Lake Geneva, WI / 2016–2019
We’ve created a modern farmhouse that extends into the natural prairie landscape, providing a humanistic experience in natural light underneath vaulted ceilings. The interior experience is intended to mirror the exterior feeling.
Our client purchased 19 acres of land in Southern Wisconsin with the goal of spending their time surrounded by the native prairie that they themselves had rehabilitated. The couple wanted a single-story home that would not dominate the restored prairie, but rather enable the interior experience to be an extension of it. We conceived the project as a modern farmhouse, a building typology centered around the outdoors, to meet the needs of the client. The residence consists of three vaulted shapes nestled below the top of the rolling prairie and protected from the main road by the neighboring farm crops and trees. Each volume contains one of the primary living spaces and has a gabled roof reminiscent of vernacular farm buildings.
The volumes are stepped away from each other to allow each of the primary living spaces to have a view up and down the prairie as well as increased privacy. This arrangement also serves as a passive cooling strategy that minimizes exposure to the hot summer sun. The gabled roofs produce vaulted spaces in the interior.A limited palette unifies the residence through long-lasting materials that reference the local vernacular. The minimal interior uses wide-plank maple floors and white walls with custom white oak millwork placed in key locations. This uncluttered aesthetic minimizes manufactured finishes and materials so that attention is focused on prairie views and the client’s collection of artwork. The roof and siding of the volumes are black standing seam metal and the gabled ends are 24”-26” Alaskan yellow cedar shingles that will slowly weather to a deep silver. The Corten canopies and window surrounds also weather, creating a series of architectural details that will slowly transform and connect to the prairie as it also ages and grows.
A large kitchen island provides programmatic separation without enclosing the space. An all-year screened porch opens directly outside and provides a separation to the northern adjacent properties. A solid maple louver serves as a guardrail on the stair linking the first floor to the partial basement, with integrated steel details supporting a continuous steel handrail. A skylight above the stair allows light to flood through the louver and deep into the basement, as does a lower courtyard on the west side. At all other locations, the continuous landscape extends right up to each side of the house, including the pool that is located on the southern exposure at the bedroom volume.
This design has updated the rustic farmhouse typology for the needs of contemporary living, while retaining the connection to the outdoors that makes the farmhouse desirable and special.