Northwoods House

Location Iron River, Michigan
Design Principal Jim Olson

This home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula frames and emphasizes its natural context, making nature its focus. The design reacts to the surrounding environment, dissolving inside/outside boundaries and creating composed views into the woods and towards the water. Exterior materials will weather over time to match the surroundings, while colors in the interior are inspired by the landscape.

This house expresses my desire to create architecture that arouses delight in the same way that a sculpture does. The composition of shapes and the pure, natural materials come to life with shadows and sunlight. Landscape elements help to weave the architecture and site together.

Jim Olson Design Principal

The house moves in an orderly way in two directions. An East-West axis creates a path from the front door to a lake view, while floor to ceiling windows along a North-South axis frame the surrounding garden and forest.

Throughout the interior, ceiling heights and room volumes vary, becoming more spacious in the rooms that open toward views. Roof extensions and light shelves create clear definition between vertical spaces.

The living, dining and kitchen are grouped to create a central gathering space. Custom furniture—dining and coffee table, steel wall cabinet, among others—results in a seamless integration of architecture and interiors.

A sculptural staircase featuring a custom chandelier anchors the intersection of the two main axes. A cozy private retreat terminates the north end of the primary axis.



Design Principal

Jim Olson

Project Manager

Olivier Landa

Project Architects

Michael Wright Crystal Coleman

Interior Designer

Debbie Kennedy

Interiors Staff

Cristina Acevedo



Bozikovic, Alex. “The Art of the Reveal.” International Architecture & Design (IAD), Fall 2014, 38-49. Print.


Bartl, Alexander. “In Der Natur Zu Hause.” ELLE Decoration Germany, Dec. 2011, 146-153. Print.

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