The trouble with building on unspoiled terrain is, well, spoiling it. When a nature-loving couple showed Johnsen Schmaling Architects their plot of land in the rolling hills of rural Wisconsin, the designers realized that any structure built on the site could be seen by hikers at the top of the adjacent Blue Mound State Park.
Inside, the floor plan feels like that of a single-story house, but pulled apart and staggered, as if a split-level ranch kept splitting. The architect used five separate floor plates (all, save for a partly submerged basement level, slab on grade) linked by short sets of stairs. Visitors enter through the house's lower half, via a courtyard and a glass-fronted foyer that shows off the couple's contemporary art collection. The foyer, sandwiched between the master suite to the north and an art studio to the south, sends visitors up a short set of steps that leads to another courtyard. The rest of the house unfolds southward, rising with the hill to progress from a neutral gray kitchen to the simple white dining and living rooms, where the roof cantilevers over a terrace to frame the view. Like gaps in the tree canopy on a hiking trail, tall, narrow slot windows offer teasing glimpses of the outdoors that open up at the house's glazed endcaps. A staircase in the dining room leads to the glassed-in observatory. “It's a journey through the space rather than having everything presented to you at the same time,” says Schmaling.
Gross square footage: 2,940 square feet
Completion Date: 2013
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