Traditional Building Portfolio
Palladio Awards

Project: Pepperidge Farm, Fairfield, CT

Architect: Ferguson & Shamamian Architects, LLP, New York City, NY; Oscar Shamamian, AIA, partner in charge; Stephen Chrisman, senior associate

General Contractor: The Tallman Building Company, Westport, CT

 

 

Awards
Sympathetic Addition

Winner: Ferguson & Shamamian Architects, LLP

Added Ingredients

By Lynne Lavelle

In 1937, a housewife and mother of three named Margaret Rudkin baked her first loaf of bread at her home on Pepperidge Farm in Fairfield, CT. Rudkin, a 40-year-old ex-banker, had been moved to perfect a preservative-free bread after discovering that her asthmatic son was allergic to commercial brands. Armed with a recipe from an old cookbook, a coffee grinder and whole wheat from a local feed store the novice baker began to experiment.

Rudkin's first attempt was a stodgy one-inch-thick disaster but she persisted and found that her children needed no urging to eat the results. Local, then global, recognition followed – from a doctor's office, where Rudkin took orders from the physician and his patients, to the local markets, to articles in N.Y. Journal and American (1938) and Readers Digest (1939), to the company's acquisition by the Campbell Soup Co. in 1961.

Today, "Pepperidge Farm" is a household name. Its foodstuffs are manufactured at eight facilities nationwide, employing almost 5,000 people and supplying almost 3,000 independent distributors. The estate where it all began remains and has evolved since Margaret Rudkin and her husband Henry purchased it in 1926.

The 160-acre estate originally consisted of a main house, groom's cottage, stable and carriage house with a caretaker's apartment, all designed by the noted architect Walter Bradnee Kirby, who also went on to design the Pepperidge Farm Bakery in Norwalk, CT, years later. It was named after an old pepperidge tree that grew near the family house and legend has it that Rudkin continued this association by planting a pepperidge tree in front of every new bakery she opened.

Now separate from the main estate, the groom's cottage property encompasses approximately six acres and the original outbuildings (with the exception of the stable that burned down in 1997). The cottage itself was built in the French Norman style and subsequently expanded with two small, unflattering clapboard bedroom and living room additions in the 1950s.

When the cottage was purchased in 1998, the new owner approached New York City-based Ferguson & Shamamian Architects, LLP (F&S), to remove the addition and replace it with a more substantial structure. The mandate from the owner was clear – the addition was to follow the precedents of the existing structure inside and out. The result more than doubled its square footage and, in essence, elevated it from a subservient building into a midsize family house in its own right.

The addition comprises an informal room, kitchen and breakfast room, back stair, two additional bedrooms and three new bathrooms in a two-story wing. Renovations to the original building include the master bedroom and bath. A new pool, freestanding stone walls and a porch with a stone fireplace, plus a renovated gamecock house (now a dining pavilion), complete the composition. The 1950s addition was wholly removed as soon as the drawings were completed. In its place on the east façade, the new addition changed the primary elevation of the house; what was considered the "side door" is now a more significant entry point.

From the beginning, this addition project took an unusual tack. "The idea was not that it had evolved but that it had been part of the original structure in 1928," says Oscar Shamamian, partner in charge. "It was different from most of the addition projects that we do in the sense that it was completely transformational. We took a fragment of the house and extruded it into something that was greater or equal to the existing piece. It was not just a sunroom or a bedroom, it was a place to create something completely new while retaining the fabric and footprint of what was existing, and existing quite beautifully."

Using the parameters of the existing vocabulary as a "paintbrush," F&S designed an addition that was thoughtful, functional and appropriate to the owners' program. The simple massing, shed dormers and rough stone of the existing cottage was extended, while the porch's heavy timber posts and brackets reference the main estate house. A second tower element was added at the termination of the new wing to echo the existing tower structure visible from the motorcourt, and window, door and dormer details were all repeated from the originals. "In many of our projects where we do additions to historic houses or older houses, the addition is considered secondary to the main house in terms of massing and detail," says Stephen Chrisman, senior associate at F&S. "This was very different in that regard. It was a true extension, where the stonework was continuing, the roof massing was continuing, and many of the exterior and interior details were incorporated."

The firm completed a series of stone mock-ups with Romano Construction of Norwalk, CT, before settling on a perfect match. "Together with the owner, we were very particular that the stone had to match perfectly," says Chrisman. "Same color, same textures, same jointing, same sizes, same mortar. And today, when you go to the west side of the house, on the inside corner, you really can't tell the difference between the existing/original stone and the new stone."

The interiors remain very low key, shifting the focus to the views outside; doors and windows by KSD Woodworks of Boscawen, NH, and natural textured three-coat plaster walls by Champagne Drywall of Agawam, MA, blend with the existing wing. For extra continuity, the mantel in the informal room is an exact replica of the existing mantel in the living room, and exposed radiators and a dumbwaiter add a 1920s feel. "The mandate was to stay true to the spirit and character of the house and not go over-the-top," says Shamamian. "It is definitely more open to the outside than one would expect of a caretaker's cottage, which it once was – in particular, the west-facing façade really opens up to the sunlight and the views – but it is really modeled on what was existing."

A trip to the main estate with the owner inspired the firm to construct the heavy timber exterior porch and outdoor fireplace. Here, the timbers rise up into the pitch of the roof, evoking a house of grander origins. "The idea for the porch was inherited from the main house, but we are proponents of outdoor fireplaces in many of our projects," says Shamamian. "As long as you have a chimney going up, why not add a flue? It's a great between-seasons place, and one of the more exuberant spaces in the house."

To further integrate the new wing with the existing house, a series of stone walls and three new sets of steps were constructed behind the west façade. These mitigate the level change and relate to the walls of the house. In the middle of the pool terrace, the pool and pool house (formerly a chicken coop) form an axis with the informal-room doors to become a visual focal point. Finally, a new pathway was constructed to improve access to the front, where the existing driveway was redone in oil and stone with new steel edging. "The composition of the exterior appears much more deliberate now," says Chrisman.

The new plantings, which were selected by the owner, complement the new configuration of the house and grounds. Climbing hydrangeas soften the mass of the new stone walls around the swimming pool area and the terraces, and all of the plantings surrounding the house were redone; simple forms of boxwood, filled with Ostrich ferns line the house, while the outer beds were planted with shade-tolerant Pachysandra. Existing Boston ivy was replenished and Clematis and Akebia vines were planted on the heavy oak timbers.

Completed in June of 2007, the project re-imagines the cottage and its place in the hierarchy of Pepperidge Farm.  

 

 

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