A Shou Sugi Ban Dwelling Blends Seamlessly Into Michigan’s Woodlands

A Chicago-based firm known for preserving cultural landmarks builds a refined weekend home on Lake Michigan’s southern shore.
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When Victoria Anderson and her husband, Mark Delancey, decided to build a weekend home in southwest Michigan, the recently retired professors—both longtime residents of Chicago’s Hyde Park—doubted that an esteemed firm like Vinci Hamp Architects would have any interest in the project.  

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Chris Bartek of Vinci Hamp Architects surprised them. "We are not ones to turn down interesting people or projects," says Bartek, who noted the immediate chemistry he felt with the couple over their shared tastes for art, architecture, design, and "creative culture in general."

Victoria and Mark wanted to create a "simple" home that "disappeared into the woods," so Bartek, along with design collaborators John Vinci and Alexander Krikhaar, embraced a midcentury style: a rectangular one-story with a flat roof. "We didn’t want to compete with nature," explains Bartek. The low structure emphasizes the height of the new-growth trees, while the horizontal roofline mimics the slanting ground and sets off the vertical reach of the surrounding forest. 

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While the home’s flat rooftop, floor-to-ceiling windows, and post-and-beam construction reflect midcentury influence, its shou sugi ban exterior projects a "high-end, industrial look," says Bartek. The charred-wood siding looks particularly "striking" in contrast with Michigan’s bright-green flora in spring, as well as with the white snow in winter, the architect adds.

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The Woodland Residence’s post-and-beam roof cantilevers out to provide a slight buffer from the elements, offering shading while also keeping water off the home (enough to preclude gutters and downspouts). Because the home is located on an eight-acre forested site, the architects were able to include large windows in every room without much concern for privacy. 

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The 2,388-square-foot residence includes two screened-in porches—the larger of which is located near the guest suite, with the other sited near the kitchen. This smaller porch acts as a "semi-exterior" dining room that is lined with the same charred wood as the facade. An enormous skylight and large glass windows permeate the space with sunlight.

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The central, open-plan room encompasses the kitchen, dining, and living areas. On either end of the home, the principal bedroom and guest suites can be closed off by what Bartek calls "moveable partitions." When the dividers are open, there is a direct sight line from one end of the home to the other. 

The home also features a variety of cozy reading nooks, as well as a library area with built-in desks and shelves—all Baltic Birch millwork. Per Victoria’s request, the architects installed polished cement floors with radiant heating throughout the home. While the muted material underscores the structure’s industrial simplicity, the feel of the floors is "pure luxury," according to Victoria.

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The team at Vinci Hamp Architects—who are perhaps best known for their landmark preservation work, including the Frank Lloyd Wright Studio in Oak Park, Illinois—purposefully calibrated the interior spaces to showcase the clients’ collection of art and furniture. The architects utilized neutral materials, such as gypsum board walls and pale-gray paint. During the two-year construction phase, Mark and Victoria perused local antique shops at a leisurely pace, but once the home was ready to be decorated, the couple completed the entire interior design setup within 48 hours.

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As active nature lovers, Victoria and Mark are keen to preserve the natural beauty of their property. The couple added a cedar-shaving-strewn path around the site’s private pond, which they eventually plan to stock for fishing. The homeowners are also developing an area for Victoria’s beloved beehives, which will be filled with bee-friendly plants and wildflowers. 

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The pandemic provided a true test for the Lake Michigan home, which Victoria and Mark originally envisioned using as a weekend getaway. One week after construction finished, the city of Chicago went into lockdown—and the couple retreated full-time to their quiet, woodland home. "It is wonderfully livable," Victoria says.

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Related Reading:

A Guide to Shou Sugi Ban and 8 Homes Featuring the Japanese Technique

A Therapist’s Cabin in Rhode Island Invites Nature Into His Practice

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Vinci Hamp Architects / @vincihamparchitects  

Builder/Contractor: Caron Custom Homes

Structural Engineer: Enspect Engineering 

Hardscape Design: Vinci Hamp Architects / @vincihamparchitects

Lighting Design: Vinci Hamp Architects / @vincihamparchitects

Cabinetry Design: Vinci Hamp Architects / @vincihamparchitects

Furniture Sources:  Randolph Street Market; Trilogy Antiques 

Select Artwork by: Elizabeth Coyne 

Photography: Tom Harris / @tomharrisphotography

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