Racine, WI    2008

“It is just beautiful. I love living here… Oh, I see some deer in the field!” — Mom

Ten years after my dad passed away, my mom said, “I’m ready. I want to build the house that Dad and I were dreaming of on the farm.” In the late 1950s, my parents designed, and built, a modern suburban home that we three kids were raised in, and Mom still lived in. The stainless steel kitchen she designed for that house was featured in the local newspaper shortly after they moved in. She still loved the simple, open, light spaces of that home, but she was ready to move to the farm. So we embarked upon a personal, meaningful project: designing a home for my mom, the perfect client, on our family land in Wisconsin.

Designed for a single woman in her 70s, we kept the future in mind. We have a family goal for Mom to age in place, and so all the primary living spaces are accessible and on the main floor, with a lower level accommodating visiting family now, and a live-in nurse later, if the need arises.

The architecture references the agrarian buildings on the 150-year-old horse farm which anchors the southwest corner of the 40 acres. The house is organized under shed and flat roofs in four distinct elements: the entry and screen porch, great room, master suite and office, and garage. The design of the house is simple, bright and contemporary, just as Mom wanted.

Wisconsin has a shorter warm season than the Cape, and so the screen porch is even more precious as the place to celebrate summer. Being large enough to dine with eight, and with space to lounge, and even spend the night, the porch is in constant use all summer.

My family loves to gather at Mom’s house for holidays and celebrations. The mowed meadow draws summer parties outside to the harvest table, that seats twenty. This was also the scene for my sister’s wedding.

My entire family and I are intensely committed to energy conservation and building green. The house has a solar domestic hot water heating system, a recycled content block foundation, and an intensively insulated building envelope. Canadian-manufactured Loewen triple-paned insulated windows help conserve energy, and also silence the prairie wind. Sustainably designed, green structures built from non-toxic, renewable, and recycled materials produce a new building that is a healthier environment for both the inhabitants and the planet. Floors are sustainably harvested cork, which is soft in color and forgiving on the body. Vermont Structural Slate covers the foyer and bath floors, as well as the bathroom countertops. North American FSC wood is used throughout the house, and warm vertical grain fir and no-VOC plywood are used in the cabinetry, wainscot, and trim. The house achieved LEED for Homes Silver.

My mother, now 86, spends much of her time sitting, and looking out over the fields that she loves, watching the horses, sometimes seeing deer. I am most grateful for having been able to design this home for her, and my family. My parents supported me through all of my education, and have always been loving advocates for my work. What a gift for me to be able to give back.

Builder: Pragmatic Construction
Landscape Architect: Stephen Stimson Associates