Design Insights: Riverglass House

The family intelligently acquired a piece of property whose natural attributes eclipsed its suburban surroundings. The lot lines create a compressed, modest street presence and then expand in a gesture to the unique pointed setting on the Thornapple River, with a 200 degree water view. The concept of a long, welcoming landscape to a house that re-dramatizes the opening to a river view was foundational for the design process.

Thinking about the house as a threshold to the river experience was an organizational tool for the project. A three story central core is a quotation of the outdoors—a large interior void around which all the individual uses of the house are organized. The core welcomes, but also negotiates egress between offset levels on either side.

A large semi-public living room with high ceilings and prominent river views couple with the Master suite above to comprise the southern half of the house. Family function is supported to north: an expansive casual living, dining, and kitchen area on the main level, and children’s bedrooms and play area on the second level. At the highest point of the house, the third level provides multi-directional views and is reserved for focused work, reflection, wellness, and inspiration.

While the southern half of the house sits still and quietly adjacent to the landscape with the most prominent views, the architecture of the northern half unfolds gradually into the landscape, providing a continuous experience from the inside to out. Deep overhangs create a transitional resting place and are a standing invitation to access the river, in person.

The interior of the home, while enhancing the depth of the architecture, adds a layer of softness to the firm, exact edges.

The main level is meant to be open and flexible enough to entertain guests, while still providing more intimate spaces for the family to reside on a daily basis.

The house is knitted together with a warm palette of materials that helps to negotiate privacy in relationship to transparency. As a guest, there is a level of visibility to the upper floors through the glass and slat walls, but the distance provides clear personal spaces.

Modern architecture is complemented with tailored furniture in classic finishes that evoke warmth and comfort. The scale is low and grounded to draw the attention to the exterior views, the focal point of the rooms.