Volume 3, Issue 3
When Kevin Akey purchased a narrow lot of land on Union Lake in Commerce more than a decade ago, a small house was part of the package. After years of renting and then living in the home, it was time to go from demolition to one-of-a-kind design.
But Akey, a principal at AZD Associates, Inc. in Bloomfield Hills, wasn’t content to channel his creative genius simply to build the house of his dreams. The architect also had his heart set on respecting the environment and his budget too. As it turns out, all of the above would be achieved without sacrificing an ounce of style.
The end result is a residence that blends raw, recycled and sustainable materials in remarkably refreshing ways. For instance, glass, steel and masonry make up the maintenance-free exterior, which features a roofline that captures the essence of a wave.
And the striking home is in sync with its site. “It fits like a glove,” Akey says. “I was able to capture views of the water from every room while using the sun and winds for their natural ecological benefits.”
The architect shares the stately structure with his wife Michelle and their three daughters – Soleil, Ciera and Darian. The three-story, 5,100 square foot home also provides not-too-shabby shelter for two cats, one dog, and a handful of turtles and fish.
Akey has surpassed the stereotypical modern-industrial style by making it warm and inviting through the use of color, materials and textures. He describes the interiors as “a very warm, playful industrial.” A six-foot-wide custom fireplace provides the other kind of warmth to every room on the main level. “And the floors are all heated concrete, which is very, very comforting,” Akey says.
The spare use of furnishings and accoutrements was no accident as it allows the architecture to get the attention it deserves. Much of the home’s contents – including sofas, pillows and rugs – were custom-fabricated to suit the setting. Even the hardware, faucets, lighting and window treatments were custom-made for this labor of love.
Bright-hued artwork by friend Susan Morosky can be seen in the home. An artist in his own right, Akey has a knack for breathing new life into basic products and materials. Exterior light fixtures from Home Depot were modified with steel accents and used indoors wile raw materials were left exposed for two reasons. “One, for a look,” Akey says, “and two, it was really to save money.”
In the foyer, a two-story waterfall streams down a steel wall into a fish and turtle-filled pond. “I can either make the water run down the wall or rain into the pond,” Akey explains. Above the pond, a glass bridge connects the main areas of the home.
The cutting-edge kitchen is out of this world. When asked about his inspiration for the space, Akey says, “Everything really evolved. We moved in prior to finishing the kitchen and master bath, so it gave me time to really get into the design.” His concepts, he says, were mostly in response to his modest budget while materials were often frugal finds, such as circular rugs from IKEA. Arranged in a row along the floor, they resemble indoor stepping stones.
All of the countertops are either stainless steel or stained concrete with imbedded shards of polished glass for a three-dimensional look. The commercial-style kitchen may be comparable to a restaurant as far as the function is concerned, but the curved design is downright dazzling. In fact, the stunning setting might turn a novice cook into a master chef.
In the powder room, unique features such as a whimsical water fall faucet and a concrete sink with foot pedals demonstrate that fine design can exist in the most practical of places. The sleek sink is comprised of a floating slab of stained concrete while the concealed drain is supported by a steel bracket.
For every challenge, the architect seemed to concoct a clever solution. Due to the lack of wall space, foot-operated light switches were installed in the floors. As Akey attests, “Most of the interior details were very simple materials and products used in unique ways.”
The fact that the family loves to share their spectacular surroundings is one of the reasons the house lends itself to entertaining. “Everyone loves it,” Akey says of the reactions they receive from first-time visitors. “Most people have not seen anything like it.” The lake is a bonus, as family and friends enjoy a variety of water sports.
Akey was sure to factor in some fun when preparing the family-friendly design. “There is a fire pole in the house for the kids to use,” he says. “They also hand-feed the turtles and fish in the pond every day.”
Outside, a playhouse version of the main house is the ultimate in recreational facilities. The structure, which was created for charity, was sold to the highest bidder, Dan Sebold of TSA Construction in Bloomfield Hills (who donated the construction for the project). Sebold graciously gave the playhouse to Akey who had donated the design.
As for the adults, Akey favors his third floor office and workout area while his wife has a penchant for the screen porch. An extension of the home, the porch completes the rectangular footprint of the house while offering breathtaking views of the lake. With the push of a button, retractable glass doors open on the interior side of the porch as retractable screens roll down the exterior edge. The result is an indoor-outdoor room that is easily adapted whenever the mood strikes. Natural breezes are not only more soothing but more environmentally sound than air-conditioning.
Akey’s home is a prime example that going green can be glamorous. Among him many efforts to protect the planet are live roof experimentations and passive wind and sun strategies, which use the climate to help with heating and cooling.
And, for those who wonder if it is difficult for an architect to create his own abode after being exposed to so many designs, for Akey, the answer is no. “I really knew what I wanted,” he says. But things don’t always go according to plan. Everything, the proud homeowner says, turned out better than he envisioned.