The common farmstead vernacular found in the Midwest and Plains states includes having three separate buildings; a living quarters, an outhouse, and a tool shed. The client’s tight budget and the designers’ obvious desire to preserve the natural surroundings led the design down a path which minimized the building footprint and stacked the programmatic components vertically. The living space, flanked by sleeping quarters and a galley kitchen, sits atop a utility first floor base. This base is nestled into the hillside, allowing the living space to exit right onto an informal hillside terrace. A small study on the third floor sits atop the living space, providing expansive views of the forest.
Johnsen Schmaling Architects incorporated many materials characteristic of the natural palette of the forest. Not only do the large, moveable window panels help to bring the forest inside the building on warmer summer days, but the exposed cedar, concrete, metal, and plaster help to blend the two environments into one.
The project also made interesting use of cost-effective design details – such as the concrete floors that helped the family to save money on long-term maintenance concerns. The frequent use of skis and muddy boots during Wisconsin’s long winters will have less of an effect on the floors, since they are made of concrete. This is just one of Johnsen Schmaling’s smart design ideas, which helped the owner to save money and be more sustainable.
Johnsen Schmaling, all-in-all, has represented Wisconsin well with the design ethic that they have carried over into other projects. It is no wonder they have been awarded multiple times for such small and modest projects in some of the most remote areas.