This Mountain-Modern Home Uses Light and Nature to Connect with the Outdoors
Minnesota-based RemWhirl crafts a home awash in rejuvenating sunlight.
“We had a lot of different designs, but every version had one thing in common — lots of light and windows,” says Jason*, the homeowner of the recently completed contemporary home overlooking Lower Whitefish Lake in Minnesota. “From every room you should be able to see the lake.”
This was especially important for his wife, he adds, who wanted more natural light than their previous home provided due to tall surrounding trees that blocked sunlight.
The couple worked with Dan Whirl, owner of architecture and landscape design firm RemWhirl. The firm’s specialty is in the mountain modern style, an aesthetic which pairs simple geometry and open plan layouts with locally sourced materials, native vegetation, and ample views of the surrounding landscape.
Of course, it’s no wonder that capturing daylight was so appealing to the owners. Decades of scientific research on the effects of daylight have suggested many benefits. Summarizing this work, Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg, chair of the Daylight Metrics Committee of the Illuminating Engineering Society, notes that natural light and views of nature can positively affect regulation of sleep-wake cycles, alertness and productivity, and recovery from illness.
Perhaps with these benefits in mind, for Whirl, the design started from the outside. “The home is private; you can’t see it from the road. But as you’re entering the driveway, it starts to unfold,” he says. “There’s a connectivity with the outside and indoors. Your eyes flow through the house, and the material palette continues outside as well as inside.”
To further connect inside and out, the architects used a combination of windows and natural materials. In the master bath, for instance, a window assembly goes from the floor to the ceiling. Mexican beach pebbles around the freestanding tub butt up to the inside and outside of the window, giving the illusion of no wall. In the kitchen, a window lines-up with a water trough in the driveway, striking a linear path through the house.
Part of his intent was to show vertical movement as a counterbalance to the horizontal spread of the mountain modern style, a mission that was largely achieved through the sleek stair tower on the front side, which features glass on three sides.
“In this case, we started working with Marvin® Windows and Doors in the early stage because it was a custom job and a technical challenge,” Whirl says. “There’s not a lot of structure there and it’s not built like a glass curtain wall. They chose the Contemporary Studio Line from Marvin because the sash around it is very sleek, so there’s not a lot of interruption of the glass.”
The result pleased the homeowners, who say the glass opened up views they didn’t think were possible.
“The stairs are on the non-lake northern side, and the house blocks the view of the lake,” Jason says. “But with the glass, you can see through it just enough to get a hint of the lake, which gets you excited to open the door and get a better view.” As Whirl observes, “bringing the outdoors in was huge for both of them.”
Despite the harsh northern winters, the couple is delighted to feel so connected to nature in their new home. In their old house, “we had a gorgeous view there too,” Jason says, “but we just couldn’t get through the winter. Now, even if it’s freezing outside, if it’s sunny, inside it’s very warm and uplifting. You’re just bathed in the sun.”
*homeowners wished to remain anonymous and their names have been changed for privacy