Living on the Edge
With five mostly grown children and three grandchildren, Arie and Karolyn Leibovitz were looking for a way to entice their brood back home. Their solution: A home on a lake, where everyday would be like a holiday.
After six months of searching, the couple found their prize: A peninsula on Walnut Lake, in West Bloomfield, that offered 270-degree views of the water. Arie Leibovitz, a commercial real-estate developer, tapped Kevin Akey, co-owner of AZD Associates, in Bloomfield Hills, to design a home that would do the lot justice.
Inspired by the inviting Mediterranean-style homes with hardwood floors, limestone and arches that he saw in frequent trips to his native Israel, Leibovitz brought photos to Akey, who introduced the idea of “massive amounts of glass,” says the architect, and rooted it firmly in the present tense. Together, they created a structure that combined the hospitable warmth and airy flow that Leibovitz envisioned with a livable excellence typical of Akey’s work. Most important, they tailored the five-bedroom, 6,500 square-foot house to the spectacular vistas and unique shape of the lot.
“There’s not a single room in the house that doesn’t have a view of the lake,” says Akey. That’s due, in part to Leibovitz’s willingness to stir things up. Because the lot is a peninsula, the standard interpretation of the city’s sightline ordinance, which restricts houses intruding into one another’s sightline, would have precluded the home from being built in this manner. Based on that argument, the “hardship” it caused allowed Leibovitz and Akey to get a variance, meaning they were able to build as close as 35 feet from the water, the minimum distance. “Because of our proximity to the water, and the uniqueness of Kevin’s design, you walk into the house and you don’t even se the shoreline. It’s like being on a boat,” says Leibovitz. “Every day, I come home and I say, ‘Wow’. It’s a great feeling. I’m happy that we ended up on a lake, but even more so because of the house we were able to create.”
Two fan-shaped “pods” hug the curves of the shoreline and are topped by standard hipped roofs. “We didn’t want an ultra-contemporary flat-roofed house,” Akey says. The pods are connected with a flora-filled serpentine atrium, around which the whole of the house evolves. Twenty-one feet of glass, culminating in a nautical-themed motif and an illuminated barrel-vaulted ceiling, led the eye upward and outward, so that one’s first impression is of fluidity, movement – and water.
The simplicity of such natural materials as limestone and light-hued maple means that the home is maintenance free, both indoors and out. “It’s not a super-formal atmosphere,” says Akey. “It’s beach-oriented. It’s a place where you can feel comfortable walking in with sandy feet and dogs.” And, of course, grandchildren.