Grand Country House
Grand Country House is an intimate, historically inspired country home that celebrates the natural topography and arborous nature of its site. Although the home is newly constructed, it looks and feels as though it has stood for a long time, rooted in its site and in scale with its surroundings.
The “H” Shape Footprint
The clients desired a rather large program within an intimately scaled home evoking a “cottage” vernacular. This was an obvious challenge however, the project was successful due to the “H” shape footprint because it never exposes one to the overall square footage (15,000 SF), resulting in a wonderful “cottage” family homestead. Another delightful feature of the “H” shape is the creation of both an entry arrival court, which sets the formal tone for the house to unfold, and a rear outdoor courtyard, which encompasses a wonderful bluestone terrace with a formal planting area. The flanking wings step back on themselves to further develop a sense of enclosure and the gambrel form allows for a meaningful second floor space while maintaining a relatively low cottage scale height of 26’.
The past is echoed through the use of the rusticated “swirl” rough sawn siding and New England Field Stone as primary exterior materials. The tall stone chimneys flanking the main façade reinforce and celebrate the symmetrical and timeless nature of the design. As a finishing detail, the planted window boxes were designed to reinforce the charming Hansel and Gretel character to the home, again to detract from the potential overall massing.
Designing the Interior
The interior mill-work, details, and finishes also speak to the classic interiors of grand country homes of the 1920’s-1930’s in New England. The house was designed for indoor/outdoor living by allowing one to flow through the house in multiple areas. The entry foyer establishes a spine in which one is drawn to the rear courtyard without having to travel through other primary living spaces. The perpendicular axis and circulation galleries provide a clear delineation of the primary spaces, which unfold off this spine. In a similar manner, the second floor galleries define a strong circulation pattern that allows one to navigate the house through two stairways. The primary stairwell is capped by a copper skylight, bathing the two floors with sunlight. Each wing terminates at separate outdoor porches, one open-air and intimately scaled while the other is designed to accommodate larger gatherings and can be utilized year-round due to the flexibility of the removable screens and the outdoor fireplace.
The Challenge of the Site
The typography of the wooded site and its location abutting conservation land required additional review and approval from the Weston Conservation Commission. The site required setbacks from natural resources and wetlands, conservation land, and public access to walking trails. This was a significant challenge with plans for a large program, however we were able to take advantage of the existing topography and work within the build envelope to create a full height walkout lawn level spanning the left side of the home. This allowed the majority of the client’s program to be placed on this lower level in a positive way and in doing so, reduced the footprint of the overall house while achieving the programmatic needs of the client. The potential over-sizing of the house on the lot was avoided and our design was unanimously approved by all town boards that had jurisdiction over the project.
The solution resulted in long views out to the landscape from the interior spaces, furthering the relationship of interior and exterior space. As a result, the clients were extraordinarily pleased with the illusion of a 7,500 SF home when in fact it is double in size totaling to 15,000 SF.
The formal entry arrival courtyard sets the tone for the house to unfold. The boxwood plantings emphasize the formal entrance to the home creating a feeling of anticipation as the home graciously welcomes its guests. The major pine trees that flank the house in the distance create a cocoon like environment.
The original centerpiece of the home, with the symmetrical stone chimneys, suggests that this was a cottage that has been added onto over time, albeit on a larger scale, however the “H” shape of the house helps conceal the overall square footage. The flanking wings step back on themselves to develop a sense of enclosure in the entry courtyard. The planted window boxes reinforce the charming Hansel and Gretel character to the home.
The service courtyard consists of carriage house doors and old timber headers surrounded by New England Fieldstone siding. The cupola suggests the wing was once a free standing carriage house. The pedestrian entrance way opens to the strategically placed service areas including the mudroom and kitchen.
The symmetrical form encompasses a wonderful bluestone terrace with a formal planting area that aligns with the French doors. The boxwoods emphasize the formality of the outdoor bluestone patio, while providing a sense of enclosure. The flanking porches on either side create two covered outdoor living spaces, one open and one enclosed, which allows for the second floor balcony terraces off of two bedrooms.
The left wing terminates at an open-air, covered porch off of the family room. The right wing terminates at an enclosed porch designed to accommodate a large gathering, located off of the billiard room. The enclosed porch can be utilized throughout the majority of the year due to the flexibility of the removable screens and the fireplace.
The house is a glow with color, light, and animation. The rusticated siding speaks well to the heavily wooded pine tree environment.
Visible from the dining room, the entry gallery, lined with matching custom china cabinets, creates a secondary circulation corridor spanning from the formal entry foyer into the kitchen. The entry gallery is an elegant extension of the dining room however, the strongly cased arched opening indicates that the spaces are separate and provides a sufficient sense of enclosure while inviting you in.
Dining rooms, mainly used at night, can evoke romance and mystery. The glazed wall and painted ceiling sets the tone for a formal gathering spot for dinner parties. The bay window looks out onto a stone terrace which provides a sense of easy elegance in a formal setting.
The large and significant white kitchen is softened by the 6” wide painted beadboard ceiling and warmed by the rich, dark wood floors. The custom detailed cabinetry recalls furniture originating from the 1930s. Framed by custom built-ins, the paneled stove hood reads as an integral architectural element. The addition of beadboard instantly adds character and depth to a space.
The flanking bank of five windows, looking out on to the service courtyard, bathes the entire kitchen in morning sunlight. During the evening, the two pendant fixtures light the generous scaled island. The Carrara marble counter tops and small-scaled subway tile backsplash help to reinforce the established theme of the house being built in the 1930s.
A pair of custom built-in china cabinets, with a blend of visible and hidden storage, flank the custom built-in cushioned window seat providing a relaxed quality of grace and comfort while dining.
The rhythm of the detailed beamed ceiling gives a certain amount of warmth and character within the space, while the tall windows and doors create a bright and airy atmosphere. The French doors in the family room open to a covered columned porch.
The billiard room was inspired by a potential gentleman’s club room in the 1930s. The room, outfitted with a bar and fireplace, opens to the outdoor screened-in porch with an additional fireplace and seating area. One can imagine guests enjoying their cigars and whiskey cocktails after a dinner party.
The wine room is finished in the same stone used in the exterior base of the house. The arched doorway leads into the wine room with a vaulted brick ceiling and a brick floor that is carried through into the tasting room. The tasting room has French doors that open to the exterior courtyard with an outdoor fire pit.
During the summer, the home takes on a romantic Hansel & Gretel like imagery. During the winter, the home transforms into a beautiful winter wonderland one would only imagine in a storybook where a large family gathers for the holidays. The Christmas tree on the second floor in the center window perfectly illustrates the homeowners love for the holidays.