On the expansive prairies of Yelm, Washington, almost every home is traditional and decidedly farmhouse, except one. Eric and Melinda and their two Labradors live in a “modern home on the prairie,” custom-designed by Coates Design Architects to incorporate nature and modernism into one structure. Their decidedly contemporary, birch-paneled main room is entirely transparent, flanked on North and South sides by floor-to-ceiling glass walls that overlook expansive foothills and wetlands. This design essentially creates a massive terrarium where the couple can see well beyond their 10-acre parcel from the comfort of a fireside couch.

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Most importantly, the Yelm residence proves that modern architecture and pristine nature are not mutually exclusive. Indoors and outdoors meld thanks to the extension of interior concrete flooring to an outdoor patio area; the natural birch and cedar interior echoes its wooded views; and a completely flat roof and horizontal profile resemble the flat prairie setting. The radiant floors are soycrete-stained concrete, natural ventilation and heat on-demand control the home environment, and all the lighting is CFL and LED. It is almost impossible to inhabit any space in the home without feeling an intimate and pristine connection to nature, ironically created by modern design. On the rural plains of Washington State, Coates Architects constructed a 21st-century little house on the prairie.

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