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Creating your space

This family was not blessed with scenic rolling hills on their property, but it didn't stop them from making a natural oasis out of flatlands.
  • Not created equal

    Rural settings are not created equal. Some offer canopies of trees and bumbling brooks. Others lay claim to rolling meadows and breathtaking vistas. Often, however, homeowners are left to create their own pastoral landscape out of flat, harsh prairie.<br>Such was the challenge for the VanOosterhouts of Marne, Michigan, a family who worked together to create their ideal country home. What they have accomplished is a balanced and beautiful approach to modern living in a natural setting. Everything about their acreage is informal, from the cheerful gardens to the casually strewn rock pathways. This rustic terrace of field flagstone is fixed in place with sand and pea gravel.<br>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 30, 2012
  • Red

    "The seed of inspiration," explains Shane VanOosterhouts, an educator at the Michigan State University Extension and coordinator for the Master Gardener program, "was a kind of Shaker philosophy...very straight, symmetrical, simple lines. And we wanted it to me a very open casual environment."<br>The result is an almost perfectly symmetrical, two-story, barn-red frame home, with a metal roof and two screened porches. Red? They reasoned that "it's primarily farming out here and the house has a kind of barn-type quality," so painting the house red seamed appropriate.<br>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 30, 2012
  • Native prairie

    In parts of the yard, Shane attempted to replicate native Michigan prairie, which has been challenging. He planted a variety of grasses and sumac from native meadow species, but they failed. "Frustration is seeing weeds instead of the desired plants," he says. He has learned to be satisfied with the yarrow, dotted mint, and coreopsis that willingly grow there.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 30, 2012
  • Floral greeting

    Informal flower gardens greet visitors along the path to the front door.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 30, 2012
  • Dry creek bed

    This dry creek was built to carry the natural rainwater away from the house.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 30, 2012
  • Lavender flowers

    Shane prefers lavender flowers with feather foliage, such as this lively verbena bonariensis.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 30, 2012
  • Nicotiana

    Nicotiana is an annual flower that reseeds freely.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 30, 2012
  • Wilbur, the coonhound

    Shane relaxes with his father, William, and their red bone coonhound, Wilbur. A few months after this photo, Wilbur died of cancer. "We miss him terribly; he was such a special guy. We've had a lot of dogs, and he was quite unique," says Shane.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: April 30, 2012

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