Millions of Americans live in Center Hall Colonials whose basement floor is set exactly four feet below grade, popping its first floor three or four feet above the ground plane. Because these houses are modeled after antique prototypes where glass virtually had the value of a precious metal, windows are undersized and regularly space symmetrically about the front door. These homes offer the comfort of assured value. They are the metronome that dots the U.S. landscape, especially in New England where, here, a couple on the verge of empty nesting found themselves with a looming sense of how much their lives would change once their last child flew off to college. After focusing so much on their family and their home’s interior (nesting usually starts from the inside out when you have children), they realized they had neglected a beautiful site in coastal Connecticut.
Their prototypic Center Hall with its eight-foot ceilings and slightly narrow spaces could have been plopped down on virtually any lot in America - but their lot was special, and their garden could be even more special. They hired an architect to create a new space that had three elements their existing home did not have:
1.Height. Eleven-foot ceilings transform a space.
2.Light. Floor to ceiling glass has a bright level of openness with which regularly spaced traditional windows simply can’t compete.
3.Direct Walk-Out To The Garden. On grade access.
Not only did the architect meet all of these challenges, he also realized that what he would end up doing would have to serve as a counterpoint to the existing house or it would look like a misaligned afterthought. The new room, essentially an informal living space, was set off on a 45º angle as an evolved offspring from the existing house, with a lower roofed connector that allowed all the second floor windowscaping to remain untouched. From this one bold gesture and the design criteria above, a simple pavilion was designed that was then made to resonate into the new gardenscape as defined by a talented garden designer the couple had retained. A ticky tacky pressure treated deck was removed and replaced, garden walls and surrounding terraces were created, and an entire house was changed by the addition of one simple piece – not unlike the way a family is transformed by the physical absence of children as they spiral off into adulthood.
The addition’s materials mimic the existing house, with the exception of using flush T&G vertical siding (painted the same color as the house to integrate, but left wonderfully flat in contrast), extending trim lines of the house to become literal lines, and the use of expressive trim in certain areas where it had only been alluded to in the parent building. Otherwise, window typologies were simply extended, as were eaves. On the interior, corners were built out to provide structural stiffness, open door resting places, and mechanical accommodation. Flooring was given special treatment to distinguish it from the harboring house. The connector became not only a visual and spatial transition and an extension of the existing dining room, but also a functional butler’s pantry.