May 29, 2024

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This Charming Kalamazoo Farmhouse Has a High-Tech Secret

5 min read
This Charming Kalamazoo Farmhouse Has a High-Tech Secret

When Kirt and Carmel Stauffer moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan, to open a family-run senior care facility, they quickly realized that they didn’t want to live in a neighborhood that would limit how their home could look or feel. Instead, they started searching for a plot of land where they play by their own rules.

It was a long game—and a hands-on one at that. The Stauffers, along with their two young children, went door-to-door looking for 10-acre parcels in the area where Kirt had grown up, and became immediately wide-eyed when they stumbled upon an abandoned farmhouse down a winding driveway.

The Three Peaks home in Kalamazoo, Michigan, comprises three individual homes connected by glass walkways. It has three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and 2,801 square feet of living area.

The Three Peaks home in Kalamazoo, Michigan, comprises three individual homes connected by glass walkways. It has three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and 2,801 square feet of living area.

The lot was not for sale at the time, but, after striking up a conversation with the family that owned the property, they learned that the 96-year-old owner’s dream was to pass it to another family and not see it subdivided like some of the nearby properties. “And so, it felt like we had a shot that they would call us,” says Kirt.

Then, one day, the call came. “Absolutely, we still have interest,” Kirt recalls saying.

Kirt and Carmel sprang into action and contacted designer Liz Hoekzema at KLH Homes—who they had previously been in touch with—to help design and build their dream home. The existing farmhouse, the Stauffers quickly came to find out, was unsalvageable—but the 100-year-plus barn wasn’t.

The Stauffers transformed the property’s original barn into a chicken coop. "We were thrilled we could keep that intact," says Carmel. 

The Stauffers transformed the property’s original barn into a chicken coop. “We were thrilled we could keep that intact,” says Carmel. 

KLH worked with the couple on a vision of three individual homes in one that would be connected by glass-lined walkways, maximizing natural light of the property’s southern exposure. The barn would be kept and turned into a chicken coop, clad in burnt cedar to match the material story of the main house.

The end result is what they now call the Three Peaks House; the three peaks are a reference to how the house is intentionally divided for different use cases. There are three bedrooms in one section; the kitchen, living room, pantry, and living space are in the center section; and the garage is the end section.

In the kitchen, what appears to be a flat-file cabinet opens to reveal deep storage space for pots and pans. "It’s imbuing the character of things that you might have found at an estate sale and bringing it in in a really practical, beautiful, clean, modern way," says designer Liz Hoekzema.  

In the kitchen, what appears to be a flat-file cabinet opens to reveal deep storage space for pots and pans. “It’s imbuing the character of things that you might have found at an estate sale and bringing it in in a really practical, beautiful, clean, modern way,” says designer Liz Hoekzema.  

The kitchen, living room, and pantry are all in the center "peak" of the home.

The kitchen, living room, and pantry are all in the center “peak” of the home.

Oak cabinetry is featured in both the kitchen and laundry room of the home. 

Oak cabinetry is featured in both the kitchen and laundry room of the home. 

Kirt and Carmel were hands-on in the design-build process, and they even DIYed the finish on the home’s exterior. Kirt had stumbled upon the Japanese shou sugi ban woodburning technique on YouTube years prior, and the couple knew it was an element they wanted to incorporate—so they took on the project of burning and brushing each board on the house themselves (which amounted to more than 9,000 board feet of cedar).

“​​In the middle of it, we were like, ‘what are we doing? What have we gotten ourselves into?’” recalls Kirt. “But at the end, we were able to enjoy this patina of the house that we were looking forward to so much.” 

Beyond that, the Stauffers avoided going crazy with tile, patterns, colors, and “things that had an inherent fussiness,” says Hoekzema. They wanted an abundance of natural light and farmhouse flavor to lead the design.

“Kirt and Carmel wanted to feel like they were camping while they were living inside their home,” says Hoekzema.

When it came to hardware, they sought to pay homage to the original farmhouse feel, while modernizing the way things work. To this end, the Stauffers decided to install a Level Bolt smart lock on the main entrance and a Level Keypad paired with a Level Lock – Touch Edition on the garage entrance. 

The custom front door provides a peek-a-boo moment so that the couple can see arriving guests. Many of the design details, including the door and slotted stair rail, were planned with the southern exposure in mind. "The light really streams through and highlights those things, and you get shifting shadows and shapes throughout the day," says Hoekzema. 

The custom front door provides a peek-a-boo moment so that the couple can see arriving guests. Many of the design details, including the door and slotted stair rail, were planned with the southern exposure in mind. “The light really streams through and highlights those things, and you get shifting shadows and shapes throughout the day,” says Hoekzema. 

Clean, vertical lines and simple hardware were the Stauffers’ top priorities as they customized the front door. The Level Bolt was able to make the existing lock smart while also maintaining the design integrity of their chosen hardware.

Clean, vertical lines and simple hardware were the Stauffers’ top priorities as they customized the front door. The Level Bolt was able to make the existing lock smart while also maintaining the design integrity of their chosen hardware.

“As a designer, what intrigues me about Level Home hardware is that it’s so simple and pared back to look at, but it’s really high functioning and easy to operate,” says Hoekzema. “It can do so many things that a busy family needs. But you’re not looking at this very high-tech, complicated device that’s going to fuss up an otherwise very beautiful design.”

That unfussy indoor/outdoor connection is felt throughout the home, but especially in the primary suite which features a separate nook with a see-through fireplace and hanging bed for a year-round hammock feel.

The primary bedroom is "almost like two bedrooms in one," says Carmel. "There’s this other space where you can have this feeling like you’re outside, sleeping in the outdoors." The couple got the inspiration for the indoor/outdoor hanging bed from the home of a former neighbor, and decided it was a must-have in their new home.

The primary bedroom is “almost like two bedrooms in one,” says Carmel. “There’s this other space where you can have this feeling like you’re outside, sleeping in the outdoors.” The couple got the inspiration for the indoor/outdoor hanging bed from the home of a former neighbor, and decided it was a must-have in their new home.

The enclave with the hanging bed is connected to the primary bedroom. The fireplace is controlled by a wall switch and it connects the two rooms visually while also dividing the spaces.

The enclave with the hanging bed is connected to the primary bedroom. The fireplace is controlled by a wall switch and it connects the two rooms visually while also dividing the spaces.

“One of our favorite things to do for clients living here in Michigan is to really allow them to extend the seasons and living outside as long as possible,” says Hoekzema.

In the children’s room, KLH chose to build dressers inside of the closets to minimize obstructions and maximize storage and play space. They also incorporated a ladder up to the children’s play loft, as an homage to climbing up into the attic of the barn.

“We had fun playing with materials that felt like they could be indoor and outdoor at the same time,” adds Hoekzema. “The brick tiles and terrazzo tiles feel grounded, like you can trudge across them in your boots after you’ve been in the barn.” 

The Three Peaks house exists now as the original landowners intended, with Level products aiding in the comings and goings of a busy family on sprawling land.

A Level Lock – Touch Edition and Level Keypad on the mudroom entryway give the family effortless access from the outdoors. 

The keypad also lets the Stauffers set a unique key code for Kirt’s local family and Carmel’s visiting family to access the house on planned occasions. 

The keypad also lets the Stauffers set a unique key code for Kirt’s local family and Carmel’s visiting family to access the house on planned occasions. 

A screened porch with a woodburning fireplace offers another moment of indoor/outdoor connection. "My favorite spot has become the outdoor screen area, because Kirt will make a fire in the morning and we can have coffee out there, plan our day, and then make our way in and start the hustle and bustle of the day," says Carmel.

A screened porch with a woodburning fireplace offers another moment of indoor/outdoor connection. “My favorite spot has become the outdoor screen area, because Kirt will make a fire in the morning and we can have coffee out there, plan our day, and then make our way in and start the hustle and bustle of the day,” says Carmel.

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