Neighborly from the street, yet built for privacy, this North Shore residence takes the suburbs in stride.
From Jazz Age Tudor manors to Space Age split-levels, suburban homes have stood as expressions of social ambition. Grandees of one generation looked to the past to build houses that reflected their material success. Everyday folks of a later era simply wanted to stake their claim on the American Dream. Those two impulses still percolate, but so too does one driven by a delight in architecture as architecture, a deeper appreciation of shape and space. Case in point: this distinctive contemporary residence architect Peter Nicholas created for a design-conscious couple on the North Shore.
Situated on one of the more curious suburban byways—a cul de sac—the house occupies a triangular lot adjacent to a golf course. From the street, the layered planes of its minimally fenestrated facade form an engagingly reticent geometry, one that offers no clear idea of what lies beyond. Even the front door—positioned perpendicular to the street—steps away from its standard spot as a focal point. “I don’t like to reveal everything from the street,” explains Nicholas, “so you approach this house indirectly, walking up a path and turning a corner to discover the front door. It’s not until you step inside that the house really begins to unfold.”
Comprising two parallel volumes connected by a glass-walled spine punctuated by a stairway, the house is all about procession. Although the main floor is orchestrated on an open plan, it’s not until one advances past the stairway that the expanse of kitchen, dining area, and living room come into view. While this great, big space is a direct response to the way we live now, with so much of our private and social lives revolving around the kitchen, Nicholas has not neglected the need for retreat. A first-floor guest room is located far from the action and the office is separated from the main living space by a library that flows off the stair hall that connects the front of the house to the back. The second floor is dedicated to bedrooms, with a play space and media room located in the basement.
Glass and steel are key here, but so too is white oak. In addition to specifying it for flooring and stairway treads, Nicholas employed it for the various built-ins he designed—including kitchen cabinetry, floor- to-ceiling bookshelves and the primary bath vanity—all fabricated by New Style Cabinets. “They have state-of-the-art equipment and skilled craftsman who produce a beautiful product that has always exceeded our expectations,” says Nicholas.
“I don’t like to reveal everything from the street… It’s not until you step inside that the house really begins to unfold.”
No suburban home would be complete without comfortably functional outdoor spaces and Nicholas has given his clients plenty of spots to enjoy. In addition to placing a good size terrace off the living room, he exploited the eye-pleasing transparency of the stairway connector by laying a Japanese inspired garden on one side of it and a dining patio on the other, ideal complements to the unimpeded spaciousness that characterizes the interior. Spring can’t come soon enough.