This original David Osler mid-century modern home, built in 1963, got a lot of things right. With glass box forms that project along the rear of the home and frame a spectacular view of hill and woods – it somehow fits perfectly into the landscape.
The original outdoor deck, however, suffered from a lack of appeal as an exterior living space and did not create an interior connection to the outdoors. In addition, the area underneath the deck had a brick wall in front, which created a dark cave that was prone to moisture & mildew. The entire area was tired and uninviting. In it’s current state there was nothing about the existing deck that compelled our clients to spend any time on it!
The vision for this project was to create a comfortable and useful exterior space with a light and transparent structure, while keeping the natural debris and elements at bay so the space would be more inviting year-round, inside and out. There was also a strong desire to balance the unique exterior forms of the home.
Extending the structure into the yard worked with the original design of the home and extended the outdoor space into the beautiful forested lot. Using a cantilevered design and minimal structural elements provided a well-ventilated structure that seems to float into the backyard and has just enough visual weight to create a balance between the two major exterior forms. The steel beams were left exposed for both on-going maintenance, and to heighten contrast and create a counterweight to the glass walls and ceiling.
The folding NanaWall door system opens up the living area inside the home, providing much-needed natural light in what was formerly a darkened corner of the home. Because the Situmbra roof allows most light to penetrate while creating almost a prismatic effect, the light has a quality that enhances the mood of a transitional seating area. There is a strong sense that the area beyond is more like a room than a deck, sheltered and yet open and natural.
Providing a cover over the upper deck achieved two major goals. The first was keeping natural debris from accumulating in the alcove, a problem for this forested lot where breezes would often sweep up the hill. The second was to create a feeling of protection and enclosure – less like a deck and more like an exterior room. A solid cover was not desirable because the lack of natural light would make the area dark and uninviting.
A normal glass covering would not be structurally sufficient and would create a heat island in the summertime. A product invented and manufactured at the University of Michigan’s Taubman Center for Architectural and Urban Design, Situmbra, was a perfect solution. A composite glass material, it is lightweight, strong, insulating, and allows dappled light through. Likewise, a glass railing was used to surround the deck, completing the transparent effect. The unique Situmbra roof structure utilizes passive solar technology to maximize sunlight onto the deck while at the same time minimizing the associated solar heat gain. It also allows for protection from the rain allowing the occupants to enjoy the deck even on rainy days.
The structure was designed to be minimalist, in the spirit of the home itself, with materials that were exposed in their useful form – glass, steel, and light wood decking. Sustainability and beauty of materials were an important goal of the client. The graceful cantilevered structure was also designed to open up underneath the deck, creating an airy space that would not only receive natural light, but also ventilate the area, both physically and psychologically.
Modernizing a mid-century modern architectural gem is a risky business. Form and function must be balanced perfectly, and challenges imposed by a Michigan climate must be factored into the design equation. This stunning redesign of an outdoor space sought to update a tired and uninviting portion of this David Osler designed home. Overlooking a magnificent natural view, this new cantilevered steel and glass structure has created a comfortable and compelling outdoor space that balances the existing exterior forms of the home. Cutting edge materials and an elegant design complete this one-of-a-kind transformation of this architecturally significant home.
This project won the 2018 Master Design Award in the Outdoor Living category and also a 2018 Chrysalis Regional Award in the Best Residential Exterior category.
Thinking about transforming your exterior? We’d love to start a conversation about possibilities.