It’s not as if the home that Jon and Joan Machuca adore in Ogden Dunes hasn’t space for a man to ramble. Architect Fredric W. Collins’ forward-thinking cement block and glass home, built in 1947 and situated between the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and the Ogden Dunes Reserve, has an undeniably spacious vibe. That’s in part due to as many huge windows as the walls can support, and there are places to hang out.
Space for Jon’s artwork is another matter.
With a love and aptitude for design, ten years ago Jon envisioned an art studio separate from the house, then enlisted architect Michael Smith’s expertise. After all, Jon’s design wasn’t simple. “I wanted to make the most of the environment, so the studio is cantilevered over the dune ridge for a dramatic, thirty-foot drop,” he says. The studio echoes the home’s emphasis on natural light, with windows providing a nearly 360-degree view of the dunes past the wraparound deck. He designed the lighting and is pleased: “It came out super, looking like a studio and gallery.”
The gallery displays Jon’s artwork in acrylics and charcoal. Some are in a series in charcoal made into lithographs, like the one in a sports theme—golf clubs, baseball gloves, volleyballs and more, rendered in a rustic style. From his childhood in East Chicago, “I also relate to an industrial area,” reflected in his striking painting of a man disembarking a train.
Amidst the studio’s lush environment, which includes plants over-wintering—Mandevilla vines, giant ficus, umbrella tree—a yen for the organic has surfaced. “Lately, I’ve been taking my poster artwork off and replacing it with my paintings of magnolias, bamboo, and orchids.” he says. The magnolias stemmed from a trip to Georgia; Joan’s collection of orchid varieties inspired as well. Traipsing along the dunes yielded bittersweet that’s represented in a painting over the house’s fireplace. “It’s so much fun,” with whimsy spurring his painting of koi for the bath.
“Living in nature, you start understanding it more, and that finds its way onto the canvas.” He pauses, then muses that the process “amazes me sometimes.” But at once he’s back to his typical energy: “My favorite artwork is the next one!”
The house the couple moved into 31 years ago also inspires. The clear view of the dunes will always be there, a protected area of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
The master bedroom commands a 180-degree view of the outdoors, and trees are reflected in the mirrored shower door in the master bath.
Inside, a bar near the dining room features a vintage three-well sink and a mirrored wall that doubles the effect of opposite windows that look out over the dunes.
Jon expanded a patio room into a great room, where an unusual touch is the coffee table made from an old Chinese footbath. A seven-foot-tall bamboo plant and a palm reaching the ceiling create a natural, serene space, and Joan’s many plants thrive with natural light from the huge windows. The relaxing environment is “our retreat,” says Joan.
An appreciation for texture and history led to the living room’s fireplace hearth of polished cobblestones from Canal Street in Chicago; mantel posts are fashioned from an old telephone pole outside the house.
Jon decided to pull plaster from white stucco walls, creating an earthy texture he painted black, then plum; “You can see deep into it,” he says.
In the evenings, rheostat-controlled track lighting throughout the house is subdued.
No space is wasted; a large kitchen replaces the formerly separate kitchen, laundry and bath.
One of the home’s curved decks overlooks the lake side; for a less obstructed view Jon removed two feet of the railing, replacing it with copper tubing. A grill, stove, tables and whimsical lights invite enjoyment outdoors, where Jon’s copper-tubing fence along the walk curves like the dunes. The home’s two-story, cantilevered decks offer a front-row seat for the play of seasons, and a just-for-two patio perches high above the wooded ravine.
If it sounds serene, the peace begins anew each morning. “First thing, we do our yoga rites. We get out our mats and face the east as the sun has just come up. We haven’t missed a day, even on vacation,” Jon says. He and Joan say encouraging things to each other, and the calm routine “grounds us, brings our whole day into focus.”
The retired school administrator says, “My age is so irrelevant; I feel like I’m in my twenties. Springtime every year is the same feeling, everything’s growing and inspirational.”
Joan appreciates her man’s talent. “Jon’s an amazing artist," she says. "He’s created the inside and outdoors of our environment. We work on it together, but he has this sense of style, and an ability to see things as they should be. I enjoy life so much because of things he’s added.
“Every day is a life of beauty.”