Though this modern-day master-piece would be years in the making and require a handful of special permissions to build, the West Bloomfield waterfront property that defies convention in every way proved well worth the wait.
The modern prairie-style home completed in 2015 sits on a narrow triangular lot. That was the first of several challenges, according to architect Kevin Akey, co-owner of AZD Associates in Bloomfield Hills and Fort Lauderdale, Florida (azdarch.com). That constraint meant pushing the design envelope for this major renovation.
“We couldn’t expand the footprint, and a new house was inconceivable due to the current setbacks and lot coverage constraints,” explains Akey, who recalls at least five variances that were required to build within the existing footprint. Much of the original bi-level dwelling was demolished to make way for the deluxe 6,400-square-foot structure.
Akey credits a talented team of professionals and the passionate homeowners for the success. “Every time there was a cool idea, they would say, ‘Let’s do it,’” Akey said.
What began as a modest expansion for extended family stays evolved over time to give the couple the forever home they imagined. “The clients never intended for it to be this highly detailed. They had their own ideas, and they were pushing us in that direction,” Akey said, describing the couple as very cordial and inviting. “They always have people at the house. It’s a fun atmosphere.”
The exterior is an artistic mix of materials, including clear cedar, limestone slabs, glass and steel, and commercial-grade windows. A series of retractable doors and screens face the panorama of Pine Lake. Every inch of the home’s footprint was designed to provide a view through ingenious ideas, such as a glass elevator and a rooftop deck.
Its intricate details begin at the entryway, where a substantial steel and stone column supports a tilted glass canopy. LED lights that change color like a giant mood ring appear in and around the home. They illuminate features like glass canopies and floating stairs. Lighting also is used to enhance a remarkable waterfall fabricated from 14 individual pieces of glass that flow from the fifth-floor spa to the state-of-the-art kitchen on the first floor. Hidden within its structural steelwork, the LED lights are activated by the touch of a phone. “It’s truly a one-of-a-kind glass feature,” Akey said.
Floor-to-ceiling glass contributes to the open and airy feel. The second floor is made from structurally sound glass. The gleaming material floats above the foyer creating a two-story atrium. Floating stairs have glass rails, and the glass rooftop deck offers a unique perspective from the highest point in the house overlooking the lake.
To maximize its waterfront views, the house was designed so the kitchen connects to an outdoor deck through a retractable glass wall, creating one continuous indoor/outdoor space. Inside, a sizable island covered in white Quartzite resembling a frozen lake complements commercial-grade appliances, beverage coolers and a cigar humidor for the ultimate party pad.
Consummate entertainers, the owners devoted an entire wing above the garage to hosting overnight guests. It has a billiard room, media room, exercise room, massage room and spa. A glass bridge connects the three levels on one side of the house with the two levels on the other.
Richard Laney, owner of Royal Oak-based R.J. Laney Design (rjlaneydesign.com), helped the homeowners with the custom details. The interior designer, who worked with Perspective Cabinetry in Royal Oak, describes his clients as avid travelers who collect fine art, furniture and decorative objects that invigorate the interiors with color. Aside from having the house relate to the water, it had to be a good display space for their personal effects, Laney said.
Other highlights include the custom cabinetry in the kitchen and beyond, featuring dark horizontal-grain oak with an espresso finish that lends visual warmth to the modern environment. Smart solutions like a flat screen TV in the master bedroom that drops down from a ceiling panel fulfilled the homeowners’ wishes. “They wanted the bed to face the water and they wanted to be able to see the TV and the lake,” Laney said.
The design struck a fine balance between the expansive windows that face water and the interior glass elements, like the waterfall and floors, that increase the feeling of liquidity indoors, Laney explains. When properly lit, the house demands to be seen. At night, he says it has a bit of an urban feel that turns the focus inside.
“It’s quite stunning, and it’s an extremely unusual house. It’s very personal and playful in many regards,” Laney said. “The homeowners know quality art, and yet, they also appreciate the lightness and joy of having friends over and laughing, living in a bathing suit on the weekends and being able to sit anywhere in the house in a bathing suit.”
The homeowners say they wanted to bring nature into every room and to enjoy the views year-round. When you live on a lake, that becomes part of your everyday life. “For any environment to be successful, it has to be reflective of the people who live there,” Laney says. “This house truly represents the homeowners.”
Jeanine Matlow is a Detroit-based freelance writer and regular contributor to BLUE.