Architect: John DeSalvo Design (JDD)
Location: Michigan City, Indiana, USA
Interior Designer: John DeSalvo Design, Chicago, IL.
General Contractor: Patrick Poland, HP Construction Westville, IN
Landscape Architect: Dune Landscape, Portage IN.
Project Area: 1,400 sqf
Project Year: 2010
Photographs: David Robert Elliot
This compact beach house located near Lake Michigan in Northern Indiana was designed for Dr. Nancy Church, a Chicago based robotic gynecological surgeon by architect John DeSalvo. The Dr. wanted to have a retreat away from her hectic city practice where she and her husband Charlie Jett could entertain friends, do their gardening and relax. The aesthetic of the home grew out of “Doctor Nancy’s “ early training as a metal sculptress, her desire to house her contemporary art and mid century furniture collection and DeSalvo’s German modernist background.
The result is a rectangular volume that maximizes the interior space by building up to the required setbacks and height allowances. It’s wood frame and open joist construction is a 16 feet wide, 48 feet long and 23 feet high volume with an additional block at the back for bathrooms, laundry and storage. The entire structure is stabilized and supported by the massive poured in place, rough finish concrete hearth that forms the structural support and heart of the home.
Because the slopped sand dune site was only 50 wide by 120 deep. Retaining walls at the top, side and bottom of the site placed within the setbacks had to be constructed first to create a level buildable area. The house was designed to set on the leveled site 14 feet above the existing street and protected from north by slope of the dune. The restricted resultant area was the biggest design challenge and greatest gift in creating this small home with a visual impact that far exceeds its square footage. The key to fulfilling this was to create a generous height at the ground level; The 11 foot clear height entertainment space gave an impression of a much larger footprint. A double height volume cut through the second floor plan created a gathering center point for the home and further opened up the space across floor levels to take full advantage of square footage both visually and volumetrically.
To visually reinforce the transparency and openness of the space a perforated steel stair with catwalk bridges the 2 sleeping lofts. The interior and exterior stairs translucent bent plate form sits on a center rectangular tube beam and offers a slip resistant treads. Stainless steel cable balustrade and exposed fastener steel railing supports complete the stair design both inside and out.
The linear kitchen mixes custom and off the shelf items. The base cabinetry was designed for the homeowner around standard appliances. The refrigerator tower houses a counter depth unit that was purchased without front panels so bamboo veneered face panels could be incorporated for a integrated look. The cost effective upper cabinets come from Ikea and were glued assembled by the cabinet maker. LED strip lights were added inside to give an ambient illumination to the space and create a sculptural effect to objects within. Good design is not a matter of cost but of thought.
Sustainable design aspects include the homes orientation which places short elevations to the south and north. Fewest windows were placed to the south façade to avoid access heat gain; 15 feet tall native grasses planted around the home offer shade and stabilize the dune landscape. Naturally cooling devices of the home include the interior double height void that acts as a chimney drawing air up and out. To keep the roof terrace shaded, sun shades top off the structure. Their sculptural from not only softens the geometry of the home but recall the sail vocabulary of the boats on the lake. The triangular custom fabricated panels made from Mermet exterior mesh shade material are pulled in tension with sail fittings that are fastened to steel posts secured to the parapet walls.
The exterior of the home uses Pac-Clad metal roofing material for its cooling effect and durability. Weather is extreme in the Northwest Indiana where temperatures can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit in summer and winter lake effect snow can dump several feet onto the area within hours. The vertical standing seamed material has both a heat reflective quality, rust resistant and a raw aesthetic very much in keeping with the vertical barn siding that is a part of the local vernacular. It also pays homage to its northern Indiana steel mill heritage.
A further sustainable idea was keeping the homes carbon footprint small and reducing embedded material cost. It was important to both architect and contractor to use local craftsmen and products so there were not a lot of energy costs for production or shipping; reclaimed and recycled lumber for interior furniture and decking, short board floor planking to utilize the entire tree were all part of the agenda.
The end result is a contiguous space full of light and air, built to allowable ground area, which gives an efficient 850 square feet on the ground floor and another 550 on the second an impressive large living volume that takes advantage of select secured wooded views and seems more a part of the garden than an internalized box. The only separation in the space is a movable four panel frosted glass partition that isolates the master bedroom loft for privacy.
Text provided by John DeSalvo, AIA.