Rural Landscape, Modern Sensibility
A first-time home designer nails it with an updated farmhouse that includes double-duty spaces, a serious mudroom, and a five-star energy rating.
Synopsis: Author Diane Kolak had never designed a house before, but when she and her husband acquired a wooded lot in Michigan, she found herself reading books, sketching and listing requirements, imagining a home of their own design. She wondered, though, how she could reconcile her modern aesthetics with a house that fit their rural lot. Then she realized her Scandinavian ancestors had been doing just that for a long time. Diane refined her sketches, built a model of the house, and gave it all to the builders. The result is a spare farmhouse structure with a streamlined edge, complete with multipurpose rooms and as many green choices as their budget allowed: geothermal heat, Icynene foam insulation, tankless water heater, whole-house air-filtration and -exchange system, and more. There’s even a dog shower.
From an early age, I dreamed of designing my own home. My early creations, drawn on coated paper from the mill where my father worked, were sprawling, exotic, and modern. Walls of glass met at impractical angles, and there were many, many bathrooms. In every way, these imagined houses were different from the home of my youth in Michigan’s rural Upper Peninsula, a simple farmhouse built by a Swedish immigrant in 1913.
Decades later, on a couple of wooded acres near Traverse City, Mich., I found myself imagining a home once again. My husband, Paul, and I had lived in a tiny apartment, then in our first home on a busy street in the city, and eventually in a nondescript trilevel in a rural neighborhood. These varied expressions of shelter helped us to develop a distinct idea of what we wanted — and didn’t want — in a home of our own design.
I started reading books, sketching, and listing requirements: a flowing layout with long views through…