Nestled in the ravines near the shores of Lake Michigan in Glencoe, architect Celeste Robbins’ home of her own design is a breathtaking, yet welcoming celebration of the beauty and balance of nature and the fluidity of space.
“I love the connection to nature,” says Robbins as she describes her house, which she uses as a showcase to share how the element of design comes to life. “It’s important to experience how the scale feels and how the space feels,” she says. “When clients walk into my home, it allows them to understand the spaces we create much better than just a picture or drawing.”
The interior was designed to focus the attention on the outside and to frame the ever-changing seasonal display. The windows, oak stained to provide warmth, were chosen to complement the irregular pattern in the outdoor woodland tree trunks.
To further anchor the living spaces to the exterior, Robbins used the same wood paneling found on the interior cabinetry on the exterior feature walls. It was a challenge to use smooth and decorative wood panels on the exterior given the need to withstand rain, snow, and sun. Robbins worked with a manufacturer who used the principles of yacht construction to fabricate the panels. “The effort paid off because these design elements give the home warmth and strengthen its connection to nature,” she notes.
Robbins designed the kitchen/family room space as a central focal point. With teenagers growing up at the time the house was built, she wanted the layout to encourage family time and connection. The long, warm concrete island acts as a table in the center of the space. The built-in appliances feature hidden panels and storage to give the room a cleaner feel without compromising the function of a kitchen. In fact, the kitchen’s efficient design, Robbins notes, “makes cooking and clean-up a breeze.”
When her now adult children bring groups of friends over, they love to gather around the island and then meander out to their favorite space on the terrace. The expansive window wall with a large sliding door encourages guests to venture outside where the long seating element faces the infinity koi reflecting pool offering a tranquil sound and view. Robbins confides that in designing, “I slave over every detail, material selection, lighting, and proportion—when you see a home come to life with food, laughter, and friends you know you did something right because you created a space where people relax and spend time.”
Beyond the kitchen, the warm and inviting living room features another wall of windows with a view of the wooded ravine and an arched stone bridge. “Having a well-used fireplace and no TV, the rooms activities are quiet—until the occasional deer or other wild life awaken our golden retriever Stella,” Robbins laughs.
The home’s clean lines and uncluttered interior—coupled with luxurious materials and furnishings—create a feeling of tranquility not always found in modern design.
Robbins concludes, “The goal of this home’s design was not to trumpet an architectural statement. We chose to create drama in the architectural moments when it was appropriate, yet we used restraint when we felt the surroundings should play center stage. Through fundamental design principles of proportion, light, balance, and materials we attempted to create timeless architecture in harmony with the natural surroundings.”
For more information about Robbins Architecture, visit robbins-architecture.com.