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Rural Retreat with Modern Flair

A corrugated metal and concrete vacation home blends sleek urban style with a nostalgic nod to midwest farms

Written by Amy Elbert
  • Werner Straube

    For a kid who grew up in Indiana Amish country surrounded by cozy quilts and period antiques, this modernist corrugated metal and concrete-panel house may seem a stretch. Not so.

    Inspiration for the structure’s cylindrical silo-like tower and blocky barn forms comes directly from Midwest rural landscapes, says Chicago-based architect Stanley Tigerman, who designed the house for an upscale development in New Buffalo, Michigan, across Lake Michigan from Chicago.

    Tigerman’s rural-inspired forms resonated with Chicago interior designer Erik Kolacz, who recalls playing in corncribs and other outbuildings at his grandparents’ northern Indiana farm. “For me it was the perfect combination of country and modern. And it was in a beautiful setting, surrounded by trees, on a bluff overlooking the Galien River,” Erik says.

    The home’s standout feature is a peaked, silo-like tower, which houses a winding staircase and first-level powder room. Clerestory windows along the roofline allow for treetop views from the second-level landing.

    The house is constructed with corrugated metal and concrete-composite panels, with stainless-steel chimney flues.

    Photography: Werner Straube
    Produced by Elaine Markoutsas

    Architect: Stanley Tigerman, Tigerman McCurry Architects Ltd., 444 N. Wells St., Suite 206, Chicago, IL 60654; 312/644-5880,
    Interior designer: Erik Kolacz, Contrast Design Group Inc., 400 N. Wells St., Suite 320, Chicago, IL 60654; 312/222-0772,
    Landscape designer: Kirk Wagner, Upstream Waters Landscape, 1 Wilson St., New Buffalo, MI 49117; 269/469-9887,

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    Cozy Living Room

    While the exterior was largely complete when Erik and his partner, attorney David Kroeger, bought it in 2010, the interior of the house was unfinished—a victim of the 2008 economic downturn. Although Tigerman had specified some of the interior finishes, he was no longer working on the project. The house had sat empty and neglected for a couple years, suffering water damage in the basement after a window was left open. But those issues didn’t discourage Erik and David, who had been searching several years for vacation property near Chicago.  Plus, it was a perfect canvas for Erik.

    “We walked in and immediately knew—this is the one, we want it. We decided in one day,” Erik says. He and David—and their two big rescue dogs, Savannah and Wilma—loved the wooded setting within walking (running for the dogs) distance of the big lake.

    Two matching Ralph Lauren sofas in a rich, warm hue face off in front of the fireplace. The elongated firebox is a signature design element of the house’s architect, Stanley Tigerman. A Kravet grass cloth was applied between ceiling beams in alternate directions to create a basket-weave effect. Erik and partner David Kroeger frequently entertain at the house and for extra seating added a pair of Caracole “Out on a Limb” ottomans with branch-inspired bases.

    Wall paint: Benjamin Moore,
    Ceiling wallcovering (grasscloth #W3039.616): Kravet.
    Firebox (custom): Stanley Tigerman, Tigerman McCurry Architects,
    Sofas; cocktail table; hurricanes on cocktail table: Ralph Lauren Home,
    Pillows: owner’s collection.
    Floor lamp by sofa (“Detrick Floor Lamp” #77271-347): Arteriors,
    Pair of ottomans (“Out on a Limb” with seat upholstered in shearling): Caracole,
    Area rug ( “Ventura Sphinx” #18103): Oriental Weavers,
    Art over fireplace: by Anastasia Mak,

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    Game Table

    The house’s steel-gray exterior is brightened by barn-red trim, which inspired Erik’s interior palette choices. The arresting stop-light hue is repeated in varying shades in rugs, fabrics, and accessories throughout the house, and is balanced with saturated olive greens and rich browns. “I’ve always gravitated toward earth tones. Anything with a green base appeals to me,” the designer says.

    Earthy neutrals prevail in the area surrounding the game table, although the red exterior can be spied through the windows.

    Antique pitchfork and rake on wall: Trilogy Antiques & Design,  

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    Sleek Kitchen

    Integral to the architectural vision was the view. Tigerman had laid out the kitchen with undercounter refrigeration to keep sight lines open. The concept throughout the whole house is that there should be nothing that obstructs the view.

    Ann Sacks hexagonal tiles on the back wall create a pattern reminiscent of chicken wire. 

    Cabinetry: Yoder Cabinets,
    Wall paint; ceiling paint: Benjamin Moore,
    Backsplash tile: Ann Sacks,

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    Dining Area

    The house is further warmed by family antiques, rustic farm-implements-turned-decor, and nostalgic collections. While modern in its construction materials, the house evokes a more casual and rustic vibe.

    Woven leather and chrome-frame chairs encircle a modernist dining table custom-made with a slab of French oak. The room is warmed by a fireplace and a spice-colored Ventura wool rug from Oriental Weavers. 

    Area rug (“Ventura” #18103): Oriental Weavers,
    Wall paint: Benjamin Moore,
    Dining table (custom); chairs (custom): Contrast Design Group,  

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    Red Porch

    The second cylindrical structure houses a screened porch on the first level, with a beamed and wood-plank cedar ceiling stained red. “This is one of my favorite rooms. I’ll have my coffee there in the summer with the doors open,” Erik says. “When we have guests, everyone starts their day there, planning where we’ll go for lunch.”

    Comfort is the operative word here, with inviting sink-in sofas by the living room fireplace and squared-off tuxedo chairs in the porch covered in stain-resistant indoor-outdoor fabric. “There’s a lot of coffee drinking, a lot of tea drinking, and a whole lot of wine drinking going on here,” Erik says, adding that he and David frequently entertain and didn’t want fussy fabrics that would hamper relaxation.

    The house’s exterior red trim is repeated in the interiors, including the stained wood ceiling of the circular porch. 

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    Modern Master Bedroom

    The headboard and base of the Vanguard Furniture bed is upholstered in a hair-on-hide “Brindle” material. The bedside tables are from Crate & Barrel, the lamps from Arteriors. 

    Wall paint: Benjamin Moore,
    Bed: Vanguard,
    Bedside tables (“Esne Bruno Pedestal Table”): Crate & Barrel,
    Table lamps (“Jacqueline Lamp” #49933-546): Arteriors,

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    Guest Room

    The guest bedroom is particularly charming with a pair of red twin beds, a Paddington bear collection, and old circus posters from Michigan City.

    Wall paint: Benjamin Moore,
    Twin beds (discontinued): Stanley Furniture,
    Art above bed (antique circus posters): owner’s collection.
    Rug runner (product line varies): West Elm,
    Ottoman fabric (custom): Contrast Design Group,
    Paddington bears: owner’s collection. 

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    Perfect Patio

    Erik and David appreciate Tigerman’s innovative design. “The house is basically two rectangles and two circles that are linked and surround a secret garden in the middle,” Erik explains. The architect came up with the term “secret garden” because the enclosed courtyard is accessible and visible only from inside the house. 

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    “Our city house is very modern—four stories high, steel and glass,” says Erik. “This country house is a nice balance. I have family pieces here that I wouldn’t use in our city house."

    The house is entered via walkways on either side of the tower. Pergola-covered parking spaces are in front of two small storage buildings. 

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    Homeowner Portrait

    “While I’m modern in most of my design choices, I feel it helps to incorporate something nostalgic or even sentimental in every environment. These are the objects that remind me of where I come from and keep me grounded.”

    Homeowners Erik Kolacz (left) and David Kroeger with Savannah, a Shepherd mix, and Wilma, a Border Collie-Labrador mix.

  • Werner Straube