A Modern Farmhouse
A home in Dexter mixes mid-century style with old-fashioned comfort
When architect Michael Van Goor first meets with a couple hoping to build a new home, he has them compile individual lists of the five things they absolutely couldn’t live with and the five things they couldn’t live without. It’s sort of an architectural twist on The Newlywed Game. It’s also a good way of determining whether or not they have compatible taste, and a good indicator of how many arguments he may eventually end up refereeing.
“It’s a lot of getting to know their likes and dislikes,” he says, “and making sure they know their likes and dislikes, as well.”
In the case of Kevin and Andrea Webber, however, there was no need for lists — or arguments. “They actually came with a huge binder,” Van Goor says. “So they were ahead of the curve because they’d gotten together on a lot of issues — even interiors and colors, as well as space and details.”
Perhaps that detailed approach was due to Kevin’s background in engineering or Andrea’s taste for historic architecture. Either way, their likes and dislikes were well-defined and previously agreed upon. “I definitely wanted an orange sofa,” Andrea says. “That was on the list for a long time.” But while the sofa made the list — along with dark hardwood floors and the pendant-light fixture above the kitchen table — the screened porch ranked slightly above. “That was easily in the top three reasons why we built the house,” Kevin says.
After 10 years in a 1939 Cape Cod in Ypsilanti — where Andrea became active in the city’s historic preservation efforts — the Webbers were decidedly specific and somewhat hesitant when choosing to build rather than restore. Because of their appreciation for classic architecture, they were careful to avoid the clichés associated with so many newly constructed homes. “We absolutely wanted to avoid all the different types of ceilings you see in these newer homes,” Kevin says. “It’s a nod to the past. It just, to us, felt more homey.”
After finding a lot in Dexter, they found their architect and, within two years, finished construction on their “modern farmhouse.” Using classic forms and materials in combination with a more modern, open interior and clean detailing, Van Goor, the Webbers, and interior designer Kelly Hansen designed a new home with an old-fashioned scale and feel.
Exactly the kind of house preservationists will be eager to restore years from now.