Louisvillians Bob German and Brent Carter own a condo in Chicago and travel there often. When they were searching for the right home here in Louisville, they wanted the same urban feel that they had in Chicago. What they achieved is a home that has the feel of the big city while still being surrounded by beautiful Kentucky landscape and landmarks.

When they decided that they wanted to tear down an existing home in the Highlands and build a modern home from scratch, it turned out to be a lot more trouble than it was worth. Instead, they learned through working with the City of Louisville, that renovating the existing house was the best option. Their version of “renovation” was taking the house down to the foundation and the outside walls, and with only a 2,000-square-foot lot to work with, they decided to go vertical and maximize every inch of space they could. Their new house remains on the footprint of the original house and is the same height as the rooftops surrounding it, though it looks much bigger than that.

A Modern House in the Highlands

A modern space in a historic Highlands neighborhood

They used award-winning local designer Michael Koch to design the house, and Graham Clark did the construction. Chicago-based designer Kip Rodrigue helped them with the interior design and decor. They started the renovation in 2009 and it was completed 18 months later in 2010. This house won the 2010 Kentucky Society of Architects and American Institute of Architects Honor Award, which is an award chosen by a national panel of judges. Just to give you some perspective, houses never win this award. There were four winners this year, which included Yew Dell Gardens and two commercial sites in the state of Kentucky.

The most profound design element in this house is the utilization and capturing of natural light throughout the house. The design incorporated a lot of glass in and around the structure. However, the west wall is a fire wall, and no windows were allowed. The architect made windows and spaces of light throughout each room in new and creative ways.

A Modern House in the Highlands

The buildout on the side creates additional space and light.

Another creative design element is the use of buildout walls, so that they could keep the original bones intact, but build a little bit out from those walls to capture more space. Examples of buildouts are on the side and back of the house; both areas are highlighted by their orange walls.

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The buildout on the deck is actually a space for the kitchen cabinetry inside.

First Floor

The main entrance is on the side of the home, not in front as in most traditional homes. After entering into the foyer on the first floor, there is a guest bedroom, a full bathroom and a large light-filled office, which functions as Bob’s office, though it is large enough to accommodate more than one person working comfortably.

A Modern House in the Highlands

The home’s entrance is on the side of the house. Original art made by Bob German’s grandmother is displayed on the table.

A Modern House in the Highlands

The large office is on the front of the house, with a wall of windows and plenty of room for a work space, table and chairs, as well as two club chairs.

A Modern House in the Highlands

A guest room on the first floor originally was limited to one small window facing the back of the property and no closets.

A Modern House in the Highlands

Now, the guest room features built-in closets on one wall with windows above them. The windows look out into the office and capture all the natural light from that room.

The main stairwell to the home is located adjacent to the entry door. The floating stairs are open and were created in yellow steel. The open design allows for light to come in from below and above. The exposed brick wall is one of the original walls of the home. This wall was left in exposed brick and is an homage to the historic nature of the home.

A Modern House in the Highlands

The stairwell has open stairs made of wood and yellow steel, with exposed brick on one side and the exterior wall on the other.

A Modern House in the Highlands

The outer beam is yellow steel, creating a common thread between the outer and inner structures of the home.

Second Floor

The second floor houses the living and dining areas and a kitchen, all in one common space. There is also a powder room, access to a large outside deck off the back of the house and access to a balcony at the front of the house.

Living Area

Kip Rodrigue helped with the decor throughout the house. The color palette is kept neutral, using natural wood, cream, white, gray and black, but throughout the home there are pops of orange and yellow. The furniture is modern, clean and sleek but can definitely not be called sterile or boring. Use of textures throughout the home such as glass, leather and fabrics along with their collection of original art really make this home unique and personal.

A Modern House in the Highlands

Here is the first view into the common area on the second floor that contains the living room, dining area and gourmet kitchen.

A Modern House in the Highlands

Here’s the view straight back to the kitchen, which is at the back of the house.

A Modern House in the Highlands

Here is the view outside to the street from the living area. The furniture is Flexform by Luminaire, the leather ottoman is from Scout on Market and the light fixture in the corner of the room is by Tom Dixon.

A Modern House in the Highlands

The balcony off the living room is where the homeowners enjoy their coffee each morning.

A Modern House in the Highlands

These coffee tables are about a foot high and blend in perfectly with the lower seated furniture.

A Modern House in the Highlands

Get a look at the detail of one of the Urban Gnomes purchased in Great Britain. These are a whimsical twist on a classic gnome and are made of bone china.

Dining Area

This large common area is deftly and seamlessly broken into three areas with the dining area in the center of the room, staged under a large skylight. In a long, narrow room, this dining table is set across the width of the floor, creating a break in the visual expanse. Large Tom Dixon light fixtures dominate this space, along with the clean, simple lines of the table. They also create a nice foil to the geometric design on the chair legs.

A Modern House in the Highlands

The dining table sits in the center of the room, under a large two-storied skylight and modern light fixtures.

A Modern House in the Highlands

Note that there are no windows on the west wall of the house, yet the light from the front and the skylight wash the room in brightness.

A Modern House in the Highlands

Light fixtures are by Tom Dixon

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View from the third floor looking down on the dining area

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View from the kitchen back into the common area

Kitchen

This gourmet kitchen was designed by German design company Poggenpohl. They have a showroom in Chicago, and they are internationally renowned for their custom-designed kitchens. The home’s architect, Michael Koch, designed the windows, but everything else in this space was designed by Poggenpohl. The kitchen features expanses of orderly and hidden storage. The Wolf electric cooktop sits on a large, seamless piece of quartz countertop.

A Modern House in the Highlands

A sliver of window space provides light and a view to the back of the house.

A Modern House in the Highlands

View of the appliances along the west wall of the space

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The dishes are stored in pull-out trays.

A Modern House in the Highlands

There’s more storage above the window with cabinet doors that raise up, creating more space.

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Outside entry and a storage closet are tucked along this side wall.

Outside Deck

Off the kitchen is a large deck, which overlooks the historic alley below. All of the patio furniture is from Vondom, and it is made of plastic, not wood. The orange pillows continue the theme of a strong color in an otherwise neutral gray, black and white space.

A Modern House in the Highlands

The deck outside on the second floor features plastic furniture from Vondom.

A Modern House in the Highlands

Outside “bumpout” walls are all painted orange.

A Modern House in the Highlands

View from the street level up to the deck

Third Floor: Master Suite

The master suite is truly a calming enclave, surrounded by light, soft fabrics and books. Original art and beautiful furniture dominate this space as well.

A Modern House in the Highlands

The master suite is on the third floor.

A Modern House in the Highlands

Simple, minimalist furniture is found in the master suite, including this bench and the platform bed with connected nightstands from Copeland. The bench is a Nelson Platform Bench.

A Modern House in the Highlands

Built-in bookshelves are found along the open wall, which looks down into the dining room.

Looking outside onto the street, their dresser and television are along this exposed brick wall.

Looking outside onto the street, the dresser and television are along the exposed brick wall.

A Modern House in the Highlands

The skylight provides ample natural light.

A Modern House in the Highlands

A hallway leads to the master bath, which features double sinks and another narrow window above that allows light but ensures privacy. Bathroom fixtures are by Duravit.

A Modern House in the Highlands

A large soaking tub, water closet and double shower are all in the back of the bathroom.

Soaking tub is against an opaque glass wall, which allows light.

The soaking tub is located against an opaque glass wall, which allows light.

Basement

Last but not least, the basement has a large media room, with two levels of recliners for cozy movie watching. The room is warm, dark and perfect for enjoying year-round.

A Modern House in the Highlands

A media room in the basement with full recliners and a cozy setting makes this a popular place to curl up and watch movies.

Thank you to Bob German and Brent Carter for the great tour. We’ve always wanted to see inside this house!

RESOURCES

Architect: Michael Koch, 908 Minoma Ave., Louisville KY 40217 • (502) 637-1537
Construction: Graham Clark
Interior decorating: Kip Rodrigue
Living room couches and tables: Luminaire
Living room leather ottoman: Scout on Market
Living room lighting: Tom Dixon
Kitchen: Poggenpohl
Outdoor deck furniture: Vondom
Master bedroom platform bed: Copeland
Master bedroom bench: Nelson Platform Bench
All bathroom fixtures: Duravit

A Modern House in the Highlands

Photography by Christine Mueller Photography

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