This Charming Kalamazoo Farmhouse Has a High-Tech Secret
When Kirt and Carmel Stauffer moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan, to open a family-run senior care facility, they quickly realized that they didn’t want to live in a neighborhood that would limit how their home could look or feel. Instead, they started searching for a plot of land where they could play by their own rules.
It was a long game—and a hands-on one at that. The Stauffers, along with their two young children, went door-to-door looking for 10-acre parcels in the area where Kirt had grown up, and became immediately wide-eyed when they stumbled upon an abandoned farmhouse down a winding driveway.
The lot was not for sale at the time, but, after striking up a conversation with the family that owned the property, they learned that the 96-year-old owner’s dream was to pass it to another family and not see it subdivided like some of the nearby properties. "And so, it felt like we had a shot that they would call us," says Kirt.
Then, one day, the call came. "Absolutely, we still have interest," Kirt recalls saying.
Kirt and Carmel sprang into action and contacted designer Liz Hoekzema at KLH Homes—who they had previously been in touch with—to help design and build their dream home. The existing farmhouse, the Stauffers quickly came to find out, was unsalvageable—but the 100-year-plus barn wasn’t.
KLH worked with the couple on a vision of three individual homes in one that would be connected by glass-lined walkways, maximizing natural light of the property’s southern exposure. The barn would be kept and turned into a chicken coop, clad in burnt cedar to match the material story of the main house.
The end result is what they now call the Three Peaks House; the three peaks are a reference to how the house is intentionally divided for different use cases. There are three bedrooms in one section; the kitchen, living room, pantry, and living space are in the center section; and the garage is the end section.
Kirt and Carmel were hands-on in the design-build process, and they even DIYed the finish on the home’s exterior. Kirt had stumbled upon the Japanese shou sugi ban woodburning technique on YouTube years prior, and the couple knew it was an element they wanted to incorporate—so they took on the project of burning and brushing each board on the house themselves (which amounted to more than 9,000 board feet of cedar).
"In the middle of it, we were like, ‘what are we doing? What have we gotten ourselves into?’" recalls Kirt. "But at the end, we were able to enjoy this patina of the house that we were looking forward to so much."
Beyond that, the Stauffers avoided going crazy with tile, patterns, colors, and "things that had an inherent fussiness," says Hoekzema. They wanted an abundance of natural light and farmhouse flavor to lead the design.
"Kirt and Carmel wanted to feel like they were camping while they were living inside their home," says Hoekzema.
When it came to hardware, they sought to pay homage to the original farmhouse feel, while modernizing the way things work. To this end, the Stauffers decided to install a Level Bolt smart lock on the main entrance and a Level Keypad paired with a Level Lock - Touch Edition on the garage entrance.
"As a designer, what intrigues me about Level Home hardware is that it’s so simple and pared back to look at, but it’s really high functioning and easy to operate," says Hoekzema. "It can do so many things that a busy family needs. But you’re not looking at this very high-tech, complicated device that’s going to fuss up an otherwise very beautiful design."
That unfussy indoor/outdoor connection is felt throughout the home, but especially in the primary suite which features a separate nook with a see-through fireplace and hanging bed for a year-round hammock feel.
"One of our favorite things to do for clients living here in Michigan is to really allow them to extend the seasons and living outside as long as possible," says Hoekzema.
In the children’s room, KLH chose to build dressers inside of the closets to minimize obstructions and maximize storage and play space. They also incorporated a ladder up to the children’s play loft, as an homage to climbing up into the attic of the barn.
"We had fun playing with materials that felt like they could be indoor and outdoor at the same time," adds Hoekzema. "The brick tiles and terrazzo tiles feel grounded, like you can trudge across them in your boots after you’ve been in the barn."
The Three Peaks house exists now as the original landowners intended, with Level products aiding in the comings and goings of a busy family on sprawling land.
"Our kids are getting to enjoy growing up with their grandmother and their great-grandmother, and seeing a lot of the places where Kirt grew up that were meaningful to him as a child," says Carmel. "They’re getting to see and enjoy and experience that too."
Learn more at level.co.
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