After Laura Plummer and Michael Nelson were presented with three possible designs by their architect, choosing the shape of the house and the style of the windows was the first decision.

photography by KENDALL REEVES

This home was featured in Bloom’s June/July 2017 Homes Issue.

Tucked away on a small side street in an east-side neighborhood, Laura Plummer and Michael Nelson’s ultra-contemporary home stands in contrast to everything that surrounds it. Corrugated steel siding plays games with the sunlight, constantly shifting the texture and structure of its boxy, two-story form with shadows. Every window and doorway pops with bright red trim, infusing the factory-made elements with modern-art spirit.

Laura and Michael long envisioned living in a wide-open space with a loft bedroom. In 2013, the chance to buy
a ramshackle home offered them the opportunity to build something new and wildly distinctive over an old, somewhat tricky basement foundation. Despite major obstacles like termite damage and dilapidated plumbing, the couple managed to get the majority of the old house demolished and the new one designed and built in about two years.

Both Laura and Michael work at Indiana University. Michael is the assistant director of content in the Office of Creative Services. Laura is the director of the Scholarly Writing Program. The couple met when they were graduate students in IU’s Department of English in 1990.

Architect Sam DeSollar designed a home that met Laura and Michael’s desire for an open floor plan with an industrial aesthetic. Michael has referred to it as “hardware store modernism.” Built by Dave Sharp of Sharp Designs, many of the same materials and fixtures are used inside and out. The outdoor balcony, interior stairwell, and bedroom loft are bounded by sturdy goat fencing held in place by speed rail posts.

Closets are closed off with heavy sliding barn doors. Corrugated steel makes an indoor appearance, not only on shower walls but also surrounding the fireplace, which is flanked by impressive, raised bookcases that require a rolling ladder to access.

The demolition process of the old home was painstaking and largely bulldozer-free. While the bulk of the excavated material was donated or given to friends, a few vestiges of the old house—a 1951 Aladdin Pasadena kit home with additions—were preserved.

A wet bar was created from white 1950s-era metal kitchen cabinets (from the home’s apartment addition), repainted an orange-red by Bloomington Powder Coating, and topped with old butcher block Laura salvaged years ago. The main kitchen’s original wooden cabinets were refashioned into an island, topped by three enormous slabs of Indiana limestone.

The home offers a constant invitation to look up and out, and the couple find their day-to-day living habits have changed. “We move around
a lot more here,” says Laura. “We’ve built in places to sit together and read. And it’s always interesting to see where people choose to sit when they visit.”

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