Contemporary architecture in Lawrence, Kansas, is an anomaly. “On one of my earlier projects, I got the middle finger from passersby while constructing a flat roof,” says architect Dan Rockhill. As a result, Rockhill eagerly accepted a rare request for a modern home from a local family, even though they had just $214,000 to spend on design and construction.
Rockhill’s first move was to remedy the site’s two drawbacks—a steep slope and street noise—in one swoop by placing the bulk of the 1,500-square-foot home on the second level and tucking an additional bedroom, bathroom, and carport underneath. But, his biggest flourish was a slatted exterior screen of Cumaru wood that shields the inexpensive metal siding. Although the South American hardwood was a splurge, Rockhill felt its visual impact and overall durability was worth it: “On smaller projects you are lucky to be able to make two big gestures, so you’d better make them good,” he says.