Some might head to the lake or the North Woods to seek solace.
For one Minneapolis couple, that slice of heaven is in Wisconsin's Driftless Area, amid a backdrop of rolling hills and prairies.
"Rather than the typical lake cabin, we were really craving land and solitude," said Chris Everett, who looked for land with his husband, Bill Underwood. "We started down in Pepin and worked our way up," Everett said.
It was game over when they came across a 57-acre former dairy farm in Glenwood City. The lush woods seemed to go on and on. There was ample prairie. And a creek dotted the southern edge.
"We were not looking for a farm, but when we drove onto the property we were completely taken with the beauty of this place," Everett said.
The duo decided to build a home on the sprawling property, but one that would be modest in size. They brought in Minneapolis-based D/O Architects, because they were impressed with the company's portfolio, which included several farmsteads, to work on the project that has been named a Star Tribune/AIA Home of the Month winner.
"We're not very extravagant people. When we were interviewing architects, [they were] sometimes showing their best biggest projects and that wasn't what we were looking for," Everett said. "We liked D/O's aesthetic and experience and we had confidence that they could keep it the right size for us."
Now, 10 years later, the couple is finally getting ready to move into the home on the property they call Everwood Farmstead, a mix of their names.
But they have a good excuse for why it took so long to move in. After they bought the land, they started to renovate some of the seven existing structures, which date from the late 1800s to mid-1900s.
"The barn, in particular, was a standout and built of California redwood and was in extraordinary condition," Everett said. "The guy who built it was a farmer, but he was quite the craftsman and builder, too."
Underwood, a former board chair of Theater Latté Da in Minneapolis, and Everett, an artist who has served on several arts boards, decided to turn part of their farm into a gathering place for artists and arts patrons.
They ended up asking D/O Architects to build not just a home, but a campus that would serve the arts community.
"This was not part of the plan. The farm inspired it," Everett said. "When Bill and I were renovating the barn, it was such a beautiful space that we just knew something needed to happen there."
In 2012, Everwood Farmstead Foundation, a nonprofit arts organization, opened to the public. Since then, its barn-turned 150-seat venue has hosted music, theater, dance and storytelling events, including musical acts Jeremy Messersmith, the Cactus Blossoms and Chastity Brown.
An in-law suite attached to the original farmhouse was renovated to host artists' workshops, retreats and residencies. To date, the foundation has raised $38,000 for local school arts programs.
"We're thankful to the community to have embraced us in such a way," Underwood said.
In addition to transforming the buildings, they restored some of the grassland in conjunction with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and created pollinator-friendly areas for bees. They also leased a tillable portion of the property to a local farmer.
When they did build their home, which they dubbed the Field House, they didn't move in right away.
"This house was built and personally financed by Bill and myself for us to live in," Everett said, but "we needed a place for our caretakers so they stayed at the Field House for a certain period."
They're planning to move into their little house on the prairie in the coming weeks.
Home on the prairie
When designing their home, the couple wanted a private residence separate from the arts campus. So the home was strategically located at a distance from the rest of the campus, with woods and prairie serving as its backdrop.
"It's an interesting piece of land with the historical properties well-preserved," said D/O Architects' Colin Oglesbay. "We got to play with the interface of the public and private part of the farm."
The design of the Field House gives a nod to the farmstead in several ways.
The A-line shape of the new home is meant to match that of the barn. Pine and white oak sourced from trees on the property were milled onsite and used as flooring and wallboards for the kitchen, bathroom, mudroom and beyond.
"We were looking for a reinterpretation of the vintage wood, white and black of the farmhouse but contemporize it," Everett said. "It has those elements, but is unapologetically modern."
Those modern touches include custom shelves, slatted wood railings and hidden sliding doors that also serve as art walls. An open floor plan allowed for main living spaces to flow.
A top-floor office was built as well as a first-floor craft room, which Everett said was a must "for canning and all sorts of projects we like to do on the farm."
Small in scale
Nature was brought into the home in other ways. Vaulted ceilings, sliding doors and clerestory windows bring plenty of sunlight into the home.
"The way they frame the clouds and the trees, they feel like paintings," Everett said. "It's a whole different way to experience nature around us."
The 1,750-square-foot, three-bedroom, 2 ½-bathroom abode defies conventional trends of building massive dwellings on sprawling estates.
"It's a pretty compact little house," Oglesbay said. "We did a lot of vaulting in the main living spaces and a lot of custom glasswork in the back so it feels really roomy."
There are plans to create more outdoor living spaces, including a garage with a rooftop deck edged with prairie grass and a bridge connecting the home to the deck.
"We're doing research on historic plant materials that were on this site. We'll probably implement native historical plants from the savannah into the roof deck," said Oglesbay. A 200-foot-long row of hedges that will serve as a living fence to separate the public spaces from the home is also on the drawing board.
For the homeowners, they couldn't be happier with how things panned out.
"It was important to us to have a cohesive campus," Everett said. "It feels like they studied the vocabulary of this farm and the architectural shapes, the railings, the fencing and interpreted it in an artful way."
And to finally be able to move into their home couldn't have come at a better time.
"Like everyone, the pandemic has forced us to pivot. The timing has caused us to rethink our plans," Underwood said. "We get to connect with the urban lifestyle in the city and, here, we get to connect with the land."
About this project
What: A new home that blended with the prairie and existing farm buildings. The new owners also decided to reimagine the existing buildings and campus to create a sprawling arts center.
Size: New home build, 1,750 square feet.
Architectural design firm: D/O Architects.
Project team: Colin Oglesbay; Aaron McCauley-Aburto, AIA; Edward Eichten, AIA; John Dwyer, AIA.