2023 Master Design Awards: Whole House $300,000-$700,000 — SILVER

by Emily Blackburn

Tigerman McCurry Architects, LTD

Chicago, Ill. | tigerman-mccurry.com

Location: St. Joseph, Mich. | Project cost: $326,153
Square footage before: 3,752 | Square footage after: 3,196

Designed in 1963 by Taliesin Associated Architects, subsequent owners of the home had converted the roofed carport into a den and added an attached screened porch which blocked morning light from the den. Meanwhile, an ersatz screened structure awkwardly linked their garage addition to the screened porch. In front, massive concrete planters bracketed concrete steps replaced the sloped drive. The octogenarian who purchased the home did so deliberately because the house was all one story, so the steps posed a concern.

The client excitedly purchased the Usonian with the goal of restoring it as was feasible to its original design. The challenge was to restore and remodel by removing excess additions like the gloomy porch, the awkward screened garage link that also blocked sight lines, plus the heavy concrete access steps, all the while maintaining the spirit and character of the original Usonian. Additionally, the concrete floor had to be restored due to cracks and some structural foundation issues. Invasive species needed to be eliminated from the bluff, and sight lines from the living room to the river reimagined.

While replacing the hazardous front steps, the team added an accessible ramp with a snow melt system which begins at the side garage door and rises up to a new rear door in the den. The den’s leaking windows were replaced and the porch removed to be replaced by a freestanding gazebo. The original concrete slab flooring was waterproofed and replaced by a radiant system. The Taliesin red became Steel Wool grey as did the white plaster walls, ceilings and soffits to create a more volumetric sensibility less in contrast with the dark brick. Original lighting was augmented by wall washers and ancient wiring and under floor ducts were replaced. Cabinetry and millwork in the kitchen was either restored or replaced with pragmatic substitutions. Owner and architect consciously worked to respect, restore, and revitalize the Wrightian aesthesis.

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