Tradition and Modernity

If there is a house in River Oaks that exemplifies the blending of vernacular tradition with a contemporary lifestyle, this modern Cape Cod house overlooking a pretty courtyard on Stanmore is it.

Old and New

It was designed by Jay Baker AIA and built by Marcellus Barone in 2002 using mostly traditional building materials  — cedar siding and roof shingles, mahogany and cedar structural elements, Pennsylvania blue flagstone flooring and accents — to produce a subtle and modern house. The process took more than two years.

Visitors to the house are struck by two characteristics. First, that there are abundant windows throughout the house and yet there is remarkable privacy in each room. Second, that the house does not feel like recent construction but, rather, that it gives the impression that it has been there for decades and has just been completely updated.

The architect and the original owners successfully sought to lay out the house so that the view from each room included the appearance of another part of the house  — a sort of mirroring or self-awareness.

Inside and Out

The Pennsylvania blue stone provides the transition from the interior to the outside, and there is a remarkable sense of inversion between the two: the inside of the house feels so natural, while the carpet of lush green lawn and the floating aqua blue of the swimming pool seem like artifice.

There is probably nothing as traditional in River Oaks living as the screened porch  — usually strategically placed on the east side of the house in order to catch the prevailing south-west breeze. The only regret of the owners was not to have made the screened porch much larger, discovering that this was a favorite gathering place for family and friends.

The flagstone kitchen floor extends directly out to the porch, which is enclosed with mahogany and copper screen panels and transoms.

Public and Private Spaces

The house projects outward from the kitchen, as befits a modern lifestyle. Fully equipped without being fussy, the kitchen is equally suitable for serious cooking or as a gathering place before heading out for dinner.

Large multiple-purpose areas form the core of the house, and they link to smaller specifically-purposed rooms. The most enchanting of these is the study at the south-west corner of the house. Two steps down lead to a serene cocoon of mahogany paneling, beams and flooring. Windows on three sides help to make the atmosphere of the rooms cycle through different moods as sunlight changes.

Copyright©Cameron Ansari 2013

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