Scandinavian Farmstead Blends Modern with Rural and Rustic

Detached structures and natural materials create a farmstead that pays homage to the old goat farm the home rests on.

September 29, 2022

Husband and wife team, Becky and Nate Vandenbroek, were inspired to start their business, Hygge Custom Homes, after successfully designing and building their own homes. Becky explains, “I’m the daughter of a general contractor/developer, and my husband Nate always had an interest in remodeling and new construction, so we ended up building our first house together back in 2012. After a few years, we got the bug to build again and finished our second home in 2016. Along the way, our friends and family would always tell us that we should start a business and build homes for other people, and that’s just what we did. Nate got his general contractor’s license, and I left my career in medicine and returned to design, my first passion and original field of study in college. We work great together—I'm design, and Nate’s execution. Hilltop Farm is our latest home, and we built it really to showcase just what we’re capable of.”

A Modern Vision That Honors the Past

Hilltop Farm is located in a rural development just outside Grand Rapids, Michigan. The land was once used as a goat farm, and while the goats have long since gone, the old, weathered fence that kept the goats from wandering remains. As soon as they saw the location, Becky and Nate knew they wanted to build a home that would honor and reflect the history of the property. They worked with Architect Chad Gould, of Progressive AE, to help bring their design vision to life.

More Than a Farmhouse

With the intention of capturing the character of a working farmstead and not just an individual farmhouse, Becky and Nate created four distinct barn-like structures. The Living Barn houses the living room, kitchen, dining room, and lower-level family room. The Sleeping Barn has two bedrooms up and two bedrooms down. The three-stall garage is called The Storage Barn. And the Adventure Barn is where all the fun stuff is kept, like kayaks, snowboards, bikes, and woodworking tools.

Bringing Modern to Michigan

One motivation in establishing Hygge Custom Homes was to create another option for homeowners looking for a type of architecture somewhat rare to Grand Rapids.

“It’s not that nobody is building contemporary homes in this area, but overall, Western Michigan is relatively traditional.” Becky says. “If you look at the homes featured in the local Parade of Homes tour, the majority of the houses look pretty much the same.”

To achieve the modern aesthetic they were looking for on the exterior, the couple combined uncomplicated shapes, steel roofing, natural cedar siding, and expansive Marvin Essential™ Casement windows.

“When we compared Marvin windows and doors to other competitors, it was night and day. We just really loved the clean sightlines and modern look of Marvin products compared to how chunky the other offerings we looked at were.”

Minimalist kitchen in Hilltop Farm, a contemporary home by Hygge Custom Homes, featuring Marvin Essential windows and doors.

Bright Spaces with Few Distractions

The demands of today’s busy schedules have driven us indoors, where we now spend almost 90 percent of our time commuting in our cars, at work, and inside our homes. This modern way of living disconnects us from the outdoors, interrupts quality time spent with loved ones, and deprives us of quiet time spent alone. Becky and Nate wanted to create spaces that featured panoramic views and ushered in restorative light from all directions.

“Michigan is something like the 7th cloudiest state in the United states, so when the sun does shine here, Nate and I wanted to take full advantage. We installed large configurations of windows that pull indoor spaces into the outdoors. We also chose large, eight-foot-tall Marvin Essential Patio Doors that pull the outdoors in. In addition to building strong connections to the natural backdrop, we wanted to carry the modern feel of the exterior into the home by creating clean, minimalist spaces. And to avoid distracting our guests’ attention from the outdoor views, we used drywall returns instead of casing, and the base trim is minimal. Also, there's really not a lot of artwork in the house. I always point to the windows and the landscape beyond—that's our artwork.”

Photo by Ashley Avila Photography

An Endorsement Not to be Ignored

Becky and Nate had not worked with Marvin products before the architect recommended them for the Hilltop Farm project.

“Chad said that he had specced Marvin many times and had nothing but great things to say, but I was still skeptical, so I asked my dad, who’s now retired. He said, ‘Honey, Marvin is the only window I ever used since you were a little girl with a ponytail running around my job sites.’ Well, that was good enough for me. And now I know why he stuck with Marvin all those years. The service was terrific, and the superior quality and performance are pretty obvious.”

Main image by Ashley Avila Photography

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