When Scott Rappe, AIA, met with the family for this weekend home, one member had a simple request: “I want you to design it, not draw it.” The family member happened to be John Holabird Jr., FAIA, grandson of the founder of Holabird & Root and a former principal of the prestigious Chicago firm. Holabird knows a thing or two about design, of course, so his directive was succinct but clear. “He had no parameters,” says Rappe, a principal of Chicago-based Kuklinski+Rappe Architects. “It was wide open. It's an opportunity that doesn't come along every day.”

The opportunity for Rappe arose out of misfortune—a Thanksgiving Day fire burned the 1970s-era vacation home Holabird built 30 years prior. And Holabird had no interest in going through the design and construction process again. “He didn't want any part of building the house, so someone recommended me,” Rappe recalls.

Rappe says Holabird and his two daughters were inclined to spend as little as possible to rebuild the house, though no specific conversation expressly stated it. “I don't think we talked about a [price per square foot], but it was implied,” he explains. “People usually don't want to spend a lot of money on a weekend home.”

But Rappe had extensive structural issues to address before he could even think about construction costs. Because he was reusing the existing foundation, he had to make modifications to accept the additional living space the clients wanted. He succeeded in underpinning the former crawl spaces and excavated them further to create a new on-grade, one-level suite for Holabird and his wife.

The family wanted a house each member could use without disturbing the others, so in addition to the ground-floor suite, Rappe designed two additional second-floor suites flanking a double-height common space. The interiors offer a contemporary take on the traditional weekend home, with stylish but budget-conscious touches, such as open shelving, laminate countertops, natural-finish MDF cabinetry, and bamboo flooring.

Rappe used the house's rustic southwest Michigan location to guide his exterior material choices. “I wanted to express the rusticity, and I wanted it to look different from a primary residence,” he says. And again, the budget was a concern. Straightforward elements such as industrial railings and cargo netting, standing-seam metal, and Cor-Ten steel did the trick.

Rappe completed the project for about $155 per square foot without significant corner-cutting. “It's pretty typical for us,” he says. “We always work out ways to get more value for our clients.”

Holabird Weekend Home, Harbert, Mich.

Kuklinski+Rappe Architects, Chicago

general contractor:
Jack Lane Construction, New Buffalo, Mich.

project size:
3,150 square feet

site size:
0.75 acre

construction cost:
$155 per square foot

Doug Snower, Doug Snower Photography