Kainlauri Open House

Kainlauri Open House



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The homes that architects build for themselves and their families are always of special interest, as is this home designed by Eino Kainlauri in 1962. It follows the principles of midcentury style with wonderful siting on a 1.5 acre forested lot. There are large windows framing wooded views, an open floor plan, and natural materials. The exterior is cedar and brick, while inside is found Vermont slate entries, sandstone fireplace, walnut paneling, and red oak floors. The original walnut kitchen cabinets have been repurposed for storage.

Kainlauri was born in Finland in 1922. After serving as an officer in WWII, he studied engineering and architecture at Helsinki University. He came to Ann Arbor in 1947 on a Regent’s scholarship and received his Bachelor of Architecture from U of M in 1949. He planned to go on to a Masters at Cranbrook with his friend and fellow countryman Eliel Saarinen. Unfortunately, Mr. Saarinen died before he could enroll, so he earned his master’s in architecture at the University of Michigan. He stayed and worked for local architect Paul Kasurin, before forming his own firm of Kainlauri, MacMullan and Millman. During his 20 years of practice, Kainlauri was the architect for 73 schools, 45 churches, numerous commercial and public buildings. These included the Free Methodist Church on Newport Road, Abbot Elementary School, and the house next door to this one. Kainlauri left Ann Arbor in 1975 after accepting a teaching job at Iowa State University.

The house he designed for his family is an L-shape built around a pool on the non-street side, with the woods beyond. His daughter, Mary Ann Shao, remembers “it was wonderful to live in our house in the woods! We enjoyed the spring trilliums and May apples in the spring, summers at the pool, the beauty of the fall colors, and cross country skiing in the fields beyond the tree line in the winter.”

The house is positioned to take advantage of viewing of wildlife, seasonal color changes, and variations of light during the seasons, day and night. The bedrooms view sunrise, the family room receives full afternoon winter sun for solar gain, and the street side has sunset views. The family room overhangs limit solar gain in the summer. The moon crosses the living/dining areas. The public rooms and master bedroom are on the part facing street and rest on a concrete slab. The perpendicular part holds three more bedrooms and a bath resting on prestressed concrete planks over a basement that also served as a bomb shelter. (Remember it was built in 1962 by a sworn enemy of the Soviets). A large sunporch section along the bedroom hall was enclosed by subsequent owners to afford more living space.

Cathy and Wally have lived in the house since 1989 and are the fourth and longest tenured owners. They have honored the original layout and materials. Their biggest changes have been to make the house more livable by opening up the kitchen to the living room, updating the kitchen and bathrooms, replacing the side porch wall to better match the rest of the home’s window walls, extending summer living and dining with a large deck between the kitchen and pool, and making the former bomb shelter into a pleasant recreation area with a half bath.