Text: R.J. Weick // Photography: Mike Gullon, Phoenix Photographic
Built deep within the 320-acre, private golf and residential community featuring a rolling terrain of hardwoods, bentgrass fairways, and large greens with their gentle undulations, the more traditional timber-framed, cottage style takes on rich, bold contrast in this contemporary-inspired residence. It is set intentionally into its elevation and landscape, framing views of the fifth hole green and sixth hole tee box, and maximizing natural daylight through its western exposure. There is a striking warmth to its materiality and distinctive presence, reflective of both surroundings and client vision, where stone, cedar, and metal elements come together in a composition of gabled ends, strong ridgelines, curved roofing, and a juxtaposition of vertical and horizontal siding.
Designed by Shoreline Architecture & Design Inc. and built by Jim Cesario of J. Cesario Builders of Petoskey, Michigan, this home is a curation of contemporary and traditional woven into the footprint of True North Golf Club’s championship golf course located five miles north of Harbor Springs, Michigan. The private destination, which features a course designed by Jim Engh of Jim Engh Golf Course Design, onsite lodging, trout fishing, and dining facilities, is a golf and residential community where serenity, native forests, and wildlife can be found around every bend. Its property also comprises Club Cottages, Cabins at Camp True North, and private Estate Homesites featuring timber-framed, cottage style architecture vernacular.
Steve Werner, partner at Shoreline Architecture & Design, said the client was referred to the architectural studio and had selected a site prior to starting a dialogue about the design and build of his custom home. A self-admitted avid golfer, Werner noted he was very familiar with the site and quickly learned the client had a keen eye for design himself, expressing interest in integrating landscape, views, and contemporary elements to the home.
“We met, we walked the site, and looked at the possibilities. It really is an incredible site in terms of what it has to offer in terms of its association and location to the golf course and its views that are provided by that, and also its orientation to natural sunlight; its natural terrain,” Werner said.
“We hit if off right away, because he is an avid golfer himself. We met and we played golf a couple of times and had chances to discuss what he wanted out of this house. I got to know him on a personal level before we even sat down and started to design anything. [The process] is truly a collaborative and I invite the customer to be as engaged as we can possibly get them and in this particular case, [the client] was incredibly engaged. He has a great eye for design himself and a lot of the interior of the house particularly he can contribute to himself and his efforts,” Werner added.
Shoreline Architecture & Design is a full-service, architectural design studio that embraces a philosophy where architecture is seen as a means to enhance the human experience. Founded in 2007 as a partnership between Werner and Mike Pattullo, AIA, Shoreline Architecture & Design combines the creative and technical talent and experience of both and has since spent 15 years crafting incredible spaces for their clients. Backed by a portfolio of custom residential and commercial work, the studio team offers architectural design, interior design, site planning, and construction management, among other services, to their clients.
Werner noted the client had initially been drawn to the specific site at True North Golf Club due to its western and slight southern exposures, which would provide the ability to bring in natural sunlight. The lot also featured a natural elevation of roughly a 25-foot grade change, lending itself well for a lower-level walkout and to take full advantage of both upper and lower floors in terms of its views of the golf course.
“He wanted to keep it somewhat traditional, but he was inspired by some more contemporary elements. We had to be respectful of what the development wanted out of their homes, but also give it some personality. He is very clean-lined and that is where his personality is reflected in the home, inside and out. He gave me some inspirational images of things he likes and together we sat down and said, ‘okay, what are some of these elements that we can incorporate into the house?’” Werner said.
“Outside the stylistic approach, the site had a lot to do with it. We needed to capture the views it provided out onto the golf course and also take advantage of the natural elements the site provides. [The client] and I spent hours out on that site, staking it and re-staking it to capture the view perfectly. When the house was finally dug and situated, we were both incredibly happy with how the house was sited,” Werner added.
Plateaued at a medium point between the street and golf course, the house was sited to not only create an unbroken sightline from the front door and through interior communal spaces out onto the elevated outdoor patio, but also to support the client’s love of entertaining. Its intuitive interior layout features a vaulted open floorplan where public spaces like the living, dining, kitchen, and foyer lead to the outdoor patio. Private spaces, such as the master bedroom, master bathroom, laundry spaces are located opposite and are connected to a three-stall garage, while its lower-level features guest rooms, public gathering spaces, and a golf simulator.
“He is a golfer, he is a member of this golf course, and he wanted to be on property, so those boxes are already checked. That lifestyle is already there, but he loves to entertain, so that was the focal point of, ‘how do we design this house to allow him to do the entertaining that he wants to do, but then also has all this amazing outdoor living space?’” Werner said.
“The other really important element was as you drive down the driveway and walk up to the front door of the house, you can see through the house to the golf course. You can physically see the flag on the green in the distance. That was the view he wanted to capture and show his guests as they approached the house. It was framing a golf course. That is the essence of what he wanted to capture the moment you walk in that door,” Werner added.
Its materiality is one that reflects a blend of contemporary with the traditional, carrying elements on the exterior throughout its interior where wood, stone, and metal create a rich tonal contrast and pay homage to the organic landscape beyond. For Werner, its scale and proportion create a sense of connection, integration, and comfort throughout its interior and the way in which it interacts with the exterior and outdoor living spaces stands out as distinctive to him.
“Even as you walk up to the front door, there is a path that has you walk around to this outdoor living space that is so incredible and such a vital part of the house. It has back-to-back fireplaces where one is on the inside of the house and one is on the exterior that is just an extension of what we have going on in the inside. From that aspect, I am really pleased with it and then the other is the fun we were allowed to have with the exterior cladding of the materials, the siding materials, and the color choices,” Werner said.
“It departed from more traditional methods and we played with some stuff in terms of using vertical siding and horizontal siding, just to create scale and proportion on the exterior elevations that are really appropriate for this house. It is very eye-catching and very comfortable and that is one of the things I really love about this house. It is a mix of wonderful elements that came together,” Werner added.
Werner also noted every time the studio does a project for a client, they get to know them on a personal level and it is one of the most rewarding aspects of their work.
“They open a door to themselves a little bit and they share a little bit and you get to know them. The homeowner in this particular case, it was really an enjoyable experience with him, because he appreciated everything we brought to the table. His interaction and his design eye and his collaboration with us on this job was as important as any job I’ve ever done and that left a lasting effect on me personally, because sometimes you can learn something from a client and I think I did in this particular case,” Werner said. “This house in that sense is special. I did develop a friendship with him and we created something really amazing and he truly is very happy.”
While a rich departure from the traditional, this home is intentional in its footprint and materiality, creating a strong relationship to its surrounding landscape as it seeks to capture both golf course views and a client vision. For Werner, design has the ability to inspire others and rather than being about ego, it is about trying to make the world a better place.
“I know that is a pretty grandiose statement, but there are only so many things in history that mark our point in time. The written word obviously is something, artwork is another really valuable thing to history, but then architecture is right there. The importance of design and architecture in our society is so important and when that charge is left to us, we try to be good stewards about it and be good designers and leave some legacy behind, not just for us, but for everybody to be able to experience,” Werner said.
“You know when you are in a space that has been properly designed, just by the way you feel. It envelops you and part of what we do as architects is we try to create those spaces for individuals and it doesn’t matter if it is a residential space or a commercial space. I really believe that good design lifts people up and inspires them. It encourages them, it is emotional,” Werner added.