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The family who lives in this James Bronkema home are no strangers to attention. Looking like an example of of the Case Study House program, their home would not seem out of place in a history book amongst other famous modern houses of the era. Its steel construction, large expanses of glass, and lush green roof have naturally sparked the curiosity of many passers-by.
They come with cameras. Some people will knock on our bright green door. At the time their home was built, a young James Jim Bronkema was making a career for himself constructing notable modern homes around Grand Rapids and selling real estate. Shortly before their home was built, Bronkema purchased the lot on which he would later develop this modernist enclave the family calls their neighborhood.
Their home was the first to be built, and was commissioned by Frederic Fay, who made his living in the furniture industry. His son, Brad recounts how the home came to be. He worked closely with Jim on the design of the house, as he himself was not unfamiliar with a drafting board.
Construction began in , and in , we moved in. One of the touches my dad left was a drafting table built into the dining room area. Behind some folding doors, it would emerge, and there he would often do his work in the evenings. Constructed primarily out of glass, steel and concrete, the home was assembled from many ready-made parts, and was a radical design for its time. Inside of the home, slender steel support columns rise out of the concrete slab floor, carrying the weight of the corrugated-steel roof through a series of I-beams that run in one of two directions depending on which wing of the L-shaped house is being viewed.
Because the steel framing supports the weight of the roof, there is little need for load-bearing walls, allowing for large expanses of floor-to-ceiling glass where the visual barrier between dwelling and nature dissolves. The blackened steel I-beams penetrate the largely transparent exterior walls, and carry the roofline from indoors to outdoors, adding a sheltering sensation to an otherwise very open floor plan. Originally, some of the interior walls did not reach the ceiling, as is seen in the kitchen, enhancing the sense of openness though some walls have since been fully enclosed for privacy.
We hosted a lot of bridge clubs, potlucks, and gatherings at that house. A lot of our guests were enthralled by our home to say the least. They thought it was truly unique for its time. I do remember people coming through and being just in awe. My dad loved giving little mini-tours. Eventually, the home would change hands many times before the current homeowners bought it. She was not at all thrilled with the house for a lot of reasons. There were no kids in the neighborhood for my brother and me to play with for instance, and on top of that, the house would not heat!
The challenge of climate control in a mostly glass, concrete, and steel home in Michigan was one of the many challenges the current owners had to consider when they purchased the home in The flat roofline turned out to be a perfect match for the living green roof they installed, which insulates the home in both hot and cold weather.
We had a bobcat in here at one point to rip out the old concrete slab and had new concrete floor with radiant heat poured. In total, it took about 8 months for remodel. By that point, the house had changed a few owners and, was chock full of antiques and trinkets, there was wallpaper everywhere, the kitchen had a drop ceiling added, and some of internal steel I-beams supporting the roof had been clad in plywood.
After traveling to Germany and seeing how some people live there, decided we had to downsize! When it precipitates, the roof drains into a main cistern used to water the backyard. Behind the house the wooded lot features a sunken patio, a serene reflecting pool, and outdoor kitchen, covered by the cantilevered roof.
The front and side yards are overtaken in the spring and summertime with wild strawberries which serve as not only ground covering, but a tasty snack for both the family, and the dogs. Closer to the road, the family keeps a prolific vegetable garden, which provides a variety of fresh ingredients for their creative vegan meals.
In a sheltered area behind the master bedroom, a sculptural red slate fountain gently bubbles, creating a serene soundtrack for when night falls. Flowing like a black river outward from a glass wall in the master bedroom, a collection of Mexican beach pebbles aligned in a sinuous form help direct drainage away from the home.
No detail was spared curating the exterior. Even the power lines running to the home were buried as to not detract from the atmosphere. When it comes to the interior, the family reached out to their late friend, Nancy Phillips for advice.
Nancy met her husband, graphic design legend Steve Frykholm while working at Herman Miller in spatial planning. The centerpiece of the living room is a K. The bedrooms feature custom built-ins for desks and shelving, and elevated bedding with cabinetry filled with storage below. The only major modification to the footprint of the house is a very small addition to the master bedroom, just large enough to fit a bed.
Because the same corrugated steel ceiling is no longer readily available, the addition is the only place a flat ceiling is seen. In the kitchen, original white enameled steel St. Charles cabinets look as new and sleek as they day they did when they were installed. Throughout the home artwork is featured. Looking more California contemporary than Michigan modern, it is no wonder that its sleek looks still attract observers over 60 years later.
And if its magnetism still pulls in the passer-by decades on, how was its public reception when it was still a young community? Flash back to April 21, , when forty-five tornados ripped through the midwest, leaving a path of destruction from Missouri to Michigan. Grand Rapids witnessed at least two of these powerful vortexes, one one of which left a newly built modern home by Wayne McClure in shambles.
When the lot and remaining structure consequently went up for sale, the neighbors across the street saw a potential to build a new home for their evolving needs, and purchased the wreckage.
Using the foundational footprint of the original home, they commissioned architect Chuck Carter to rebuild something new out the remains. Looking at it today, is hard to imagine that in a neighborhood where mid-century modern houses stand out against their traditional counterparts, that one of the handsomest examples amongst the bunch was once a dilapidated structure.
Today, this Chuck Carter house catches the eye with an ultra-modern form that somehow feels right for its neighborhood. It is a series of interlocking volumes, right angles, and mix of materials such as stacked stone, large expanses of glass, and vertical siding that give this home a decidedly retro-futuristic feel. As attractive as it appears on the outside, it is every bit as stylish on the inside, lovingly curated by modernists, Tom and Vickie, who have called it home since The home sits far back from the street, greeting visitors with beautiful landscaping trailing up a gentle slope that leads to the covered entryway.
Here, a stacked stone wall leads to the front door, piercing the exterior and continuing inside of the house, where it divides the entry hall from the living room on the left. It does not, however, reach the ceiling, leaving an open, airy space between the two rooms. From this entry hall, it becomes apparent that the home is a cascade of three levels, allowing the occupants to look both down into the lower level, and into the open hallway upstairs at once. This junction occurs in the dining room of the house where the open space between the three levels is punctuated by the metal chimney of a freestanding matte black fireplace found downstairs.
It is because of these three offset levels that the home takes on such a distinct shape from the exterior, with its dynamic volumes and varied rooflines.
Judging by the choice of furniture and objects placed throughout the house, it is clear that Tom and Vickie have a serious eye for modernism and art. Over the past several decades, their travels have allowed her to collect pieces from around the globe.
Most of the collection lines the two George Nelson Comprehensive Storage System shelving both upstairs and in the lower level. Amongst her finds are many pieces by lesser-known folk artists, as well as original pieces by more notable outsider artists such as Howard Finster, who first came to widespread notice with his album artwork for R. In two of the bedrooms hang an original signed print by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and a hand-numbered Matisse lithograph.
Prior to living here, Tom and Vickie owned a modern home in the Albert Builders development less than a mile away. Something I liked about it was that all the windows were in the corners. We lived there about fifteen years. But several years later when it was time for them to sell, they asked me to list this house for them.
Because the house was designed for a couple with three boys and a grandmother, a sense of pragmatism and function are noticeable in its layout. For example, the basement level is complete with its own living room, kitchenette, bathroom and sunken patio area with a private entrance, which would have served as an apartment for the grandmother. Today, it finds use as a complete guest suite.
A card table in the basement folds into the built-in lighted shelving. Four skylights keep the home illuminated in a natural glow, and even allow for moonlight at night. One of the skylights forms a light well that extends from the top level the downstairs bathroom, penetrating into the basement through a pane of frosted glass. All bedroom closets have cabinetry and drawers built in. One of those great ideas was to increase the footprint of the house by adding foundation to the rear.
This allowed for a new volume to be created, which serves as a storage area below, with a master bedroom above it. In the storage room lies a relic from the original home that was destroyed: Upstairs in the master bedroom, occupants can look out a wall of enormous glass sliders, and exit onto a railing-free balcony that overlooks a courtyard a short distance below.
The other three bedrooms upstairs each have their own brightly colored doors, which share the same palette as the Herman Miller Company Picnic posters designed by Steve Frykholm, that hang nearby. These extra rooms have found adaptive reuse as a home office, and guest bedrooms.
The only major change that Tom and Vickie have introduced was an update to the kitchen. Their remodel was sympathetic, however, where they matched cabinetry to what already existed, and chose simple forms and elegant materials.
Despite the lack of historic preservation ordinances in their neighborhood, it is because of owners like Tom and Vickie that gems like their own home color the neighborhood with their exquisite, unadulterated forms.
But their house is extra special amongst the rest, carrying with it a story of creation and transformation, where out of rubble, a beautiful work of balance and form arose. A mixture of stacked slate, vertical wood siding, and a sloping post-and-beam roofline define the look of an era. From the street view, this house seems like a perfectly preserved time capsule of the atomic era.
Step through the large red front door, however, and fast forward to present day, where Kevin and Mindi are raising their three kids in an ever-evolving atmosphere of energy and color. Mindi admits she cannot leave anything around her untouched, and the Kendalwood is her creative playground. Since Kevin and Mindi moved in in , their house has been in a constant state of change. Though not immediately apparent from the street view, their house has five levels.
In the main entryway, a bi-level staircase leads to both upstairs, where the bedrooms are located, and downstairs, where a family room, dining room, and kitchen are found.
Also on the entry level is a formal living room on the right./p>
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