Building Range Line Road: The Origin Story

Aug 06, 2020

About one year ago, the Wilkinsons and another family joined resources to purchase 32 acres of undeveloped land on Range Line Road in Buchanan, Michigan. Our two families bought the lot with the intention to set up a master plan consisting of two houses, a common shared area for vegetable gardens, swimming holes, and nature trails, as well as access to the St. Joseph River. Although remote, the site is just an hour and a half from my family’s longtime home in Chicago. While there were no immediate plans to make this a permanent home in the near future, it offered the opportunity to create something that had been missing in my life for a long time.

There are so many things I love about Chicago—the arts, the culture, the restaurants, the close friends. It’s been my home for decades, it’s where I built a business and began a family. But although I love living in Chicago, I grew up in rural Ohio. I enjoy being in nature, and for years I’ve harbored dreams of living off the grid, homesteading, growing my own food, being self-sufficient, and reducing my carbon footprint. The Range Line Road property gives me and my family access to all of those things, and more.

As an architect, I’ve spent a lot of time designing the deeply personal for others. From single-family homes to large residential complexes, offices to playgrounds, these are often the spaces where other people spend significant portions of their lives. It’s both incredibly rewarding and an incredible responsibility. Every day, I help clients realize their vision. When Range Line Road came along, it was time to help realize my own.

With all that in mind, I started to think about the unique storytelling opportunity this project presented. What’s it like for an architect to build their own home? Let me tell you—we are going to find out.

In this series, I hope to offer both guidance and advice for those looking to build their own rural getaway, as well as reflections on the change of pace and the future of the city. This point seems particularly relevant as we are still in the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic. During the stay-at-home order, the property has also given me a way to maintain my sanity, exercise, and get outside during a very uncertain time. We have been fortunate to have this outlet, and it prompts me to think big picture, what will life be like post-Corona? Will urban life socially-distance itself? Will remote-working finally be the new norm? Will there be an enmasse return to the country?

If readers of this series, like me, find themselves in the city but longing for the country, I hope it inspires you to go out and create your own getaway, even if that just looks like a little garden on your back porch. But if you’re in it for the whole package, the entire master plan outdoor escape, I’ll have plenty of wisdom to impart on you as well.

That’s all for now, see you back here soon.