Michigan Lake House

A weather-ready home with Japanese influences, by Desai Chia Architecture

Shortly after accepting a commission to design a weekend lake house for a family in northern Michigan, Arjun Desai, AIA, and Katherine Chia, AIA, founding principals of New York–based Desai Chia Architecture, took a trip to Japan that would have an unexpected and dramatic impact on their approach.

Their client sought a house that could stand up to Michigan’s hot summers and snowy winters with minimal maintenance, and suggested the architects look at the Japanese shou sugi ban technique, which involves charring wood to a blackened crisp, making it resistant to pests and rot. The architects observed examples on ancient teahouses and shrines. “These buildings have been around for centuries,” Chia says. It seemed an ideal solution. ...