Join IWPA | Blog | Print Page | Sign In
Grounded in the Natural World


Thank you to our article sponsor...









High End Custom Design for Exterior Ipe Use

Learn more about using lesser-known species and their importance to sustainability.  

Learn more about the differences and why all natural wood is a sustainable choice.

The higher end of custom residential construction has remained reasonably consistent in the last few years. The wealth effect among baby boomers searching for the one last home they will ever build allows them to be a bit more discerning than the average home buyer.

“Everyone loves natural materials,” says architect John Vetter, Principal at Vetter/Denk Architects, “but sophisticated buyers demand them. As architects we love the opportunity to meld beautiful exotic woods with copper, natural stone, brick and other domestic wood species in unique and different ways. Each of these materials brings a sense of stability and the feeling of being grounded in the natural world.

One of Vetter’s designs on a lake in southern Wisconsin is a perfect example. Built for a corporate executive and the owner of an international brand, the home represents the perfect combination of materials, each with a texture and color working harmoniously together. As the home nears completion, it is clear the result will be breathtaking.

“We like to experiment with known materials in unique ways to breathe new life into them,” Vetter explains. “Ipe is one of those exotic wood species known for its durability and hardness often used in decking projects and boardwalks. It weathers to a silvery grey and will seemingly last forever. In horizontal applications, it’s a perfect spec. But few people take the time to work with this species in vertical applications. We used wide plank Ipe as siding in strategic locations on the exterior of the home. When properly sanded and finished, Ipe has a very expressive grain pattern. It’s perfectly natural and the rich oiled finish makes Ipe the perfect complement to all of the other materials.”

The modern home has a prairie influence, but is clearly a Vetter design. The copper fascia on the flat roof quickly develops the distinctive blue-green patina and blends nicely with Ipe, gloss-fired brick and granite. While the Ipe siding is a vertical application, the wide planks are run horizontally with a reverse batten to match the thin black profiles of the windows, also running horizontally. The garage doors will also be faced with Ipe, seamlessly matching the siding. “It will appear simply as another wall. Unless the door is open, you would never know there is a garage in there,” says Vetter.

Vetter enjoys using exotic and domestic species together. Every square inch of the ceiling in the home is thin plank White Oak extending from the interior to the exterior cantilevered over-hang. The floors are constructed of large sections of granite. “We want the homeowner to transition from the interior to the exterior without an abrupt distinction.” The entire materials palette comes together on both the inside of the home and exterior, which includes copper, granite, glazed brick, Ipe and White Oak.

“Ipe makes an encore on the top deck of the boat house and on the unique cantilevered pier,” Vetter states. “It’s a more traditional application, but the perfect specification. In wet areas and in exterior environments, Ipe has always been my material of choice.”


Vetter/Denk Architects