Photograph by William Kildow
A barn-style structure and an English garden make perhaps an unlikely combination, but it is one that has been created harmoniously for a private residence in Madison, Wisconsin. The result is a house in the country that has been designed to reflect the life and history of the area while providing an elegant, comfortable and spacious home in a bucolic setting.
Architect Tom Bader of Wheeler Kearns in Chicago, IL was the Project Manager and describes his inspiration for the design. "The owners, who were originally from Chicago and were moving to Madison, were intrigued by some of the simpler farm buildings around the area, in particular big barns and simple farm houses. So the design is really meant to recall some of those simple rural structures. Sometimes a barn is entered on an upper level as well as a lower level with the rolling terrain. The house does a similar thing, where there is an upper level where you enter. Here you approach through a garden which echoes the barn yard or farm yard you might find on a farm, but this is more of a controlled English garden. There is a lower level that exits with a longer view across the rolling landscape. This house was really inspired by some of those simple rural buildings." The house also has a stone wall surrounding it, much like the rambling stone walls that surround many farms in the area.
Along with its rustic influence in the design, the house has many elements that make it a uniquely designed modern home. Bader explains, "The interior is very simple and contemporary. The main living space on the main level is essentially one big room with a series of framed separations. There is a large frame around the living room fireplace that repeats as an open frame between the dining room and kitchen, and then another frame that captures cabinetry on the opposite side of the kitchen. So it's essentially one big room that is spatially defined with a series of spaces within the larger space."
"The owners were looking for a fairly simple interior, but they do have a lot of antiques that were passed down in their family, so we had to keep the interior simple enough that the antiques would not be competing against other things."
"It is a cost-saving strategy when you don't do a lot of different rooms and walls and doors and all that, you obviously have less construction involved. The project did have an adequate budget to do some nice things, so we tried to concentrate our efforts towards those things, one of which was the stone flooring that we ended up using."
Bader chose to use Glacier Blue® Devonian Stone in the interior in the sun room, in many of the entrances, and on the walkway out in the garden under the pergola. "We used Devonian Stone was because it had consistent character but also we could get it in the interior thicknesses but also the exterior thicknesses. The intent was to use the same material from inside to outside. We had the walkways approaching the front door and then we had a sun room, a room that in the summer could be opened up like a screened porch and in the winter closed down. So we used the same stone there as well as in some of the entranceways of the house."
On the exterior, shades of gray with accents in red set the building apart from its landscape. "That's a standing seam metal roof, it's actually just a painted metal, we ended up using aluminum in this case. It's again recalling that kind of farmhouse aesthetic that was often used back a hundred years ago, but a more modern interpretation of a metal roof."
"The house doesn't sit on as much land as it looks like at first. There was actually a fairly tight restriction on the amount of square footage you could have, so by burying some of the square footage in the ground the way we did, and by taking advantage of the slope of the hill, we were able to get a little more usable square footage than they would otherwise have. But that also presented some challenges for us, to make sure we didn't have water problems because during a heavy rain there is a lot of water coming down this hill which is quite large. We had to be very careful about diverting all of the rainwater runoff around the house. Those were some of the major challenges. Other than that, it was a fairly simple house, and we tried to keep it simple on purpose to control the costs. Overall it was a nice project to work on. The owners are very happy."