William Dunlap hired E. John Knapp to design a home similar to the O'Ryan House after Knapp showed him the folded plate roof home on Mona Lake (see Page 5), and hired the George Nelson Office with lead designer Delores Engle to do the interior. The result was a stylish home, built in 1959, made for entertaining, with the signature folded plate roof, a spacious living room, interior brick walls in every room, and a dramatic rear facing wall of glass.
Dunlap had became friends with George Nelson after initiating a product collaboration to showcase his company Aluminum Extrusions. The result was the Omni Storage System that used square-section extruded aluminum poles erected between floor and ceiling, held in place by springs, to hold components such as shelves, cabinets, and files. The versatile design could be used in dining rooms, libraries and offices.
Dunlap had originally asked Nelson to design his home, but he was not happy with Nelson's proposal of a greenhouse concept surrounded by a wall, blocking site views. He turned to John Knapp, former Belding High School football teammate, to design his new home and retained the Nelson Office for the interior. Knapp recalls having few cost restrictions and designed a house that maximized the beautiful views across the valley, while saving as many trees as possible.
Highlights of the home are the tongue and groove vaulted fir ceilings, three-sided fireplace, colored window glass in one of the roof peaks, gray-green slate in the foyer, original kitchen featuring Herman Miller hardware, and a full length porch on the back divided by a custom stainless steel screen made from a leftover Carvel Company steel knife mold for a knife designed by George Nelson — a creative reuse of materials. The Dunlap house represents E. John Knapp’s connection to the larger architectural and design community in Michigan. The unique details and the history of the home make it truly remarkable.
The home’s current owner graciously gave us a tour in July 2015, and we hope to publish an in-depth article about the home in the future.
Early photos and design details can be found in the following sources:
George Nelson: The Design of Modern Design by Stanley Abercrombie, 2000 (Reprint) MIT Press, pp. 122—129.
" Architecture of Interiors," Progressive Architecture, October 1962 p. 178-181.