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James Douglas House

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1971–1973, Richard Meier and Associates. 3490 Lake Shore Dr.
  • (Photograph by Balthazar Korab)

This International Style house resides among a collection of log and contemporary vacation homes that line beautiful Lake Shore Drive north of Harbor Springs. Designed by Meier, the Douglas house owes something to Le Corbusier. The house is dramatically situated overlooking Lake Michigan on a steep, densely wooded slope that drops down to the lake at a 45-degree angle. When viewed from the lake, the static machined quality and stark whiteness of the house contrast with the rustling evergreens and water. At the same time the horizontal layers of the house punctuated by the dramatic verticals of the chimneys, mullions, and the overall massing mimic the horizontal planes of the road, beach, and water overlapped by the tall vertical pines.

Only the roof and entrance level are visible from the roadway, but the house drops to four levels below. As in other Meier houses from this period, the entrance extends beyond the limits of the building. Approached by a slender bridge, the volume of the house below is suddenly and surprisingly revealed. The vertical arrangement of the house is emphasized in the entrance vestibule, which overlooks the living and dining areas below. The vestibule also opens to a large roof deck, which, like other elements in the house, suggests the metaphor of a land-based ship. Decks on all levels of the house provide breathtaking views and a sense of being thrust out to soar above the water and trees. This feeling is emphasized again in the freely suspended and projecting exterior stairway connecting the decks. And yet within the house one feels confined to a treetop glass box.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert


What's Nearby


Kathryn Bishop Eckert, "James Douglas House", [Harbor Springs, Michigan], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Michigan

Buildings of Michigan, Kathryn Bishop Eckert. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 412-413.

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