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Wisconsin country home with an upper-level open air terrace

The OS House designed by Johnsen Schmaling Architects is a contemporary style home, from its unusual layout to its brightly frames windows. But like many of the firm’s signature “rustic” designs, this one has a distinct country feel, despite its small-town downtown location. Maybe it’s the floor-to-ceiling windows, maybe it’s the lush gardens and waterfront views. Whatever it is, this urban house makes you feel like you’re a million miles away. Sun-soaked interiors are bright and airy, and invite you to rest, relax and explore indoors and out.

colorful contemporary house with a bold green side 1 thumb 630x371 11482 Wisconsin country home with an upper level open air terrace

colorful contemporary house with a bold green side 2 thumb 630x435 11484 Wisconsin country home with an upper level open air terrace

Located on a narrow infill lot in Racine, Wisconsin, this house is a modern beacon beside its traditional neighbors on the edge of Lake Michigan. The large expanses of glass and a cantilevered upper level terrace highlight the home’s thin, contemporary frame. To make outdoor living a part of the house plan as a whole, the architects virtually sliced into the solid rectangular volume to incorporate alfresco living rooms – a lower level walkway tucked beneath the upper-level open air terrace.


Interiors are cool and contemporary, with ever-present views of the gardens and lake. The white window frames pop against the view. The few white walls and ceilings bounce light around. Honey-colored wood floors warm up the space and complement the natural surroundings.


Tall ceilings, lots of natural light and a minimalist style lend this home an added sense of space.


And how’s this for an observation deck? The home’s three-level layout allows for a cantilevered volume with a glazed facade, the perfect spot to take a seat and contemplate life.


The top corner of the house is occupied by a rooftop terrace, wrapped in a rainscreen for all-weather alfresco living accessed through sliding glass doors. The indoors and outdoors are forever connected in this house, if not physically then visually through all that glass.


Even in the dead of winter, this sunny little house is a hotspot, thanks to its vibrant yellow and orange window frames.


Among the fresh color palette, this house has a green side to it as well. It is one of the first homes in the Upper Midwest to score a LEED Platinum rating. From the architects, “The ventilated rain screen is an integral part of the envelope, achieving a minimum R-value of 35 with the use of soy-based closed-cell foam insulation. Energy-Star rated windows with high-efficiency glazing provide a relatively high level of transparency without compromising the overall performance of the envelope. The compact form of the house allows for a high level of natural ventilation and reduces the need for artificial light. The house is designed to operate off the grid throughout most of the year. Power is generated by photovoltaic laminates adhered directly to the roofing membrane, and by an additional, freestanding PV array; excess energy is fed back into the power grid. A deep-well geothermal system provides heating and cooling and supplements the output of the solar water heater. A re-circulating hot water system and low-flow fixtures reduce water consumption to a minimum. Storm water is partially harvested or diverted into rain gardens, where it can slowly percolate into the ground; exterior hard surfaces such as driveway, the entry path, and terrace utilize permeable pavers.”
Johnsen Schmaling Architects



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