to be hunkered down inside the landscape,” says Racht, who owns a contemporary art and objects gallery in Harbert, Michigan.
But getting from windswept lakeside plot to this elegant little compound (there’s also a guesthouse, reached via a romantic bridge over a sandy ravine) was a journey.
“We were at a marina in the city, watching the sailboats go out,” says Racht, “and I saw all the sails swooping, billowing out with the wind, and thought, We should do a swooping roof.” Booth took to the idea immediately. “Light hits the curved ceiling and you see it go from intense to fading out, so there’s change and variety,” he explains. “It’s pure theatre.”
Booth made sure the materials he used were performers, as well. “It’s a beach house,” he notes. “You’re going up there on weekends; you don’t want to have to paint and scrape.” His solution was a zinc-clad copper exterior and carefree aluminum-framed windows carefully scaled to promote a sense of intimacy. “It’s a friendly house but also tough as nails,” says Booth. Racht thinks he got it just right. “The metal and glass reflect the trees, the lake, the moon. It’s so beautiful to look up at the house from the beach.”
Once Booth’s work was done, Racht filled the rooms with some heady mid-century furniture—a Hans Wegner dining table, an Edward Wormley sofa—and colors dictated by what she saw out the windows. “I got fabric samples and held them up to the lake and sky,” she says. “We wanted it to be one with nature.”
Stenn considers their goal well met. “Storms and sunsets are incredible here,” he says. “Sunsets are big.”
1. The master bedroom has a porch with a lake view and a vintage Finn Juhl Chieftain Chair, a favorite of the owner, Irving Stenn. 2. The warm tones of a vintage Eames chair set off the stone fireplace. 3, 4. Sunlight streaming through clerestory windows brightens the kitchen, where white oak was stained a butterscotch color for easy care. 5. A small guesthouse and garage are accessed by a footbridge that spans a ravine. 6. The master bathroom’s shower has frosted glass walls reminiscent of sea glass. 7. In summer the screened porch provides open-air respite from the sun. 8. Booth took care to keep things intimate and informal. “Big sheets of glass are kind of intimidating; this is friendly,” he says.
Resources: See Buy Guide.
Photography: James Yochum
Styling: Gisela Rose