Skip to Content
photo of Northwoods House
Photo: Ngoc Minh Ngo

Northwoods House

Iron River, Michigan

Northwoods House

Iron River, Michigan

  • Design Principal

    Jim Olson

This home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula frames and emphasizes its natural context, making nature its focus. The design reacts to the surrounding environment, dissolving inside/outside boundaries and creating composed views into the woods and towards the water. Exterior materials will weather over time to match the surroundings, while colors in the interior are inspired by the landscape.

The house moves in an orderly way in two directions. An East-West axis creates a path from the front door to a lake view, while floor to ceiling windows along a North-South axis frame the surrounding garden and forest. Throughout the interior, ceiling heights and room volumes vary, becoming more spacious in the rooms that open toward views. Roof extensions and light shelves create clear definition between vertical spaces.

The living, dining and kitchen are grouped to create a central gathering space. Custom furniture—dining and coffee table, steel wall cabinet, among others—results in a seamless integration of architecture and interiors. A sculptural staircase featuring a custom chandelier anchors the intersection of the two main axes. A cozy private retreat terminates the north end of the primary axis.


This house expresses my desire to create architecture that inspires delight the same way a sculpture does. The composition of shapes and the pure, natural materials come to life with shadows and sunlight. Landscape elements help to weave the architecture and site together.  Jim Olson, FAIA




Bozikovic, Alex. “The Art of the Reveal.” International Architecture & Design (IAD), Fall 2014, 38-49. Print.


Bartl, Alexander. “In Der Natur Zu Hause.” ELLE Decoration Germany, Dec. 2011, 146-153. Print.