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Set in Stone

Vicente-Burin Architects doubles the footprint of a Frazier Forman Peters-designed residence while retaining its signature stone cottage style.

Project: Outlook Drive, Darien, CT

Architect: Vicente-Burin Architects, Fairfield, CT; Paulo C. Vicente, principal in charge

By Annabel Hsin

During the Great Depression, self-taught architect Frazier Forman Peters designed a home for his family of nine in Westport, CT. Inspired by a trip to Europe, Peters favored stone construction – and used stones found on his own property. He believed that houses shouldn't be overly large and that each room should have a unique character, resulting in strong focal points like cathedral ceilings and large masonry fireplaces. Based on this approach, Peters carved out a career designing stone houses similar to his own in Connecticut.

In 2005, having grown tired of the limited interior space of their Peters-designed home in Darien, Kevin and Heidi Naughton approached Fairfield, CT-based Vicente-Burin Architects to renovate and expand while maintaining the traditional charm of the stonework. The Naughtons wanted to double the size of the house and create both formal rooms for entertaining and casual family living spaces. "The house had an old garage that was converted into a family room and was half a flight down," says Paulo C. Vicente, partner at Vicente-Burin Architects. "The clients had three kids and all their toys would just collect in the family room; they really wanted to get that out of the way. They also wanted a nicer master suite and to gain another bedroom."

The structural foundation of the house was still in good shape, so Vicente concentrated on removing a 1960s garage that extended from the family room to make way for new additions. "The previous owner had done a garage addition that really wasn't in keeping with the house, and the clients wanted to change that," says Vicente. "We came up with a plan to move the kitchen space down to where the family room was and to add a new family room and garage."

To maintain the appearance of a small cottage, the new family room was situated at the rear of the house. The continuation of stone walls on the street-facing elevation was also important to preserving the home's style. "We used traditional stud-framed walls and stone veneers, except we laid the stones with very widely spaced grout joints to replicate the grout work of the original stone veneer wall," says Vicente. "We went through great pains to replicate the original stonework."

Locating the actual stones wasn't difficult, since Peters had used local varieties. "It had a lot of pink hues," says Vicente. "By chance, there was a road cut for highway work nearby and we were able to get some similar stones to use on the site." For the roof of the additions, the gambrel form of the original house was mimicked; a black slate tile was used to replicate the existing roof and complementary stucco dormers were also built.

The living room, screened porch and studio on the first floor of the original house were left mostly intact, while the dining room was expanded via the removal of a small adjacent bedroom. "The dining room was small and had a couple of windows in the front," says Vicente. "By taking out the bedroom at the back, we opened it up and got another exposure to the backyard. We also added double French doors and a balcony – the sense of space is better in there because of that exposure."

Vicente gave the dining room its unique character by designing a coffered ceiling using cerused quartersawn oak beams and stucco inset panels that tie in with the stucco walls. An adjacent formal powder room carries a similar theme by using the same oak for paneling, which is in-filled with honey onyx mosaic tile by Bella Pietra of Darien, CT.

Through a butler's pantry connected to the dining room and down a half-flight of stairs are the family's living spaces. "The original house had really low ceilings," says Vicente. "That's one of the things the clients wanted some relief from. That half a flight allowed us to get high ceilings in the new spaces – the kitchen, family room and a breakfast room – and still keep the bedroom spaces at the height of the original house. Essentially we went down to gain the new height."

A clerestory window centered amongst open truss work allows light into the kitchen. Low cabinets – adorned with decorative hardware by Restoration Hardware and topped with white Carrara marble countertops from Norwalk, CT-based Everest Marble – make way for windows on two sides of the kitchen. Around the corner, a small breakfast room was also built with two walls of windows manufactured by Marvin Windows and Doors.

The kitchen and breakfast room both open to the family room, flooding it with light. A stone fireplace that echoes the exterior stonework serves as the room's focal point, while a vaulted ceiling adds softness. The millwork and bookcases on either side of the fireplace are in Arts and Crafts style to complement the rustic quality of the home.

An open stair hall completes the new additions and also meets the clients' request for a dramatic staircase. The numerous levels within the two-story house resulted in a design that includes five landings and a series of half-flight stairs. "There are basically five levels and we had to make it hit every level," says Vicente. "One of the new bedrooms is over the garage, which has a lower floor height than the rest. The client really didn't get the stairs until it was built."

Despite the new additions, the Naughton's home continues to read as Peters-designed and fits in with the other houses in the neighborhood. "[Peters] really believed that the armature of the house would be there for eternity," says Vicente. "Modifications could be done within but the basic shell was going to stay intact, and that's what we tried to maintain. We added a lot of space – we almost doubled the square footage. The key is to keep the scale and detailing in keeping with the house so it doesn't look like a new monster has been added on, but looks like it's always been there."  

 

 

 
 

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