House Makes a Modern, Sustainable Architecture Statement in Elk Rapids

The striking modern house with its pavilion of 15-foot-tall glass walls, thick stone bulwark, and slate and corrugated metal siding would be noticed anywhere. Among its clapboard cottage neighbors in Elk Rapids, it’s safe to say it stands out.

Even before it was finished late last summer, the house provoked conversation and comment, not all of it positive. That’s okay, says homeowner Nancy Baker. Architecture, like other art, stirs controversy when it’s unexpected and new. Nonetheless, she intended her house to respect both the community and the environment and believes its modern design achieves those goals.

Building modern was not Baker’s first impulse. An active preservationist who has a Chicago-area home built in 1874 and is a proud life member of the Elk Rapids Historical Society, Baker is more familiar with historic forms. But her son, an architecture student at Washington University in St. Louis, lobbied hard for a contemporary look, arguing that architecture doesn’t move forward by merely copying the past.

Once considered, modern design made perfect sense. Glass is a standard element of modern style, and the family wantedas much window as possible facing their sandy spit of beach on Grand Traverse Bay. Ray Kendra, of the Traverse City firmCWS Architects, delivered with a 180-degree panorama of sky and water. Guests stepping into the glass-walled pavilion are mesmerized. “They say ‘Wow, look at that view!’ and ‘Wow, look at that beach!’ ” Baker says. “There’s nothing to take away from the beauty of the outside.”

The curtain wall is simply a weather barrier, says Baker, who waited out a blizzard in the pavilion last winter. As snow blewfiercely on the bay, whirling around the glass, “I felt like I was in a snow globe,” she says. “It was just an incredible feeling.”

The pavilion stays snug during blizzards and comfortable during heat waves thanks to top-of-the-line insulated glass in heavy-duty aluminum framing. Motorized transoms allow for maximum summer air… flow, helping make the house so energy efficient that Kendra and Baker are applying for certification through the Leadership in Energy and EnvironmentalDesign (LEED) for Homes program administered by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Because modeling sustainable building practices was a key goal of the project, Baker was averse to demolishing the existing cottage on the property. Instead, builder Luke Gingerich and his crew at Golden Rule Construction removed the pitched roof from the cottage, stripped it to the studs, and used the framing and foundation in the new house.

The old cottage now makes up most of the private quarters, including a small o…ffice, laundry room and master suite downstairs, plus a den, a bathroom and two small bedrooms upstairs. It connects to the new pavilion in a modular, very modern floor plan that doubles the size to 3,000 square feet.

Modern style demands a simple palette of elements—glass, metal and wood in Baker’s house—that further complemented the project’s “green” ambitions. Kendra incorporated aluminum trim and corrugated metal siding, materials with eco credibility, because they can be recycled at the end of their life and require little maintenance. The wood is sustainably harvested walnut and cherry from Appalachian forests.

Local and regional sourcing, a key LEED criteria, was a huge success on the project. Kendra and Gingerich assembled a “dream team” of area craftspeople who supplied such components as Upper Peninsula crushed bluestone for the driveway and custom leaded glass from Old Mission Peninsula for the front door and kitchen divider. Not only did this strategy keep money in the community and reduce pollution from long-distance shipping, it also saved dollars.

For example, Baker had admired a kitchen island from Germany, but it was expensive and, of course, not local. So Gingerich’s cabinetmakers made their own version, including a custom countertop from Northern Michigan Glass, for a fraction of the price. Baker spent the savings on other custom details, such as the hidden compartment for a dog leash thatGingerich’s carpenters built into the stair riser. “  is house could easily have cost twice as much as it did,” Kendra said.

Baker loves everything about her house—including the fact that it came in on budget—but especially appreciates its simple, elegant exterior. It is purposely attractive from the road, unlike some lake cottages that turn a less-aesthetic tail to the public. And from the beach, the glass pavilion, tinted to match the bay, almost disappears into the re… ection of water and sky. The house might stand out in the neighborhood, Baker says, but even skeptics have to admit that it blends into the landscape, modern and modest by design.

Janet Lively writes and teaches in Traverse City. [email protected]

Home Resources

ARCHITECTRay Kendra, CWS Architects
Traverse City, 231-946-3627, cws-arch.com

BUILDERLuke Gingerich, Golden Rule ConstructionTraverse City, 231-946-5597

LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTAnita C. SilvermanTraverse City, 231-932-1925

CABINETRY & DESIGN CONSULTANTMarty Rhein, CKD, Rhein Design LLC
Traverse City, 231-631-4955 rheindesigntc.com

LOCAL ARTWORKSeed Studio/Gallery
Elk Rapids, 231-264-9020, seedstudiogallery.com

CUSTOM LEADED GLASS FRONT DOOR & KITCHEN DIVIDERGuido Goldkuhl, kuhl doors
Traverse City, 231-631-5398, kuhldoors.com

INTERIOR BLOWN-GLASS LIGHTING – KITCHEN, FOYER, & OFFICEJordan Valley Glassworks
East Jordan, 231-536-0539, jordanvalleyglassworks.com

LANDSCAPE PLANTS AND INSTALLATIONPine Hill Nursery
Kewadin, 231-599-2824, pinehill-nursery.com

CUSTOM OUTDOOR TABLETriMet Industries Inc.
Traverse City, 231-929-9100, trimetindustries.com
Northern Michigan Glass
Traverse City, 231-941-0050, northernmichiganglass.com
STEELWORK: STAINLESS TOPS, CABLE RAIL, SPIRAL STAIRCASE, FIREPLACE SURROUND, STAIR RAILTriMet Industries Inc.
Traverse City, 231-929-9100, trimetindustries.com
OUTDOOR STONEWORKInspiration Stonework
Kewadin, inspirationstonework.com

RUBBER ROOFArrow Roofing & Supply Inc.
Traverse City, 888-808-1615, arrowroofing.com

CURTAIN WALL AND ISLAND TOPNorthern Michigan Glass
Traverse City, 231-941-0050, northernmichiganglass.com

CORRUGATED SIDINGATAS International Inc.
Allentown, PA, 800-468-1441, atas.com
FRAMING MATERIAL AND SIDING MATERIALBrown Lumber Co.
Traverse City, 231-947-1400, brownlumber.net

WALNUT AND CHERRY LUMBERYoder Lumber Co.
Millersburg, OH, 330-893-3121, yoderlumber.com

STANDING SEAM ROOFManton Metal SalesManton, 231-824-9002

CABINETRY FOR KITCHEN, MASTER BATH, AND DEN; BED FOR MASTER SUITESchrocks of Walnut Creek
Walnut Creek, OH, 330-893-2141, schrocksofwalnutcreek.com

INTERIOR WOODEN DOORS AND DOOR HARDWAREAllen Supply Co.Traverse City, 231-947-7723

MIRRORS/SHOWER DOORST.C. Mirror & Shower DoorTraverse City, 231-922-2182

MARBLE COUNTER TOPSTraverse Tops Inc.
Traverse City, 231-946-3700, traversetops.com

SITE WORKAlpers Excavating Inc.Traverse City, 231-943-4710

HEATING AND COOLINGWilder Heating & CoolingManton, 231-920-0170

INTERIOR PAINTINGDave Palchak, Applied CreationsTraverse City, 231-935-1613

PLUMBING FIXTURESFerguson-Traverse Supply Co.Traverse City, 231-947-3580

APPLIANCESMax’s Service Appliance & TV
Traverse City, 800-922-6297, maxsservice.com

IRRIGATIONEast Bay Irrigation, Rapid City
231-322-8702, eastbaydesign.net

SECURITY SYSTEMEPS Security
Traverse City, 231-946-6590, epssecurity.com

INSULATIONAlpers InsulationTraverse City, 231-946-7450, alpersinsulation.com

FOUNDATIONSchlabach MasonryCedar, 231-883-7840

DRYWALLChess ConstructionTraverse City, 231-941-1770

PLUMBINGGourlay PlumbingTraverse City, 231-929-3937

ELECTRICALThomas ElectricCharlevoix, 231-547-6991

WINDOWSOld Mission Windows
Traverse City, 231-947-2120, oldmissionwindows.com 

This article first ran in the August/September 2010 issue of Northern Home & Cottage, inserted into the August 2010 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine. Order that issue now and see more photos of this modern, sustainable home in Elk Rapids.

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