This owner had been living on Lake Orion but wanted a site more private. He found this land in 1997, then searched for an architect. Alas, he found sticker shock. The quotes seemed prohibitive, $60,000, he said. So he went to the U-M School of Architecture.
The house is about 100 feet long, and if you stand on the deck at its far end, you can see through to the other end’s trees. One entire long side is windows. “It’s a very bright house, but it’s not direct sun,” he said.
A year later, plans were done and the owner went shopping for a builder. Again, sticker shock. In the end he became his own contractor. “I hired crews. I supervised every step,” he said.
“My favorite question was, ‘If this were your house, what would you do?’ “
Of course there were glitches.
Because he saved the trees close to the house and the grade is very steep, heavy equipment and a crane were ruled out.
“Every stick had to be carried in by hand,” he said. Even those tall window walls had to be framed and then erected without a crane.
They couldn’t use a scaffold for elevated work. The workers invented a substitute by laying plywood across two pump jacks and pumping themselves up and down.
The house has many distinguishing features, including 4,000 square feet of stone.
Inside, this makes four fireplaces, one of them two stories tall. Outside, stone walls are a theme that starts and stops down the length of the house at different heights. “That wall becomes the anchor,” he said.
A different stone is used in huge slabs to build an imposing stone stair entrance. They lead up to double doors that are a Frank Lloyd Wright tribute with a pattern of squares.
Another feature is the beautiful cedar wood both inside and out. Added to this is a flourish the owner invented. He’d come across a crew that had just felled a very large oak and asked to buy it.
He took it home to his builders and asked them to slice it on an angle. Those slices are buffed now, polished and scattered across his four stone fireplaces as small, glowing mantels.
The Prairie-like theme here stresses strong horizontal lines sometimes intersected with a sharp angle. But high across in the family room is a counterpoint — a long, curving catwalk that connects two bedroom wings.
With 2 deeded acres and 2 acres around those that are protected wetlands, this owner cut as few trees as possible to maintain the wooded view. He likes the house partly hidden by trees and calls this “an enchanted forest.”
He knows a different owner might take down more trees to trade some woods for the wider lake view. Meanwhile, he likes to call his place “Isle of View,” which when spoken sounds like “I love you.”
Blain Island is about 35 miles north of Detroit. It’s in Lotus Lake, a 185-acre all-sports lake, which is wide open to the larger Maceday Lake.
Lotus Lake was named for the lotus flowers that grow around its edges.
Square feet: 4,100 on the two main floors, plus about 1,100 in the finished walkout lower level.
Key features: True original design house on an island in Lotus Lake. Deeply wooded site, lake shore, great privacy, more than 150 windows, beautiful cedar and stone work, Prairie lines, set back from the lake. Decks at three levels.
In order to limit our staff’s exposure to coronavirus, the Detroit Free Press is temporarily suspending its practice of using our photographers to capture images for House Envy and is instead using photographs prepared by listing Realtors, with credit to the photographers. We thank the Realtors for helping in this effort.