Tranquility and simplicity are at the core of this family retreat in Harbert Michigan. Overlooking Lake Michigan, the house is designed for a young family seeking respite from city living and immersion along the quiet beach. The site context strongly influenced the arrangement of the home. Challenged by the pronounced sloping topography and imposing neighboring house to the east, the design entails two shifting volumes that maximize southern exposure, and create a vertical “sun court.” The house is positioned on the lot so that each room connects to the layers of surrounding landscape, both natural and man-made.
The house is approached by a sequence of layered spaces. A long, compressed walk to the entry amplifies the arrival experience. Defined by vertical louvers, the entry hall controls peripheral views to the sun court below and frames views through the building and stairs to the panoramic view of the lake beyond. Upon entry there is a clear indication of the distribution of the program.
The family and dining room is the heart of the home, connecting the different spaces visually and programmatically. Floor to ceiling windows are the predominant feature in the room, inviting the outside in and celebrating the movement of the sun throughout the day. Vertical circulation acts as the filter to divide public and private functions. The stairs are light and unimposing, supported by stainless steel cables to maintain visual continuity between the family room and kitchen. It’s the juxtaposition of the kinetic lake and tranquil sun court that gives this retreat its distinctive character.