Architect Unknown – 1958

Ask Paul and Leisa why they chose a modern home, and the answer doesn’t fit the usual gamut of responses you may expect to hear from a stereotypical modern home owner. For them, it was neither about fulfilling a philosophical dream of modernism, nor about curating a museum of modern design. Their approach is simply about comfort, functionality, family — not about living in a certain style or a particular era. The feeling of well-being that comes from living in a home so connected to its natural surroundings is what truly drew them in. “Though we’ve always liked modern homes, I had never heard the term ‘mid-century modern’ before living here,” admits Leisa. “I just love waking up every morning and looking at the garden and feeling like I’m outside.”

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Hidden from the busy street, Paul and Leisa’s house sits behind a smaller traditional home they share a driveway with. Their house, placed in the middle of their block, is tucked almost completely away from street view and surrounded densely by trees. The lush yard and surrounding gardens serve as a canvas for Leisa’s green thumb. Walking out into the expanses of the backyard, Leisa remarks, “I bet you never thought this was back here, did you? You feel like you’re out in the country when you’re in the city,” as she looks upward toward the tops of the soaring trees. 

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The home itself is an expansive, low-slung brick ranch with an “L” shaped footprint, and flat roof.  Its proportions and deep covered entryways seem immediately familiar to those keen to modernism. An attached carport is indicative of its mid-century modern roots. “The original clients ran out of money and couldn’t afford a garage door,” jokes Paul with a bit of irony in regards to the home’s otherwise luxurious fit and finish.

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Materials such as slate, marble, brick, cherry, and rosewood compose the interior surfaces. The formal living and dining area make the most of the materials, with exposed brick walls and a cascading floor plan which descends from dining area to living area. A long, suspended rosewood-clad credenza spans this change of levels, supported by a series of balusters which are anchored to the floor and ceiling.  A wall of glass looks out onto a bi-level patio, enclosed by a short wall of brick. At the far end of the room, a wide, low fireplace sprawls across an entire wall.

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“Somebody told me a student of Frank Lloyd Wright’s built this house,” Paul says. “But we’ve never been able to verify that. What we do know is that it was built in 1958. You’ll probably notice we don’t have any curtains back here,” pointing to the windows facing the yard. Even though we’re outdoors, there’s a serene sense of privacy.”

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And that juxtaposition of privacy and openness is exactly the reason Paul and Leisa were originally drawn to the house. “After living here I’ve realized I couldn’t live in any place where I can’t feel like I’m outside when I’m indoors, because I love to be outside,” Leisa adds. And with so many views to the outdoors, and an enclosed backyard, the setting is ideal for the family’s lifestyle, which involves four dogs and plenty of outdoor time in the Michigan summer. Only steps from the kitchen and family room, their backyard patio with built in grill and pergola serves as an ideal setting for meals and relaxing with friends and family.

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The bedroom wing of the home has four rooms, symmetrical in layout, and set up on two levels which bisect the main floor. Stairs that lead up and down to the levels create an intersection of multiple floors offset from one another. This area serves as living quarters for the couple’s two mature sons, as well as an office and music studio, which the boys make the most use of.

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From the outside, the structure and proportions of Paul and Leisa’s home feel distinctively modern. Yet, on the inside, it radiates the coziness of a family home. The low, open entrances add an immediate sense of comfort and enclosure as one enters. However, the home’s large expanses of glass and beautiful wooded surroundings keep the feeling of nature always within arm’s length. These juxtapositions of enclosure and openness, simplicity and opulence, modern and traditional, all strike the perfect balance for housing today’s family. Just ask Leisa, and she won’t let you forget, “I just love my house!”

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2 Responses to Architect Unknown – 1958

  1. Sharon Bronkema says:

    Tyler:the copper hood over the stove looks like some Jim designed. I sent this email to his former wife who may know about this house. Sharon Bronkema

  2. Are the slate floors in the entryway original or did you add those in, I would love those in my house!

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