Eye Candy! Of the week

By Neal McNamara

Property: 715 Audubon Road, East Lansing
Owner: Jeffrey and Brooke Frommeyer
Assessed: $64,600
Owner says: Wanted it to fit the neighborhood

Architecture critic Amanda Harrell-Seyburn says: Perfectly situated at the corner of Grand River Avenue and Audubon Road in East Lansing’s Glencairn neighborhood is one of the areas newest gems. A vision in white with grey shutters, this Cape Cod-style house, appears as though it has been a member of the neighborhood for years. Built in 2009, this house is a great example of residential infill.

The Frommeyers lucked out in 2006 when they were able to buy a vacant lot in the Glencairn neighborhood in East Lansing. James Edward Builders constructed the house — but not before Brooke Frommeyer went around Glencairn taking notes on other homes and incorporated different features into her dream home.

“We wanted a Cape Cod or Colonial, and I wanted to make the outside look like it had been (in the neighborhood) for a while,” she said.

The home’s elegant design features contemporary and classic Cape Cod architectural details like a steep roof with gables, wood frame construction with white wood siding, and a symmetrical facade with central door.

The phenomenon of suburban sprawl is not sustainable, but residential infill is. As more people become hip to sustainable construction practices in communities with vacant land within the city limits, which Lansing has in droves, residential infill will become routine.

Harrell-Seyburn's lesson on residential infill:

Residential infill architecture is a subtle craft. One of the greatest challenges, that determines the success or failure of residential infill, is choosing an architectural style that fits the established context and achieves neighborhood acceptance.

Prior to embarking on a residential infill project, a little bit of work is necessary to ensure success. The most common error in residential infill projects is not choosing a thoughtful design. This error often results in less than stellar designs that clash architecturally with the existing buildings of the neighborhood. To ensure a successful project, the following are the minimum questions that should be considered before selecting a house design for an infill site. 

- What architectural style should I select for my house? There is no precise rule of thumb to follow as to what style is best. Consider the existing houses of the neighborhood and choose a transitional architectural design - meaning contemporary yet traditional - in keeping with the established architectural styles.

- What style are the houses in the neighborhood? Know the styles most prevalent in the neighborhood. Take time to research the oldest homes that most likely established the character and style of the other houses in the neighborhood.

- Is the neighborhood in a historic district? Historic designations can greatly affect your residential infill project. Historic Districts are designated through the U.S. Department of the Interior. Check your with the local historic district commission to determine what are the parameters for new construction in your specific neighborhood.

- Do I need an architect? Yes. Seeking the expertise of an architect early in the design process will ensure that your fill project is successful.

Find a local architect: A local architect is best for a residential infill project because they are familiar with the character of the community and the neighborhood in which the house will be built. In addition, a local architect will have more access to local archives and resources than a non-local architect.
Find a recommended architect: Check with a local historical society or historic zoning board for an architect they recommend for your project. In Lansing, you can contact the Historical Society of Greater Lansing or your historic district commission.

DO: what is best for humanity and the environment, always choose (if possible) infill sites in established neighborhoods over greenfield projects when building a new house.

DON'T: build without taking into consideration the context of an established neighborhood. Successful residential infill should be be a transitional architectural design, meaning contemporary yet traditional in keeping with the architecture and character of the existing houses.

“Eye candy of the Week" is our weekly look at some of the nicer properties in Lansing. It rotates each with Eyesore of the Week. If you have a suggestion, please e-mail eye@lansingcitypulse.com or call Neal McNamara at 371-5600 ex. 17.