Ravine House by Wheeler Kearns Architects
This amazing single family home located in Highland Park, Illinois, has been designed in 2017 by Wheeler Kearns Architects.
The couple—cyclists, nature enthusiasts, artists—sought to create a modestly scaled single-floor house that supports their active lifestyle and personal interests while quietly engaging with the ravined site.
The project is a synthesis of the couple’s past and future, interests, and passions. The house is conceptualized as a single, dark, rectangular volume. One corner, the garage, is broken off to create an entry courtyard. The house and garage are intentionally pulled apart to infuse a bit of the wild into daily routines. While the exterior volume is wrapped in black square-edged vertical metal siding, the courtyard is lined with a vertical rain screen of American Black Locust. Local stones, clustered plantings and swaying birch flow through this courtyard: in essence, nature wins. A singular, smooth column of Black Locust supports an entry canopy. Positioned ‘just so,’ it begs to be touched as one walks past.
Within, the heart of the home is a central volume of American Walnut. All rooms feed off this hub and are drawn to it, revolving around the warmth of the material. Here, the couple walk on continuous white oak floors. Sitting comfortably in the living room or standing casually by the kitchen island, the view drifts out through large windows to rest on the cadence of the seasons, color spreading through the autumn leaves or dappled light on fresh snow. From the painting/ spinning studio, the couple enjoys views past the courtyard birches to the raised beds of a vegetable garden that they built themselves.
For this couple, this house is a place from which they continue to nurture their land and build strong roots. They actively restore the ravine from invasive species and personally plant no-mow meadows. They tap the onsite maples for syrup, boiled down in a fi re from cordwood sourced on-site. The fi repit of brick gabions is created from the rubble of a previous house on the site that burned down. The millworker who fabricated the walnut casework delivered a live-edge walnut dining table, created from a felled tree the couple rescued from their farm in Galena, Illinois, just in time for Thanksgiving.
Photography by Tom Rossiter