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  5. Johnsen Schmaling Architects
  6. 2008
  7. Ferrous House / Johnsen Schmaling Architects

Ferrous House / Johnsen Schmaling Architects

  • 01:00 - 13 August, 2009
Ferrous House / Johnsen Schmaling Architects
Ferrous House / Johnsen Schmaling Architects

Ferrous House / Johnsen Schmaling Architects Ferrous House / Johnsen Schmaling Architects Ferrous House / Johnsen Schmaling Architects Ferrous House / Johnsen Schmaling Architects +23

  • Architects

  • Location

    Spring Prairie, WI 53105, United States
  • Architect

    Johnsen Schmaling Architects
  • Project Team

    Brian Johnsen, AIA; Sebastian Schmaling, AIA; Nick Woods
  • Area

    125.4 sqm
  • Project Year


From the architect. The Ferrous House sits in a row of unexceptional 1970's ranches, part of a narrow subdivision hugging the edge of a wooded nature preserve west of Milwaukee. An existing dwelling that had fallen into serious disrepair was entirely gutted and stripped of its roof, but the limited construction budget required the reuse of the existing foundation, main perimeter walls, and plumbing cores.

The main level of the house, a simple rectangular volume with 1,380 sf of living space, is wrapped on three sides with a suspended curtain of weathering steel panels, their warm color of ferrous corrosion echoing the hues of the derelict farm equipment left behind on the area's abandoned pastures. The steel wrapper protects the inside of the house from the scrutiny of suspicious neighbors and the elements; in the back, it extends beyond the building's perimeter, where it shelters the sides of a linear south-facing patio.

Linear storage boxes, containing built-in closet systems and living room cabinetry, penetrate the steel curtain and cantilever over the edge of the building, adding desperately needed square footage without altering the original footprint of the house.

In a carefully choreographed entry sequence, wide exterior stairs run along the front of the house and lead into a glazed foyer, an extension of the main circulation core that transforms into a small observatory above the roof. The slightly tilted roof plane is supported by a filigree of exposed metal and wood trusses, adding height to the living spaces and allowing northern light to wash the inside of the house through a translucent, Nanogel-filled glass band. At night, the window band radiates its warm light into the distance, subtly evoking the iconic clerestory glow of the dairy barns that once dotted the region.

The Ferrous House offers a resource-conscious solution to the challenges of an aging, and often ill-conceived, suburban housing stock. In contrast to a radical tabula rasa approach, the project demonstrates how the bones of an obsolete building can be utilized and transformed into the framework for a contemporary dwelling.

Cite: "Ferrous House / Johnsen Schmaling Architects" 13 Aug 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>
Read comments


Brennan Graves · August 03, 2016


Interesting to see from a professional perspective how the simplicity of the construction comes through and it's obvious that it was cost effective without sacrificing the feel of the space.

This is a Combat Arms Working · February 09, 2012

I've read several just right stuff here. Certainly price bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how much effort you set to create this sort of magnificent informative website.

Irina · September 13, 2010

I love how visually this project fits into its context. the color, the texture, the openness...

Brandon Leedy · July 09, 2010

#DailyInspiration The Ferrous House (Scroll down for the gallery) I think it looks most striking in the winter shots.

Andrew Geber · September 26, 2009

why cant everybody clean up their mess, its so easy and simple! great!

Squidly · August 14, 2009

One of the few contemporary houses I've seen with an entry sequence. Congrats for that alone.

Terry Glenn Phipps · August 14, 2009

This house I recall seeing when it won a small house award from the AIA.

There is a lot to be said for this project, especially with regard to siting and the overall palette of materials. Also, I appreciate that the architects have taken the time to document their project well and have it professionally photographed.

One reply pointed out the visible structural system, and I too find that bothersome. That visual clutter takes something away from the force of the space.

Projects with this kind of ambition deserve advanced lighting systems. It is a hard to believe that creative people cannot come up with anything better than ceiling cans and run-of-the-mill solutions. This isn't a budget issue either. I always think of what Schindler could do with a lightbulb and a bit of corrugated plastic. Surely efficient and great looking lighting isn't out of reach for a project of this calibre.

Terry Glenn Phipps

DBentwater · August 14, 2009

A wonderful location, but poorly constructed project, partially due to awkward detailing, material selection and budget.

There are just too many different timber finishes making the house appear confusing and cheap.

It's a shame as it could have been nice.

GeorgeFP_SA · August 14, 2009

Absolutely Beautiful! Very Elegant! Did I say beautiful?! · August 14, 2009

Great colour scheme, white + rich timber. I like how you solved fire place, visible from everywhere and the way it overhangs over floor give contemporary touch. The patio nicely connects interior with landscape, which is fantastic. Simple, but neat. Thanks for sharing, Lumiges

blackstone · August 14, 2009

lots of nice things here, but the roof seems WAY over-structured-- could have spanned the opposite direction

fokt · August 18, 2009 09:15 AM

I don't know if all of those trusses are necessary, but if you look at the photos and the model, it's clear that the shorter distance is being spanned.

J_Gel · August 14, 2009

Absolutely beautiful - but with all that glass I imagine that it would be rather chilly in the winter. I hope that wood (propane?) stove really kicks out the heat!

kevin · September 25, 2010 02:39 AM

aren't they using nanogel insulation?

pencil_nek (twitter) · August 13, 2009

wonderful. excellent execution and use of materials!

GTO · August 13, 2009

gorgeous small home with nice surroundings. The amount of natural light that the open plan and large windows allows for is great.


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Ferrous House / Johnsen Schmaling Architects