In Kansas, a modernist house strives for beauty while treading lightly on its sensitive grassland site.
The kitchen, which opens up to the living room, is detailed with birch Ikea cabinets, handmade concrete countertops, and stainless-steel appliances.
Photos by Michael Shopenn
Beyond the kitchen, a hallway along the home’s south side leads to a core of rooms detached from the outside walls and the master bedroom at the east end of the house.
In one of the guest bedrooms, custom steel partitions open the entire wall to the southern view and the length of the north hall. The flexible space is at the heart of the core area and can be changed immediately from an open studio space to two smaller bedrooms, as needed. 'In our projects, we increasingly provide less definition for what the end use of a room should be,' Rockhill says. 'We provide rough space as opposed to delineating with great specificity where activities should occur.'
Freestanding handmade steel lavatories, designed and built by the architects, were placed in the hallways so the homeowner and guests can look out onto the southern view. “It’s such a fantastic landscape—you fall right into it,” Rockhill says. The mirror reflects the private toilet and tub room finished in two-inch mosaic tile.
From the north side of the house, the sod roof rises out of the grade on approach.
Kansas architect Dan Rockhill, a former mechanic, takes on constructing the homes he designs, often using custom items made in his rural workshop.
Twenty-eight floor-to-ceiling cabinets from Ikea provide more than 900 cubic feet of storage. Running the entire length of the north corridor, they buffer the colder north side.
The north side is clad with two-inch slabs of finely machined Kansas limestone hung using a mortarless system. 'They can cut that stone just like sliced bread,' Rockhill says.
A breezeway connecting the garage and the house is a fine place to sit and enjoy the southern view of the cropland.
Natural ventilation includes operable windows set high on the north elevation. Southern windows are protected from the hot summer sun by continuous louvers. The natural prairie was maintained and reseeded in disrupted areas following construction.