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Modernist home with classic farmhouse profile and standing seam roof – double-height living room with glass sliders, separate bunkhouse

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Large house and bunkhouse by John Vinci – barn-like structure echoes surrounding farm buildings – Modernist interior

Large house and bunkhouse by John Vinci – barn-like structure echoes surrounding farm buildings – Modernist interior Discover this article's resources

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We each have our own idea of what makes an ideal vacation home, but most would agree that it needs to fit with the surrounding architecture, and open up to the scenery. There can be some inventive ways to achieve both these goals.

Architect John Vinci had already completed several projects on this historic farm property, including a barn, museum and bridge, when the owners asked him to design their vacation home there as well. This had to comfortably accommodate all their adult children and their families at any given time.

"There was talk of a transparent structure, along the lines of the Farnsworth House by German architect Mies van der Rohe, who was head of the Illinois Institute of Technology when I studied there," says Vinci.

"A glass-walled home would have been ideal for looking out to the waterways and fields on one side of the farm. However, a Modernist appearance would have been at odds with the rustic old barns on the other side of the site."

To balance the need for harmony and views, Vinci took a dual approach to the design. And to address the issue of scale, the new house was built as two forms, linked by a glass walkway.

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While these twin forms are slightly taller and longer than the nearby barns, they have a similar footprint. They also look like classic farm buildings, with steep hip roofs and white stucco siding. On the facades facing the barns, Vinci has designed windows and doors to be in proportion with those in the century-old dairy buildings on the property.

However, this is the conservative side of the design. The exteriors that look the other way are essentially Modernist walls of glass, punctuated by two-story inserts. These facades are only visible from the fields.

Entry to the large living space is by a door half-way down the long side of the volume. The old-world farming environment outside gives way to an airy, modern interior.

"You walk directly into the double-height, central living room," says the architect. "This has a dramatically high ceiling that follows the steep pitch of the roof and is supported by exposed, painted steel beams. Dormer and clerestory windows flood additional light into the enormous space. Beyond this great room are the large kitchen and dining area, while at the other end there is an office."

Sets of stairs at both ends of the great room lead up to the two private master suites, which are separated by the great room void. From the outside, these bedrooms appear as box inserts on the open side of the house.

"The stainless steel staircases are leading features of the great room and were custom designed for the project," says Vinci. "The owners had strict ideas about the furniture, too, and were instrumental in most choices. Together with interior designer George Larson and artistic advisor Jo Hormuth, they set about sourcing only classic Modernist pieces or items made by living craftspeople. For example, the chairs shaped from wood branches are by the famous British designer John Makepeace. The sculptural arrangement of cushions on the wall is by Jo Hormuth, while furniture-maker Mike Jarvi crafted the hand-hewn chair, reminiscent of a milking stool, out of local wood. The imported rugs are Iranian."

On the same axis as the main house and connected to it by a glass walkway, the bunkhouse has a nearly identical profile. A clear sightline runs directly through both volumes, adding to the sense of connection.

Shorter and lower than the main house, the bunkhouse also has windows of a similar scale as those in the old farm buildings, while opening up to the fields and waterways on the other side. A four-story observation tower at one end of the structure offers a birds-eye view of the surrounding farm. This element connects visually with silos on the adjacent barns and provides a focal point for the run of buildings.

The bunkhouse has two bunkrooms, a family room downstairs and two bedroom suites upstairs. Separating the bedrooms out over two houses naturally makes entertaining large numbers a great deal easier, says Vinci.

Beyond the bunkhouse, a swimming pool and pool house run perpendicular to the two main buildings, and are discreetly screened from view by maturing hedges.

"The pool house is a deep, shady retreat that has a distinctly modern air – from its shallow hip roof to its large glass sliding doors," the architect says.

Credit List

ArchitectJohn Vinci, Vinci Hamp Architects (Chicago, IL); project architect, Paul Kraemer AIA
Interior designerGeorge Larson, Larson Associates
Artistic advisorJo Hormuth
Kitchen designerBulthaup
BuilderHarold O Schulz Co
Structural engineerEnspect Engineering
Lighting designerRandy Burkett Lighting Design
Mechanical engineer
LandscapingPeter Wirtz
RoofingRheinzink, pre-weathered blue-gray, standing seam
SidingPortland cement stucco
Doors and windowsHopes in steel and Fleetwood in aluminum, both from Assured Corporation; Velux skylights
FlooringRoyal Mosa porcelain tile; white oak plank; travertine
WallcoveringsRoyal Mosa ceramic tile
LightingAJ Eklipta by Louis Poulsen; Lucifer Lighting; DeltaLight; Zaneen; Lightyears
HeatingGeothermal systems by Water Furnace and Munchkin Boilers; HVAC grilles by Titus and Kees
HardwareNanz, Rajack, Dorma, Sugatsune, Baldwin
GlassPPG Solarbarn Starphire Ultra-Clear insulation glass; Starphire low-iron glass on interiors
StairsCustom, Antares Iron Workshop
FurnitureMike Jarvi; wood chairs by John Makepeace
Bathroom vanityWhite oak
Vanity countertopPetit Granit marble
BasinAlape
FaucetsDornbracht, polished chrome
Bathroom flooringRoyal Mosa Roman travertine, cross cut
Bathroom lightingReflections recessed fluorescent from Dreamscape Lighting; Tableau surface luminaire by Alkco
PoolBoilini Company
External louvers on poolhouseNysan Aluminum
Outdoor railingsCustom, stainless steel, by Dynacoil
StoryCharles Moxham
Exterior photographyWilliam Zbaren, interior images

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