Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired home near Cross Village, Northern Michigan belongs to Debbie Hindle and partner Ken Ross on their 80 acres of landscape. The breathtaking view includes the Waugoshance archipelago, lighthouses in the Straits of Mackinac and, on the clearest of days, the Upper Peninsula sand dunes along US-2.
And while she can see much of that view from inside her Frank Lloyd Wright–inspired home nestled within woods and meadowlands of the bluff, her Northern Michigan home isn’t a part of anyone’s view. This, she explains, was by deliberate design. “I wanted it to fit into the landscape and not stand out,” she says of the home that started to take shape, if only in her mind, when she and her partner Ken Ross met with Ann Arbor architect Mike Quinn in 2002.
“We had in mind something like Kentuck Knob, the Frank Lloyd Wright property in western Pennsylvania not far from [the renowned architect’s famous] Fallingwater and near where I grew up in Uniontown,” Hindle says. “Mike brought our ideas alive in ways we could not have imagined.”
Kentuck Knob, Quinn points out, fell into Wright’s Usonian period—a term the architect coined for modest homes built from native materials designed with a strong connection between the interior and exterior.
Hindle and Ross, who also maintain an 1850s apartment residence in Glasgow, Scotland, met with Quinn once a year from then on, breaking ground on their Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired home in 2008. The home that Hindle, Ross, Quinn and builder Randy Clara eventually constructed in this sublime setting is set into a hillside so that the facade runs long and low with the Northern Michigan landscape. The exterior is defined by neutral-toned organic materials including gray-stained cedar siding, set in reverse board and batten to accentuate the structure’s horizontal lines. Rough stone detailing around the doorway lends texture. The back of the home drops down the hillside two stories and is situated to take in the stunning Great Lakes view.
Like any Frank Lloyd Wright inspiration, there is magic in the geometry—in this case, the 120-degree angles that break up the exterior walls in interesting and unexpected places. There are, in fact, no 90-degree angles in the wing-shaped footprint, a feature that works to make the structure feel at home with the land.
The thoughtfulness embodied in the exterior carries into the interior, with its quarter-sawn white oak floors and trim, rough-stone fireplace and continuation of the gemlike 120-degree angles throughout the interior. As in Kentuck Knob, the kitchen is at the core of the home, set in this case at the junction of the private and public wings. The kitchen’s clean, simple lines and natural materials are made luxurious by a skylight that bathes the workspace in light. “With the uniqueness of the house and the location, it was a once-in-a-lifetime build,” says Clara.
While Clara was the home’s contractor and main builder, Hindle and Ross have done a lot of the work themselves. “Working as part of the building team helped me to appreciate the craftsmanship that went into building the house,” says Ross. Among Ross’s touches are the handsome, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves he built in his downstairs workshop.
That DIY spirit is in keeping with the democratic values of a Usonian home. As is the home’s scale—with its 2,400-square-foot footprint it is essentially a 2-bedroom, 3-bath home, with a ground floor finished for guests and Ross’s workshop. “This is actually a modest house,” says Quinn. “It’s just high quality.”
Landscape By Design
Ross and Hindle’s dedication to all that surrounds their home is equal to the thought that went into the Northern Michigan home itself. A year after purchasing the property—more than 30 years before they broke ground on their home—Hindle planted a thousand white and red pine and blue spruce trees along the property boundaries, trees she’d bought from the state of Michigan.
As those grew, sumac and poplar trees naturally took over what had once been meadows. So some years back, Hindle borrowed, and later bought, a tractor and brush hog to re-create the meadows and turn them into gorgeous outdoor spaces. Today wildflowers bloom in the meadows each spring, nearly two miles of walking trails trace the land, and sitting areas punctuate the groves of trees. Landscape architect Sheridan Jones and landscape gardener Richard Hoffman have helped Hindle create the outdoor spaces, which also include her own Fallingwater–inspired waterfall beside an expansive dry-stone patio overlooking a meadow.
Additionally, Hindle has worked to eradicate the invasive knapweed; for the past two years she’s borrowed several sheep from a neighboring farm to graze on it. “Nothing prepared me for how much work a meadow could be,” Hindle says of all of her outdoor travail. “But this is so much fun for me.”Heather Johnson Durocher writes about her beloved Michigan and all things running in the Mitten State from Traverse City, where she lives with her husband and three children. michiganrunnergirl.com