High Drama Home, Sweet Modern Home
A neutral palette comprised largely of blacks and whites and an abundance of angles nevertheless finds warmth.
Architect Jerry Hupy is fond of saying, “We don’t design houses, we design homes. A house is a building; a home is where memories get created.” It’s little wonder that a young couple with three children and plans to build a forever residence knew Hupy was the one to make it happen. “We dreamed of living in this neighborhood and raising our kids here,” says the wife about the Fairfield County location. “We saw Shope Reno Wharton’s work everywhere and really liked the uniqueness of their Shingle-style architecture.”
During initial meetings with the architect, the couple’s desires came into focus. “We didn’t want anything cookie cutter, or any wasted space,” says the husband, who included a great room, covered outdoor living room, playroom off the kitchen, and a flat yard with room for a pool on their wish list. Thanks to the steep ascent of their site, the last request proved challenging. In response, the architect situated the structure as close to the street on the east side as possible and, along with using the building as a retaining wall, an ample yard on the south and west side of the house was created.
On the exterior, Hupy dialed back more typical Shingle-style details like sweeping rooflines and protrusions over the windows in favor of a cleaner, more contemporary appearance. He explains, “In this streamlined version, the roof doesn’t come out, it just goes straight down.” A minimal palette of western red cedar and fieldstone excavated from the site supports the shift, while the medium to dark colors are a nod to the historic Tudor vernacular.
Inside, a gallery-style hallway featuring Belgian bluestone floors, expanses of glass sporting wood sashes painted black for a more industrial look, and a sculptural staircase reinforce the contemporary bent. At the homeowners’ request, the staircase—a combination of thick, solid oak treads, open risers and glass railings—is tucked around the corner so it’s not the first thing visitors see upon entering. “The various components let the light flow through it,” Hupy explains.
Warm white-oak ceilings and floors laid the groundwork for interior designer Maureen Winter McDermott to create minimal, uncomplicated interiors. “With all that character-grade oak providing warmth, we could go modern with the furniture,” says McDermott, who introduced clean-lined deep navy sofas and a dark vinyl ottoman in the great room. With children in mind, she also avoided hard edges. “The swivel chairs are soft and curved, and kids can jump on that ottoman,” she adds.
Visible from the entrance, the dining room’s dramatic black plaster walls draw the eye to the back of the house. “If the walls were white, that wouldn’t happen,” says McDermott. A vintage brass light fixture with white porcelain bowls for shades was selected for its ability to span the length of the 10-foot- long ebonized oak table and spread the light evenly. “I think of lighting like little finish notes or jewelry,” she adds.
A substantial island with room for seating on two adjacent sides defines the kitchen, which has quartzite counters and backsplash, custom gun metal stove hood, and plaster walls. “Like all the rooms in the house, it looks sophisticated, but there is nothing too precious,” notes McDermott. “The homeowner even did a stain test on the quartzite before agreeing to use it.”
Not surprisingly, at the end of the day, the parents of three small children wanted to retire to a serene sanctuary, and the designer more than delivered with the primary suite. “They wanted tone on tone, and it’s all about texture,” explains McDermott pointing to the cream-colored walls and a bed upholstered with a mélange wool in an equally soft hue. “The room is like a warm blanket for them to curl up in night.”
The print version of this article appears with the headline: Angular Sensation.