The addition is really the embodiment of a lifelong conversation a couple has had over both their shared and separate aspirations. Having finished raising a family they decided to enlarge and reorganize their current home to accommodate their new lives. He is graphic designer and passionate collector of books, she a sun-sensitive lover of plants and gardens. For years every nook and cranny of the house had been filled with their collection of books and memorabilia and now it was time to enjoy open, well-organized space.
The inherent contradictions of the project were the crucible out of which the concept evolved: books vs. plants, storage vs. space, light vs. shade, library vs. garden, systematic organization vs. informal experience, privacy vs. engagement (of the outside).
An armature was formed of deep, equally spaced fins. The depth of the fins formed a protective zone, a kind of “protective blanket” creating a deep private enclosure. The fin’s depth, calibrated to accommodate a bookcase, absorbed and ordered the many conflicting programmatic needs. Book storage and file cabinets filled much of the space in the library, wardrobe and dresser, the new master bedroom. The east wall of the library became a plant conservatory, the deep fins preventing direct sunlight from falling too far into the room. The fins themselves were conceived as “infrastructure”, ducting air and forming lights. Symbolically, for the couple and for the designer, the fin-based module gave a sense of measure, order and unity, a very satisfying way of understanding the space.
Windows were sized and located according to the fin system, operable ones being placed on the inner, more easily reached face of the “thick blanket” and fixed ones on the outer face. Windows were also calibrated and adjusted to screen neighbors, and to frame garden views. Because of the depth of the fin wall windows could more precisely occlude the undesired views.
Upstairs in the master bedroom, in celebration of the rising sun, the eastern corner of the ceiling is lifted in a veil-like fashion allowing the corner window to rise in response. This corner has become a contemplative spot, in dialogue with the opposite western corner where its window, in contrast reaches to the floor, providing an aerie to read and overlook the old beech and pine trees.
Out of view, both lower level and rooftop of the addition are integral parts of the design. In earlier years the attic of the existing house had been renovated but remained utilitarian; the new addition provides a discrete treetop deck for plants and family, affording distant views of the Rhode Island countryside. The lower, basement level was conceived as a working/living space; light filters through glass flooring above in the conservatory space, as well as from a garden window and door.
The connection between addition and house is paradoxical. The addition, expressed as a distinct pavilion in terms of form and syntax, nevertheless shares a material palette with the existing house. On the interior a distinct windowed connector bridges between old and new, yet the renovation of the kitchen and dining area has blurred the seam between new and old.