Cabins and Connectors Form a Family’s Lake Michigan Retreat

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By Jenny Xie / Published by Dwell
Presented by LaCantina Doors
Balancing public and private spaces and facilitating the merge of indoors and outdoors, a series of white cedar-clad volumes create an idyllic lakeside getaway for an extended family.

Where the New Buffalo Residence now stands on a wooded lot by the shores of Lake Michigan, there used to be a serpentine ranch house with perplexingly small windows, none of which pointed toward the water. The homeowners had used it as a vacation retreat for over 30 years before an expanding family—and guest list—led them to approach architecture firm Booth Hansen for a fresh design. "They wanted to feel the lake from every room," says principal Trina Sandschafer. "They wanted the house to breathe and have a connection between the indoors and the outdoors."

Cabins and Connectors Form a Family’s Lake Michigan Retreat - Photo 1 of 6 - A lushly landscaped bluestone terrace leads guests to the dining porch, which benefits from two LaCantina Multi Slide Door systems that measure 18 feet wide and nine feet tall.

A lushly landscaped bluestone terrace leads guests to the dining porch, which benefits from two LaCantina Multi Slide Door systems that measure 18 feet wide and nine feet tall.

Cabins and Connectors Form a Family’s Lake Michigan Retreat - Photo 2 of 6 - The simple form of each volume is a nod to regional architecture, while durable materials such as white cedar and zinc contribute to a low-maintenance vacation home. The windows and doors feature a bronze anodized aluminum finish on the exterior. "We wanted something really crisp, like a shadow line," says Sandschafer.

The simple form of each volume is a nod to regional architecture, while durable materials such as white cedar and zinc contribute to a low-maintenance vacation home. The windows and doors feature a bronze anodized aluminum finish on the exterior. "We wanted something really crisp, like a shadow line," says Sandschafer.

The resulting lake house consists of four white cedar-clad cabins linked by flat, zinc-clad connectors, creating a rhythm between public and private spaces. "As few as two and as many as 16 or more family members are in the house at one time, so it needed to feel appropriate in scale," explains Sandschafer. The peaked roofs complement the Midwestern vernacular while embodying a clean, Scandinavian-inspired sensibility. Each volume serves a different function, be it boat storage, guest quarters, gathering space, or master suite. Dramatic Aluminum Wood Sliding and Multi Slide Door systems by LaCantina Doors provide both forested and lakeside views, and also play a part in the functionality of each room: communal spaces boast vaulted ceilings and large panes of glass that emphasize transparency, while more private areas like the porch and family rooms feel more intimate in size.

Cabins and Connectors Form a Family’s Lake Michigan Retreat - Photo 3 of 6 - Vaulted ceilings and an expansive LaCantina Multi Slide Door system in the integrated living room and kitchen creates an airy, open atmosphere. It also echoes the experience of the former home.

Vaulted ceilings and an expansive LaCantina Multi Slide Door system in the integrated living room and kitchen creates an airy, open atmosphere. It also echoes the experience of the former home.

Cabins and Connectors Form a Family’s Lake Michigan Retreat - Photo 4 of 6 - Two smaller sliding doors lead outward from the kitchen, which continues the home's minimalist aesthetic. Booth Hansen chose to paint the window interiors white to match the neutral color palette. "When you're looking out the windows, the house takes a backseat to the environment," says Sandschafer.

Two smaller sliding doors lead outward from the kitchen, which continues the home's minimalist aesthetic. Booth Hansen chose to paint the window interiors white to match the neutral color palette. "When you're looking out the windows, the house takes a backseat to the environment," says Sandschafer.

"You can feel an immediate connection to the water." - Trina Sandschafer

Cabins and Connectors Form a Family’s Lake Michigan Retreat - Photo 5 of 6 - Standing in the dining porch, guests have a view through the living room and kitchen into the smaller, more intimate family room. Beyond that is the generous master bedroom, which also boasts two large LaCantina sliding doors that open to let in the lakeside breeze.

Standing in the dining porch, guests have a view through the living room and kitchen into the smaller, more intimate family room. Beyond that is the generous master bedroom, which also boasts two large LaCantina sliding doors that open to let in the lakeside breeze.

Cabins and Connectors Form a Family’s Lake Michigan Retreat - Photo 6 of 6 - "We did an exhaustive amount of window and door research," says Sandschafer. At the size Booth Hansen requested, doors can become cumbersome to use. LaCantina Doors allowed the firm to customize size, operation, and finish at an affordable price point to create the indoor/outdoor effect that defines the project.

"We did an exhaustive amount of window and door research," says Sandschafer. At the size Booth Hansen requested, doors can become cumbersome to use. LaCantina Doors allowed the firm to customize size, operation, and finish at an affordable price point to create the indoor/outdoor effect that defines the project.

To create a sense of oneness with the landscape, Booth Hansen even altered the entire approach to the house. Because the retreat is nestled low on a hillside, guests can see over and through the structure for a glimpse of the lake. "You can feel an immediate connection to the water," says Sandschafer. "You walk down the bluestone terrace and you’re in an amazing microclimate with bees and butterflies." This outdoor connection continues throughout the home, and with the doors thrown open most of the time, the homeowners enjoy panoramas of both the water and the woods. Says Sandschafer, "It was very important to us to capture both of those environments and blur the line between indoors and outdoors."

Cover image by Steve Hall ©Hedrich Blessing