A Vision in Minimalism
A couple builds a dream home in the Baraboo forest
Bluff House blends with the Baraboo landscape. SEE MORE PHOTOS OF THE HOME IN THE SLIDESHOW BELOW.
Amy Bruns dreamed about living in a place that felt like camping at Devil’s Lake. Her husband, Stephen Bruns, had visions of building his ideal modern house.
Happily, they both got their wishes in their new home in the wooded hills of Baraboo.
Called Bluff House, the 1,500-square-foot home is a striking example of the minimalist architecture Stephen specializes in at his firm, Bruns Architecture. Surrounded by a thick forest of poplars, oaks and maples, the house blends organically into its environment, and it’s the perfect spot for the Brunses, who split their time between there and Milwaukee.
The couple discovered the three-and-a-half-acre lot on their bicycles while training for the Devil’s Lake triathlon. After they purchased the property, they spent time studying the site and planning the home they would build on it.
“This was really a great opportunity to explore ideas,” Stephen says.
After considering several different concepts, they decided on a design characterized by two simple structural forms that intersect yet distinguish public and private areas of the home. They began construction in June 2008 and finished in February 2009.
The couple chose understated furniture—a cognac-hued sectional, a low-profiledining room table—and few accessories to keep the focus on the striking architecture and the views, which are highlighted through a wall of windows running from the master bedroom to the living room.
“One thing that separates the work I try to do is that the architecture is the interior design,” Stephen says. “I try to expose the structure and planar elements for what they are.”
“The views are the art,” Amy adds.
Yet earthy tones, natural materials and a wood-burning fireplace keep the place feeling cozy.
“We gravitate toward modern lines with a hint of warmth—and a touch of vintage,” Amy says, referring to her collection of mid-century modern chairs.
Another priority for the Brunses was making their home sustainable. A radiant heating system provides warmth, while the trees surrounding the house create a natural solar shield—they block the sun in the summer and allow heat in during the winter.
With a strict budget in mind, they opted for a sound structure and quality windows but postponed certain projects. One day, they’ll replace concrete walls with stone and upgrade fixtures and features in their bathrooms.
Since completing the house, Stephen and Amy—and their cats Sage and Peanut—have enjoyed seeing deer, foxes, raccoons, turkeys, cranes, wrens, woodpeckers and other wildlife from their windows. And each season brings new beauty to experience. “Fall is probably the favorite,” Stephen says.
“I love the view of the woods,” Amy says. “This is what I wanted.”
Katie Vaughn is associate editor of Madison Magazine.
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