Galena, Il. Nusonian by Genesis Architecture, Llc.

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DB222
Posts: 34
Joined: Sun Feb 09, 2014 3:37 am

Post by DB222 »

The layout of the home doesn't inspire me. The execution seems top notch and is nice to see but the home doesn't feel cozy. That living room is quite the opposite. It seems like a transitional space that would be difficult to use. Compare to the living room of the Hannah house, for instance, where it feels like a destination, a gathering spot, despite being a pass-through space.

This home has a slight antiseptic feel to it but I attribute that to its lack of patina and occupants at this point. All in all, it's beautiful, well-done, and hopefully makes the owners happy.

Roderick Grant
Posts: 10623
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:48 am

Post by Roderick Grant »

SDR, don't be fooled by stone veneer that seems to wrap around the corners. They now have special blocks, just inches thick, that are cut for the job.

After a few years of occupancy, this house should acquire enough of a lived-in appearance to counter the antiseptic look. Notice there isn't anything personal on display in the photos. This is a first-class work.

Rood
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2010 12:19 pm
Location: Goodyear, AZ 85338

Post by Rood »

The plan might be said to be a clever reworking of the Russell Kraus house from 1951.

mz
Posts: 12
Joined: Mon Mar 02, 2015 2:39 pm

Post by mz »

I am the homeowner and thought I would comment. First of all I am a long time member of the Preservation Trust and follower of Wright Chat. I have hesitated to bring this effort up prior to this as this group tends to be a tough audience when it comes to anyone trying to do something Wright inspired. As SDR aptly commented “We're uncomfortable with Wright being copied, and uncomfortable when it isn't Wrightian enough ! What's a fellow to do . . . “. I have enjoyed FLW’s architecture since college but really became hooked on his Usonian homes after staying in several of the rentals (Schwartz, Seth Peterson, Penfield, Haynes) which we have done on multiple occasions. Have been on many of the Wright tours including New York, Ohio, Michigan, as well as Wright in Wisconsin so I definitely have developed a good idea of the usonian elements I like. Decided that becoming a steward of an existing FLW Usonian was probably not something I wanted to undertake so, instead I planned on building a contemporary interpretation by an architect attuned to FLW’s principles using modern builing techniques. As suggested by Wright, the first thing I did was find a great piece of property in northwest Illinois near Galena. I have to thank all of you, as much of the information I utilized for decision making along the way came from the many threads on this site. I also got a lot of information from Tim Sutton who also built a usonian house. Wright Chat is also how I found Ken Dahlin, who I really think was the ideal architect to do this. Although most of his projects are larger scale he was really excited about working with someone looking to do a Wright sized house. I personally really liked the equilateral triangle grid and in particular Dobkins so I gave him that as a starting point as well as a couple of similar unbuilt designs. I also pulled bits and pieces from all of the usonians I have visited. The design underwent several iterations because of both architectural board restrictions where the property is located and more significantly cost. The plan iteration which Ken gave Houzz and which was shown in the article was actually the first and is not accurate in that the carport went away and the bathrooms were slightly enlarged and completely reconfigured. The final size of the house is a shade over 1400 sq ft.

To address some of your specific comments:
Modern Eyes – We initially wanted a shed roof but because of restrictions in the roof pitch to a minimum of 4/12 it would have resulted in a window wall 16 feet high over a narrow living area so it was modified to what you see. We dropped the living area down 3 steps from the entrance to achieve a window wall 8.5 feet tall. Brick was not an option (again architectural board rules) but we actually preferred native limestone anyway. I seem to recall that Wright’s preferences in order were stone, brick, and wood depending on the client’s budget. The entire house including the terrace and front threshold area are one continuous grid. Hardware was just our personal taste.
Preterm - The carport and Stone parapet were casualties of cost. When we were presented with the first real cost estimate of the original plan it was 200K over budget. In order to go forward with the project radical surgery was necessary. In order to maintain the level of detail that went inside the house, I decided and Ken agreed to eliminate the carport and extra masonry as we both felt the house could stand on its own without them. I felt the stone parapet could be added on at a later date but in actuality having now been in the house for 6 months we really think the absence of the parapet is a positive thing as it more completely opens up sight lines when in the house and makes the terrace feel much larger than the approximately 500 sq ft that it is. I don’t think that we will ever be putting it in.
SREcklund – I personally think that the perforated windows are one of the absolute best details of the house. Ken did a great job with them. Hard to tell in the photos but all the clerestory windows at corners are mitered single pane and Ken designed the perfs so that all the miters are exposed. It’s one of the most commonly complimented details of the house that we get. As to the cost which several people have queried – let’s just say that it was definitely in the range of a McMansion and without some restraint and common sense could have easily approached two.
Paul Ringstrom – regarding the stone. I initially also wanted something more deeply raked and with some random protrusion as several have suggested. Our mason who has over 20 years of experience laying stone in the area however dissuaded me because his experience was that using native limestone with the northwest Illinois winter in conjunction with any surfaces on which moisture can collect with repeated freeze and thaw will rapidly accelerate its deterioration. If you have ever seen the Anthony house in Michigan you can see his point. We went through several mockups of stone sizes, mortar, and rakings and we really like the look of this. Although it is a veneer in strict sense, each stone is 3 inches deep and was individually hand cut and fitted on site. Our mason really did a fantastic job especially on the core inside where the fireplace is a full masonry corner cantilevered wood burning fireplace. I will say that in the flesh the stone has much more texture and raking than is evident in the photos. If you look closely in person many of the stones actually have fossils embedded on the surface.
The story with the cedar is as follows. The plans called for “fine� grade cedar which is what is on the exterior and exterior soffit. When we actually saw it we were somewhat surprised at the knottiness of it. Not that it was bad but as I thought about the look for the interior I really didn’t want that many knots. We decided at that point to upgrade to clear cedar for the interior which was significantly more costly. However since we already had done the outer soffit in fine, in order to get the continuity of inside to outside with the soffit, we decided to make the inside soffit fine also for a uniform appearance. I can say that being in house for a while one really doesn’t pay attention to the distinction.
David C – see above
Roderick Grant – First time I’ve heard someone say that 2 acres is too small. Actually I was very careful about the lot selection as well as the siting of the house on the property. Was careful to pick property where the private side of the house had a southwest exposure. The property actually falls away from street level and as FLW suggested we made the house a part of the hill rather than on the hill by siting as far down the grade as we could allowing for an unobstructed views of the valley. I know for a fact that my neighbors cannot build down any lower as the soil reports won’t allow it. Also, the property is situated so that there will not ever be any construction down our sightlines to the southwest which is pasture for the riding stables in our area. We have also begun planting rapidly growing trees in strategic locations towards the public side and on either side. We actually have a minimal amount of grass around the periphery of the house and terrace and almost all of the two acres is natural field with a variety of wildflowers throughout the growing season.
SDR – The door is Ken’s design. Maple and cedar, which are the two species also used inside the house for the walls and cabinets. We really like it.
DB222 – A caution about judging coziness by the pictures. One of the things I learned about FLW Usonian homes is that the published pictures never give one an indication of the actual scale of the place. The feeling I’m always left with after being in one is that it looked so much bigger in the photo. The same is true here. Ken took these pictures shortly after construction was completed and staged a lot of the shots without any furniture in view. A couple of the shots make the living area look like a dance hall. I can tell you that it is not the case. The house is very intimate and human in scale. Remember the whole thing is only 1400 sq ft.

Hope that answers some of your questions. We really love the result and as with all Usonians every day we appreciate new details that you don’t immediately notice. As someone commented, it doesn’t get much better than sitting on the terrace watching the sun set with a glass of wine. As you probably can tell I was a pretty hands on client both with the design and construction. I was out there on a weekly basis for the year and a half of construction, got my hand dirty especially with the concrete slab and grid work, and took over a thousand pictures of the process from empty lot to finished house. It’s been a very fun experience. If you have any questions regarding specifics I would be happy to try and answer them. Also if you would like to see any specific photos of details I would be happy oblige although I have no clue how to post pictures to this site.

DavidC
Posts: 8122
Joined: Sat Sep 02, 2006 2:22 pm
Location: Oak Ridge, TN

Post by DavidC »

mz:

Congratulations on creating such a wonderful home! And thank you for taking the time to answer so many of the questions/comments posed.

It sounds like you are very pleased with the outcome. And based upon what we've seen in pictures - and what you've told us - you have a lot to be proud of! You've obviously done a great amount of research, thought, planning and execution into both design - and construction. And it has paid off very well, indeed. Please don't be put off at all by my 'quibble' - it is just that, a small personal preference. Your new home looks wonderful! I hope you and your family are able to enjoy it for many years to come.


David

SREcklund
Posts: 822
Joined: Tue Feb 26, 2013 8:24 pm
Location: Redondo Beach, CA

Post by SREcklund »

MZ - we may quibble from time to time (it's our way), but it's out of a genuine love of all things Wright ... a love you clearly share. The fact that we could only nitpick details is a testament to the partnership of client and architect and the spectacular outcome. It's certainly the best example I've seen of people understanding and applying the principles of Mr Wright, rather than simply copying features. Congratulations on an amazing home, and I envy the retirement years you will enjoy in this wonderful dwelling.

BhamRuss
Posts: 73
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 7:37 am

Post by BhamRuss »

I apologize if I've missed it in the text; but is the Cedar White or Red?

Rood
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2010 12:19 pm
Location: Goodyear, AZ 85338

Post by Rood »

MZ ...Thanks for all that, and for the offer to give more, and, yes, if I may be so bold, it would be interesting to have some detailed information about the construction of the concrete floor ... colour, unit lines, etc.

mz
Posts: 12
Joined: Mon Mar 02, 2015 2:39 pm

Post by mz »

The exterior, soffit, and interior are all red cedar. Interior cabinetry and shelves are maple and / or maple veneer. The exterior stain is Sikkens Cetol 1 and 23 oak (which paradoxically looks more natural than the Sikkens Natural) and the interior stains were custom mixed to get the cedar and maple to match and to get both to match the outside. We used stock cabinetry in the kitchen and bathroom where possible (all solid maple) to keep costs down and all the other woodwork was done by the Builder's (Bill Miller, Galena Hillside Homes) son Jonathan who was a real craftsman with wood. He constructed onsite all the shelves and cabinetry in the partition and sanctum. He also did all of the cedar walls and soffits. Every board of every corner and joint was joined by biscuits as well as glued. The kitchen table is solid maple and done by Stafford Norris who also did hassocks, a coffee table, and a custom fireplace grate for us.
The concrete slab was a real adventure. With regards to color I initially tried to contact Scofield but never got a call back. I also contacted Butterfield and was immediately contacted by the local rep, Jim Nielsen, who couldn't have been more helpful so we went with Butterfield Special Order color Frank Lloyd Wright Red. I wanted to make sure it came out perfect so we went Integral color plus shake hardener plus tinted sealer. We poured a test slab (which became the floor of our storage shed) first to check things out and Jim came out to Galena to help. It also helped that our concrete man Joe Lieb was obsessive compulsive. We ran into some difficulties with surface deposits leaching out of the concrete which required some creativity to resolve but ultimately sanding and 2 coats of the tinted sealer resulted in a gorgeous floor. We poured the entire floor, cut the grid and sealed prior to framing and there was a lot of debate as to whether it should have been done before or after the house was up with the obvious concern that if you do the slab first you run the risk of damaging it through the remainder of the construction. The grid was cut rather than trowelled. The major advantages in my mind to this was that first it was much easier to do and second provided built in relief points throughout the slab to prevent it from cracking. We only had one tiny hairline crack in the entire slab about 3 feet long off one of the stairs which is largely covered by the shelving partition. I actually can't see how you could possibly cut grid lines once the house is up as the amount of red concrete dust was huge. We handled the issue of damage prevention by a relatively new product called Sccudo. It is an almost canvas like product that you attach to the finished floor with liquid rubber cement that you spread on this beautiful finished floor with the promise that when you eventually peel it off, the rubber cement sticks to the scudo and not the floor. Needles to say we tried it on the test slab first and it performed as promised. The masons and carpenters also used plywood on the floors over the areas they were working on. All the framing was done right over the scudo and at the end it was just cut along the wall base and peeled off. It worked really well.
I need to put a plug in for our builder Bill Miller. I was really worried that we would not find someone in Galena willing to take this sort of project on but when we showed him the plans with every corner 60 or 120 degrees he didn't flinch. He and all his subcontractors were really amazing and worked through all the bumps in the road without any drama.

SREcklund
Posts: 822
Joined: Tue Feb 26, 2013 8:24 pm
Location: Redondo Beach, CA

Post by SREcklund »

mz wrote:He and all his subcontractors were really amazing and worked through all the bumps in the road without any drama.
End to end, how long did the build take? Did you get any sense of the unique design having an effect, positively or negatively, on the overall build time?

DRN
Posts: 4058
Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 10:02 am
Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

Post by DRN »

mz:
Thanks for the tip on the floor protection cloth, Skudo.

www.skudousa.com

We will need to use something this summer at our house during the restoration. Did the cloth hold up well where the masons were working, or did you need to overlay with plywood as well?
Your house is very well designed and executed, kudos.

mz
Posts: 12
Joined: Mon Mar 02, 2015 2:39 pm

Post by mz »

Ground was broken May 2013 and we got the keys the beginning of August 2014. The biggest delay in construction was related the some of the issues with the concrete slab as described above which also included a lot of hot weather summer of 2013 which delayed the pour. It also took a while to get the color correct and then the slab needed to cure for an entire month before they willing to begin framing. Framing really comenced in fall 2013 and we just were able to get the roof and windows in before the Polar Vortex set in. The framing was all stick built on site and did require some communication between Ken Dahlin and the carpenteres for clarifications. Likewise the engineering details of the fireplace masonry mass with steel Ibeams required some on the fly modifications. Remarkably the cokd weather really did not delay things much as the house received a spray foam insulation, the radiant heat was turned on and the house and was bubble wrapped on the outside allowing both interior and exterior work to be done in the winter. The interior wood, cabinetry, shelving which was all done by basically a single individual took a fair amount of time in the spring early summer 2014 but other than the slab and the wood work I can't point to an element of the design that was a specific hindrance.

SDR
Posts: 20304
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: San Francisco

Post by SDR »

mz -- Thanks for the reports. An ongoing look at how the house "lives" for you would be great, as well. We can learn so much from your example.

Like others I am very pleased and impressed with your effort and with the result. A strong client-architect-builder relationship is vital to the realization of good work -- and, as you demonstrate, the active participation of all parties is necessary throughout.

Thanks so much for letting us in on the process . . . !

SDR

mz
Posts: 12
Joined: Mon Mar 02, 2015 2:39 pm

Post by mz »

DRN The skudo held up remarkably well during the entire construction. I don't think that it gives enough protection that if if a mason dropped a stone it would be protected but the masons always had the area they were working on also covered with plywood when they were working. But for general protectiion from grime and minor injury it was great and it mad a believer out of our builder. It wan't exactly cheap. The product and the labor to put it on was in the 3-4 thousand range for 1400 sq ft.

dtc
Posts: 739
Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2007 9:04 am

Post by dtc »

mz,
The article of your home was forwarded to me before it was posted on Wright Chat. I enjoyed viewing the pics and after studying them I knew the Wright Chatters would enjoy critiquing every aspect of your home. They did not disappoint.
Your built-in banquette, with windows above, window wall, along with your dinning table hinted of aspects found at Dobkins. Of course your main living space terrace, back to the fundamental, an equilateral triangle, made me feel right at home.
I must congratulate you and your wife along with your architect on a job well done. May you enjoy the home and its spaces in good health for many years to come.
dtc

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