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Inside a Modern Blufftop Beach House Perched Along the Shore of Lake Michigan

Situated along the shores of Lake Michigan in Illinois, a couple sought to create a lakeside refuge that was not only a change from the traditional family homes they’d lived in before but was also nothing like the area’s surrounding residences. Recently empty nesters, the couple wanted to be more adventurous in their style choice and had an opportunity to do something totally different. Thus, Bluff Beach House was born.

The couple tapped the renowned architecture firm Northworks, a Chicago-founded company with several offices around the country, to bring their vision to life. Local interior designer Ann Von Kreuter did the interiors, while Mariani Landscape handled the plantings. The impulse for something new and the imagination and effort required to realize it were a success; the 14,700-square-foot glass-walled residence is certainly a standout home in the area. There are five bedrooms and five bathrooms, plus one powder room, spread over three floors stacked atop a ground-level garage.

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Bluff Beach House Lake Michigan
The view from the living room stretches over the lake to the horizon.

“The home is uniquely built into a bluff,” says Northworks founding partner Bill Bickford. “On the driveway, you come into a courtyard to a private two-story modern home with glass but mostly solid wood walls. It’s built with two stories above grade and two stories below grade, so the house tiers down the bluff and touches the beach at that lowest level.”

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Midwest homes tend to err on the side of traditional or log cabin-style, which is why this home stands out among the rest. Bickford says that, in context with the surrounding architecture, the home is certainly more modern.

While the owners travel quite a bit, they love to entertain throughout the Midwest’s four distinct seasons. The open-concept home capitalizes on the elevated views over Lake Michigan year-round. And, because the lake is so big, there’s only water as far as the eye can see, not unlike an ocean view.

“Even in January, the lake can look like the Caribbean on a nice day,” Bickford laughs, adding that the home takes advantage of these water views from nearly every room. “All of the social rooms on the ground floor are on the lakeside and have 11-foot-high sliding glass panels that open out to terraces. We wanted to have a modern approach, but still wanted the home to be welcoming and warm. It’s a blend of straight lines and clean details paired with organic, curved shapes, like you see on the staircase. The house feels livable and has a human touch.”

Bluff Beach House Lake Michigan
The front door opens to the view over Lake Michigan.

The terraces, especially in the summer, offer prime outdoor living. Both the terrace on the main level and the one on the second floor have ample lounging space, a fire pit, and jaw-dropping lake views. The beach level, accessed by a sleek set of stairs, offers access to prime Lake Michigan waterfront, and the lower level has a boat shed, which houses the family’s catamaran, along with ample, easily accessible storage for seasonal equipment, a convenience that any Midwesterner living on a lake would appreciate. And, of course, the beach offers easy access for kayaks, paddleboards, swimming, and boating.

The lower level, which isn’t fully subterranean but is built into the bluffside, has several notable amenities that lend themselves to entertaining, including a bar and lounge, a gym, and an incredible indoor lap pool, which Bickford says, “If you want, you can go for a swim any time of the year because you have a lap pool overlooking the lake.”

The home, while it might look like a Malibu beach house, is suited for year-round use and takes into account the intense Midwest winters. Northworks installed insulated glass windows and weather-tight seals to account for the temperature fluctuations. And, in order to provide the all-glass house with more privacy from neighboring homes, the areas alongside the home were fortified with towering pines and other trees and plants that form a dense, verdant screen.

Click here for more photos of Bluff Beach House.

Bluff Beach House Lake Michigan
Bluff Beach House Lake Michigan

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