A city-dwelling family in need of rural respite reached out to Von Weise Associates to make their country escape a reality. In response, the Chicago-based architecture firm delivered a stunning modern getaway that fully embraces the rural vernacular with a sensitive renovation of an existing farmhouse and barn. Located in the southeast Michigan township of Sawyer near Lake Michigan, the Retreat House consists of a new single-family house and adjacent studio for the artistic couple.
In designing the home’s layout, Von Weise Associates took cues from the layouts of traditional farms, where the different functions were typically located in different buildings. In much the same way, the retreat conceptually places the different living spaces — including the sleeping, cooking and work areas — into separate volumes. Anchoring the home is the kitchen, dining area and living space housed within the refurbished old barn with a striking gambrel roof and soaring arched ceilings. The light-filled great room opens up to an adjacent screened porch.
The original farmhouse was gut-renovated into an artist’s painting studio and sleeping loft. Large windows and skylights flood the interiors with natural light, while the reflective whitewashed walls emphasize a bright and airy feel throughout. Modern and unfussy furnishings, natural timber and a rusty-red painted exterior help tie the building to its rustic past.
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“All portions of the house have a close relationship to the ground, making the landscape a vital part of the program,” Von Weise Architects said. “The orientation of the house creates multiple outdoor living spaces, plus a gardening area. The landscape and the orientation of the structures set up layers of space that moves from the public way to privacy of the house. The most private space beyond the house embraces the expansive wooded site on three sides.”
Images by Steve Hall