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New House to Rise Next to McQuillin Offices - Cont'd

Principles guiding this project will be use of natural materials such as brick, stone and wood, a compact plan finished off elegantly on all four sides, a beautiful simple form, a landscaped setting, reduced emphasis on the garage element, use of its natural sloped site, a complementary neighbor to the landmark house next door and a visual landmark along the Detroit Road streetscape.

The house plan takes the form of a long rectangle with a simple gable roof whose pitch matches that of its older neighbor, a six-twelve pitch.  Inspiration for its striking front, a grand portico with square pilasters, comes from a book, "The Homes of America" by Ernest Pickering (1951).  It features side-by-side photographs taken by the Historic American Buildings Survey of the Hurst House (31156 Detroit Rd.) and the Anderson House, Ann Arbor, Michigan (ca. 1845).  http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query  http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query

The proportions and size of the new house are based on that of the Anderson House, except that then new house would be longer.  Its details are also simplified, but the proportions stay the same.  Plans are to form the trim from older growth white oak, as opposed to the typical vinyl of a McMansion.  Brick with real sandstone sills and lintels would accent all elevations and each elevation would be largely symmetrical with plenty of windows.

A striking and perhaps controversial feature of the exterior is the broad octagonal cupola located over the center of the house.  Based on the design of a similar cupola at Waverly plantation near West Point, MS http://www.wpnet.org/waverley_mansion.htm, this cupola would be fully usable, reached via an open staircase.  It could be an office play space, exercise room or retreat, with its magnificent views in all directions.  It would be slightly larger in size than Steve McQuillin's new office, completed this past August (see related article).

The sloping site permits a three-car garage in the basement, accessed through a gently sloping drive.  There is also space for a large recreation room and ample storage.  The first floor, reached via a pleasant broad staircase, has two large major spaces on either side of the stair hall and dining room.  To the left is the living room, with ten-foot ceiling, ornate trim and real masonry wood-burning fireplace.  It connects with a spacious portico via tall double doors.  The portico, well screened from the road, could function has an imposing outdoor room in good weather.  The kitchen and family room are across the hall to the east, equally spacious with a ten-foot ceiling.  Each of these large spaces has the form of a golden rectangle, formed by scribing a radius through a square and adding that dimension to the square for a room traditionally considered to have good proportions.  The dining room will have a semi-octagonal bay to permit plenty of light and air and, on the exterior, to form a central focal point over the garage doors.

The second floor has a grand master suite over the kitchen and family room with great views of the rear yard, plus ample closets and a large bathroom.  Across the hall is a three-room suite that extends over the front portico and features skylights with great views.  It can form three separate bedrooms, or a guest suite, work area and bedroom suite or be flexible for various lifestyles.  A stair rising from this hall passes a finished attic storage space as it ascends to the cupola room with its tall spacious ceiling and dramatic views.  It will be like a crow's nest or grand work space.  It also provides for light and ventilation for the rest of the building.

This project is being undertaken with the goal of providing a complementary development to the historic house next door and also to design and build a house with all the features of a McMansion but with a similar price-point and more compact plan, and attractive exterior, a house designed to last for generations, not just until the vinyl siding starts to sag and the glued-on fake stone begins to pop off, sometimes before ten years.

Periodic updates will be featured in this newsletter, with a goal of completing the project and selling it this year, depending on market conditions and the cash flow situation.