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Made in Michigan

Our clients were looking to build a home for their retirement years that was close to downtown Ann Arbor and close to extended family in the area. They were looking for a private and quiet space that was sustainable and utilized products from their family-owned sawmill in Michigan. They desired a resource-efficient home that would assure them comfort and privacy, but they were also interested in creating a second home that echoed the charm of the original home and provided rental income.


Our clients vision was to build two resource-efficient homes. The first — a sustainable home that would assure them comfort, function and a connection to other family in the neighborhood. For the second home - the primary goal was to create an aesthetically pleasing income producing property that had the flexibility of accommodating a single family or unrelated parties. 

For their personal home they envisioned spaces that would highlight unique wood species from their family-owned mill in Michigan. Custom cabinetry, design details and custom furniture pieces were all part of this vision.

For the rental property their primary goal was to create a desirable higher-end family rental property that paid tribute to the original home on the lot and respected the aesthetic of the of the surrounding Water Hill neighborhood.

The Team

Design: Chiara Barbier +  Jennifer Hinesman

Project Manager:  Meadowlark Production Team

Custom Metalworking:  Drew Kyte of Kyte MetalWerks

Professional Photography:  Jeff Garland

Exterior photos: Sean Carter


Schematic Design

The two adjoining lots our clients found were the perfect location for them. Only a block over from their extended family and within walking distance of downtown Ann Arbor. The problem was that the lot lines were awkward and were not conducive to building two separate homes.

Working with Meadowlark, they were able to get a variance to combine the two lots into one - creating a truly unique setting.

The existing home on the street was to be re-created from the foundation up, while maintaining the original Craftsman aesthetic.

The client's home was to be nestled back into the center of the block and designed to maximize privacy and green space. They had dreamed of an Asian-style aesthetic that utilized natural materials whenever possible.

Clients' key design elements:

  • Reuse as much of the existing structure and finishes as possible of the existing home
  • Utilize resource-efficient building methods and materials for both projects and build to LEED certified standards
  • Protect existing trees on site wherever possible
  • Provide both functional and aesthetic opportunities to use unique wood species that they would provide from their wood mill in Michigan

Design Development

The rental property was built on the site of the existing foundation to protect tree roots and to fit into the neighborhood perfectly. 

The clients' home was located towards the rear of the lot and skillfully designed to take advantage of elevation changes to provide privacy from the surrounding neighbors and also to maximize green space and optimize sunlight.

Design and structure elements included:

  • Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF's) used for both foundation (rental) and foundation and partial walls (client)
  • Structured Insulated Panels (SIPS) used in client home
  • Geothermal heating and cooling
  • Use of brick, stone, metals and many different species of wood throughout 
  • Carport parking for the rental unit, garage for the clients
  • A focus on custom cabinetry using the family's saw mill products
  • Customized display vignettes for the clients' artwork and sculpture are created by unique shelving and customize cabinetry  
  • Mixed woods are used to create function as an art form

The Results

This uniquely formed lot was the perfect spot to bring the clients vision to life. Collaborating closely with Meadowlark’s Design team, the resultant two homes on this site will not only stay true to the neighborhood aesthetic, but will allow our client’s to age in place comfortably close to their extended family in a beloved Ann Arbor neighborhood.

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