Huget Open House
There will be an open house and tour at the home of Lesa and Michael Huget on Sunday, September 13th. Tickets are $15 and may be obtained at http://www.a2modern.myevent.com/ .
“The house is most desirable for its fine stand of evergreen trees and view over Barton Pond,” wrote Robert Metcalf, describing the home he designed in 1955. It was only his seventh house, but already he had developed the skill of siting buildings on difficult pieces of land. “Sloped up quite steeply from the street in a rough bowl shape, the area where the building was possible was quite small,” he explained. Metcalf decided to nestle the house up against the trees with a view down to Barton Pond to make it seem like a “lake cottage year around.”
His clients were Jessie Forsythe, founder of the Forsythe Gallery, the first art gallery in town, and Franklin Forsythe, a lawyer, who had very specific ideas of what they wanted. The living room, dining room, and kitchen that flow into each other and look out on to Barton Pond, were designed as a “dignified, gay, open space for casual entertaining,” per the Forsythe’s request. The master bedroom looked out on to a patio. Their two sons’ basement bedroom had direct access to the car port so they could pursue their hobby of working on cars. Since Jessie had originally wanted to have her art gallery in the house, Metcalf created space for one, also in the basement, with a separate entrance. (When zoning laws prohibited this she opened it in Nickels Arcade.) The walls throughout the house were painted white to show off the Forsythes’ personal art collection of paintings, ceramics, and sculpture.
By the time Lesa and Michael acquired the house two years ago, it had been altered in unsympathetic ways by interim owners and also showed the signs of almost 60 years of wear, but they could see the bones of a dream house and were happy that they were able to purchase it instead of a second bidder who wanted to buy it for the view and tear it down.
The Hugets hired architect and U-M professor Craig Borum to help them bring the house back to what it could be. Borum had been a student of Metcalf’s and consulted with him on the project. “With the larger ambition of preserving this legacy, the existing state of the house required both structural and aesthetic improvements” explains Borum, adding “The interventions were all executed as closely to the original plans with the additional consideration of efficiency and sustainability.” Borum received an honor award from the Michigan American Institute of Architecture for this project.
They started by removing the overgrown vegetation in the front yard, which was so high that the house was advertised as having “seasonal views” meaning that the pond could only be seen when the leaves were off the trees. The next job was to repair the deck on the front of the house so they could enjoy the view. “It was scary,” says Lesa. “It was slanted and you could see down to the ground.” They extended the deck to the side of the house and brought the railing up to code by making it higher. Inside, they took out several levels of flooring and replaced it with cork, which is soft on feet and very sustainable. In the living room they took out the later addition of a traditional fireplace mantle to reveal the original marble one. The walls, which had aged to a dull white, were re-painted throughout by Kate Lazuka in period-appropriate colors that make the beauty of the rooms pop out.
The biggest change was in the lower level rec room, which “didn’t even feel part of the house,” according to Lesa. But new paint, an added window, period-inspired built-ins designed by Craig Borum, and period appropriate furniture brought it back to what it could be. Lesa knew they had succeeded when a contractor said “It makes me want a martini.”