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Irish Hills House

A ground-up house in Irish Hills, Michigan, responds to the request for a locally inspired barn-type building that is nonetheless contemporary in its execution. Using the vernacular language of red-painted, cedar vertical board cladding with white corner boards, the house allows for a single, significant transformation to the north. Traditional gambrel framing is exploited to pull a large picture window out of plane, taking with it the profile of that side of the building. The result is a building with false perspective, wherein the elevation of the house appears to recede in space, the white corner boards tracing the lines of inflection.

The house’s open-plan upper floor hosts public spaces and a large semi-enclosed open air porch, alternately accessed by a long, grass-covered ramp similar to many earthen hay-loft ramps in the area. The stone base of the building wraps the lower, private floor and the ramp, as well as creating a retaining wall that defines an enclosed courtyard onto which the bedrooms look. A building with few punched openings (true to the barn typology), light and air is augmented by the occasional exploitation of the building’s cladding. In areas like the porch, the cladding boards are widely spaced to allow light and air to pass through. This technique is also used for enclosed areas, the cladding more of a rain screen with glass behind.