Cabins and Connectors Form a Family’s Lake Michigan Retreat
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."
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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.
"You can feel an immediate connection to the water." - Trina Sandschafer
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