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Enlarging Tradition

A Connecticut firm adds to an English Cottage home.

Project: Wee Burn Cottage, Fairfield County, CT

Architect: Huestis Tucker Architects, LLC, Woodbridge, CT; Jennifer Huestis, AIA, principal in charge

General Contractor: Amgine, LLC, Wilton, CT; Jason Borner, principal

By Annabel Hsin

Nestled comfortably on two acres of bucolic landscape in Fairfield County, CT, an English Cottage- style home embodies many local vernacular architectural details. The stone and shingle house features a multi-gabled slate roof, a Storybook Cottage-like scale, timber-beamed ceilings and the heavy use of interior masonry.

Unfortunately, as with so many of these homes, a contemporary hodgepodge addition was built – likely in the 1980s – to expand the living space. The exterior stonework of the addition compared unfavorably to the existing house. There were single-pane casement windows and large skylights. A corner was angled awkwardly and one side of the rear-facing gable sloped dramatically.

In 2006, when the owners decided to remove the existing addition, as well as to update and expand their home with a new 3,500-sq.ft. addition, they turned to Woodbridge, CT-based Huestis Tucker Architects. Their wish list included a new kitchen, mudroom and three-car garage, as well as to replace a small bedroom that didn't have closets. Most importantly, they desired a large three-season sunroom that connected to all the main living areas and reached across the length of the backyard. It was crucial to the owners that the design preserved the integrity and scale of the existing house.

"I wanted to keep the scale of anything new matching what was there," says principal Jennifer Huestis. "I continued the ridge line so we didn't go up higher, except at the garage gable, but I pulled it down by adding a second gable in front. I studied houses with multiple gabled details that were designed by Voysey, Baillie Scott and Lutyens. There are a lot of ins and outs with large gables that are echoed by small ones. Their designs would take asymmetry and twist it a little so the design is balanced but not symmetrical."

Architectural elements were picked up from the original house and repeated on the addition. Local fieldstone, mortar joints and cedar shingles were meticulously matched and extend the east elevation. Wood lintels and bluestone sills surround new windows with thin muntins, which were manufactured by Warroad, MN-based Marvin Windows and Doors. Salvaged slate from the demolished addition was mixed with new roof tiles. The heavy oak lintels and posts on the side porch were stained to match the front entrance.

Mirroring the foyer, the back hall and adjacent mudroom, which accesses the three-car garage, feature antique brick floors and V-groove wall panels. Interior doors with vertical lines, which replicate the original doors, were custom made by Bridgeport, CT-based Prestige Remodeling. The stairs feature Arts and Crafts-inspired newel post and balusters.

The hall leads to a new office, pantry and powder room. Toward the rear, the family room bay window is positioned on axis with the side entry. The hand-hewn, posts-and-beam ceilings of the living and dining rooms were brought into the space, as were the wide-plank oak floors. "When we were working on the fireplace, the client saw an image in a magazine, so we tried to develop a design based on that image," says Huestis. "The fireplace she liked was very rustic and was surrounded by wood. We took the idea of rough-hewn timber beams for the mantel, faced the sides with fieldstone and used bluestone for the hearth – we brought the exterior materials inside."

The kitchen combines traditional English Cottage style with modern functionality and state-of-the-art appliances. The painted poplar cabinetry features recessed paneled doors and slab drawers, and is accompanied with beaded-board backsplashes, polished nickel hardware and black granite countertops. The ceiling was kept low and is framed with thin-profile crown molding. French doors let in natural light and lead to the dining area of the sunroom, which doubles as a breakfast room.

"The idea of the sunroom linking to every interior room was very important to the clients," says Huestis. "In a sense, the sunroom acts as their great room – like an open-concept room. We tried very hard to prevent it from overwhelming the entire house. We kept the scale down by adding a recess in the middle of the long space to create a sense of two rooms with a hallway in between. The recess also created space for the patio outside so the patio doesn't feel disconnected."

The sunroom has windows on three sides and French doors with a fieldstone base and bluestone cap acting as a windowsill. "We were drawing on English conservatories by using the same materials from the front elevation," says Huestis. "We brought in some Classical elements with the pilasters to give the rear some detail and to provide different spacing between the windows and doors, which helped maintain the scale of this rather large addition. The two custom roof lanterns [supplied by Fairfield, CT-based Parish Conservatories] were added to bring more light into the interior."

Inside, the second-floor addition includes two new bedrooms with custom built-ins, an exercise room, two bathrooms and a laundry room as well as a spacious stair hall that the clients' children use as a gathering space.

After a three-year design and construction process, the clients now have a home that fulfills their day-to-day needs and an addition that appears to have been there for decades. "When I was working on another project in the same neighborhood, I watched the construction of this other addition," says Huestis. "There was a beautiful old stone house but the designers were butchering it. The new pieces were enormous and overwhelmed the old. For the homeowners and I, it was critical for us to preserve what we loved about the existing house and to have the new look towards that. Now you can drive up and not realize that part of the house is new."  

 

 

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