Like many homeowners, the residents of this eye-catching new-build on West Bloomfield’s Walnut Lake spent a lot of time dreaming and planning. “We had a certain idea of how we wanted it to be built,” the owner says of the more than 10,000-square-foot (including basement) residence, completed in 2017. “We spent a lot of energy thinking about it and working on it,” he admits, adding that the project became “almost a full-time job.”
When it came time to turn dreams into reality, one goal took priority: Making sure there was plenty of natural light. “We believe the sun has a huge effect on how you feel,” the husband explains. “We wanted a house that accentuated the light throughout.” Merging indoor and outdoor spaces was another design goal. “This is such a beautiful spot, we wanted to bring the outside in — not just through the light, but through the materials we chose, too,” he says.
The family of five purchased the property in 2012 and began looking for an architect who shared their vision. “We love contemporary style and we were very clear about what we wanted,” the homeowner says, adding that he and his wife believe “less in a house can be more” and “simplicity is good.” Neither philosophy is unusual among homeowners who’ve lived in Europe, as this family has.
While a calming, contemporary design and energy-efficiency were givens, the homeowners also wanted to be sure the house didn’t feel stark — which is a tendency among some modern designs.
The choice of architectural style ultimately led the couple to their architect. “There are really just a handful of architects in town who do what we wanted,” the homeowner says. After considering a few options, the couple decided on Kevin Akey of AZD Associates Inc. of Bloomfield Hills, who had worked with a business associate, and Bob Watson of Watson Custom Builders in Rochester. “We loved Kevin’s design right from the get-go,” the husband raves. “It was such a fun project to work on.”
Fun, maybe, but not always easy. When work began in 2014, the initial plan included renovating the existing structure, a modern 1950s ranch, “but it just didn’t make sense,” the homeowner explains, adding that among its many shortcomings, the existing home had 6-foot ceilings in the basement. The couple ultimately decided to start from scratch and build the warm contemporary home they’d long envisioned.
Akey designed a soaring four-story structure that takes full advantage of the light and the enviable lot, which includes 130 feet of frontage. “It was a nice, wide lot with a view of the entire lake,” Akey says of the land, which boasts northern exposure on the water side. Unfortunately, the property also had one problematic feature: it was very steep, which presented a building challenge. “It probably deterred a lot of people,” Akey says, explaining that the steepness made building a standard two-story home with a walk-out difficult.
His solution was an innovative 20-foot bridge that provides both an eye-catching entrance and abundant light in the lower levels. Flowing from the front exterior into the house, the bridge allowed Akey to add glass to the front of the lower level and flood the interiors with southern sun most of the day. “It’s about as dramatic as a house can be when you walk in,” the architect says of the entrance, a feature the homeowner says garners raves from visitors of all ages, who he says are “blown away.” Flat roofs on the garage and what Akey calls “ribbons of glass” on the front exterior allow even more light into the kitchen, which is where the family spends most of their day.
Once inside, the house spreads out over four levels. Two bedrooms and a master suite occupy the top floor, while the main level features the kitchen, family room, and dining and great rooms, as well as a guest suite and study. Stairs lead down to a walk-out level with a private gym and spa, home theater, and bar, complete with a pizza oven. The lowest level is home to an approximately 2,000-square-foot indoor roller blade hockey rink and storage space. While the family’s life “happens in the kitchen,” the lower-level spa is a welcome retreat and “so refreshing,” the homeowner says.
Other highlights include a covered three-season porch with views of the lake (and a door and retractable screens) off the kitchen, a walk-out pool and hot tub (with a special energy-efficient day cover that extends the season), and unusual floating stairs between levels. Akey describes the home’s design as “warm industrial,” noting that the natural materials used on the exterior, such as cedar and limestone, continue into the interior and complement the homeowners’ extensive art collection. The homeowners also credit “lighting expert” Bob Scherer and Arkitektura’s Lori Winslow Gordon with helping them with the interiors.
With its warm woods throughout, the house even appeals to people who don’t generally like modern styles, according to the architect. “People come to us because they want something out of the ordinary,” Akey says. “This is definitely one of our more unique homes.”
That’s exactly what the homeowners had in mind. Nearly four years after moving in, they’re still basking in the home’s sunlight — and its success. “We really love the house and enjoy it every day,” the homeowner says, adding that living in it “just makes you feel good.”
Kevin Akey, AZD Associates Inc., Bloomfield Hills, azdarch.com
Cabinets – John Morgan, Perspectives Cabinetry, Troy
Countertop – Porcelain, PMP Marble & Granite, Troy
Flooring – Cercan Tile, Gabriel Granite and Marble, Bloomfield Hills
Shelves, Floating – John Morgan, Perspectives Cabinetry, Troy
Masonry – Drystack Thin Veneer, Flores Masonry, Capital Stoneworks, Bridgeport
Tile, Terrace – Cercan Tile, Gabriel Granite and Marble, Bloomfield Hills
Ceiling Treatment – Clear Douglas Fir, Watson Custom Builders, Rochester
Chairs, Dining – Kartell, Arkitektura, Birmingham
Doors, Sliding – Matt Butcher, B&B Glass, Rochester Hills
Flooring – Cercan Tile, Gabriel Granite and Marble, Bloomfield Hills
Sofas – B&B Italia, Arkitektura, Birmingham
Table, Coffee – Poltrona Frau, Arkitektura, Birmingham
Table, Dining – Kartell, Arkitektura, Birmingham
Wall Treatment – Thin Veneer Limestone, Flores Masonry, Capital Stoneworks, Bridgeport
Chairs, Dining – B&B Italia, Arkitektura, Birmingham
Floor Treatment – Cercan Tile, Gabriel Granite and Marble, Bloomfield Hills
Hallway, Glass – Gen-Oak Fabricators, Lake Orion; B&B Glass, Rochester Hills
Lighting, Table – Nemo, Arkitektura, Birmingham
Railing – Stainless Framing with Stainless Cable, Walnut Top; Mike Fox, Crazy Metalz, Grand Blanc; John Daiek, Daiek Woodworks, Bruce Township
Wall Treatment – Clear Vertical Grain Cedar, Dillman & Upton, Rochester
Exterior Insulation and Finish System – Ky Kessler, Superior Designs, Oakland Charter Township
Manufacturer – Watson Custom Builders, Rochester
Metal Panels and Trellis Work – Mike Fox, Crazy Metalz, Grand Blanc
Paint Color – Sherwin-Williams, Limestone Gray
Stone – Mackinac Limestone, Flores Masonry, Capital Stoneworks, Bridgeport
Windows – Aluminum Storefront/Curtainwall, Matt Butcher, B&B Glass, Rochester Hills
Wood Siding – Clear Vertical Grain Cedar, Dillman & Upton Lumber, Rochester
Wood Siding Treatment – Sikkens Butternut
ADDITIONAL PROJECT CONTRIBUTOR
Builder – Bob Watson, Watson Custom Builders, Rochester