612.558.5383 alex@awharchitects.com


Madeline Island, Wisconsin

Residential Architecture

The Place: Madeline Island, one of the few inhabited islands in Lake Superior
The program: A writer’s retreat that doubles as a guest house
The site: A woods overlooking a ravine with a distant view of the lake
The inspiration: the island’s vernacular hipped-roof cottages

The client asked for a getaway. Raising the living space to the second floor gives it a treehouse feel—and a distant view of the lake to the south. Large windows bathe the space in natural light modulated by the deep roof overhangs. The steep-pitched roof creates a loft-like room that is both expansive, with the ceiling17-feet high in the center, and intimate, with lower ceiling heights on the edges. The second-floor timber-frame structure cantilevers over the first floor and jut-outs oriented to the cardinal points extend it further into nature. The bed nook is cozied under the eaves on the east. A window seat and refectory table create a space for socializing and eating in the south-facing bay with 12-foot-high windows. The balcony juts into the woods on the west. The bathroom faces north: a tall narrow window and cut-away roof frame a view of the trees. The first floor houses a workshop appropriately built of raw poured concrete. It too has an artistry: the canted walls emphasize the overhang of the cantilevered second floor.

Apart from the concrete, metal siding and roofing, tigerwood decks and stairs, and high-insulating SIPS panels, materials were locally sourced: oak post and beams and pine siding cut and milled on the island, salvaged Douglas fir rafters and salvaged brownstone originally quarried nearby.