Picture Perfect

Kansas City architect Matthew Hufft designs a weekend getaway that offers snapshot views of the surrounding lake

“The inspiration for the form of the house came from the polaroid sx-70,” says architect Matthew Hufft of the high-end camera that was introduced in 1972. Sleek, modern and technologically advanced, there are many similarities between this house on Table Rock Lake and the camera that aimed to put people closer to the experience, to make the process a natural part of the event.

The house was commissioned by two brothers, Chad and Justin Morgan, as a refuge, an escape. They found a very nearly perfect lot on a peninsula with water views on three sides. Because Table Rock Lake is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, they faced some special challenges.

“The Corps of Engineers is very strict about the clearing of trees,” says Hufft. “This is great when you are on the lake as you can’t really see the houses, but when you’re building a house, you want to be able to see the water.”

Fortunately for the Morgan brothers, the land had an open vista of the lake.

The philosophy of the project was centered on providing “postcard views” from each room. It was essential that the house frame a picture from each opening. Hufft says that he began that process when he first saw the site and began to see views of the lake and the land as a series of images.

As you approach the house with the crunch of the pea-gravel drive underfoot, the corrugated aluminum and western red cedar structure is engaging but does not give much away. It is only as you approach the entrance that you begin to experience the click, click, click.

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Set between the main house and the attached guest wing, the entrance, or lens, cuts through the house, establishing the lake as the primary focus. Hufft notes that the “aperture” of the building—the opening above the lens—changes the “exposure” throughout the day.

The living space is composed of natural colors and textures— wood, leather and cowhide—contrasted with a crisp and energetic white. The room, combining kitchen, dining and living areas, opens to a deck with a large pocket door.

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The ceiling slopes to the window, directing the eye out, at an angle very similar to its Polaroid inspiration. Hufft designed furniture for the space as well, and the pieces live happily along side modern icons from Herman Miller, Emeco and Bertoia.

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The main house has two bedrooms, but the brothers wanted the guest area to maintain some privacy and be available to friends when the family was not around. Accordingly, that part of the structure contains two bedrooms, including a loft, which all sit atop what is fondly called “La Cantina.”

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This lower level room was designed as a place to relax, to hang out and, yes, to party. “We kept saying throughout the project, ‘We are there to stay, but we are more there to play,’” says Chad Morgan, who notes that the family loves to wakeboard, be on the boat and hang out by the outdoor fireplace.

“The house is great for entertaining,” Hufft says, “The materials are low maintenance and durable.” Indeed, recycled and low VOC building materials were used throughout.

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It is from the lake side of the house that you can strongly see the influence of the camera that inspired its form. Strong horizontal lines define the structure, outlined by a continuous light bar, which highlights the building as distinctly as the stainless steel did for the SX 70. The “pop-up” of the guest wing’s loft gives a lift of both energy and movement; its large windows are view- finders themselves.

Chad Morgan and his family, who live in nearby Springfield, have made the house their regular weekend escape, “We were out there all but one weekend between Memorial Day and Labor Day last year. We watched the Super Bowl there. We love it,” he says.

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