|Topic of the Month: A Shingle Style House in Greenwich CT |
The shingle-style home is an American style of architecture that became popular in the late nineteenth to early twentieth century and is found primarily in northeast coastal areas. The style is a distinctive one, with its rambling floorplan, continuous wood shingles on the siding and roof, often roughhewn stone on the lower story, large curved turrets, and rustic informality, and yet like the Victorian homes from which the style evolved, each is completely unique in its design. One shingle style home in Greenwich, CT designed by architect David Neff contains added personal significance because the clients were not just anyone - they are the architect's parents.
Although Neff's design contains many elements that are characteristic of shingle style homes, he made sure to add many personal touches that make it all his own. Neff explains, "The shingle style is my favorite traditional house style. I find that it is quintessentially American, with its natural materials that people really respond to. The homes are covered in wood and usually have brick and stone accents. It is very open and informal, symbolizing the casual American lifestyle, and has been associated with the seaside and vacation homes, reminding people of the leisurely life."
Architects who have experimented with shingle style homes, such as Charles McKim, Stanford White, and Frank Lloyd Wright found that through the use of natural, uniform, often faded colors, informal compositions and unembellished surfaces, they could achieve a look reminiscent of the weather-beaten shingle style homes built by settlers on the New England coast.
The upper stories of Neff's house are covered on the exterior with red cedar shingles and beige to brown stone veneer is used on the first story and for the thick chimneys, adding a sense of solidity to the structure. The home is situated on an acre and a half of steeply sloped land, a feature that added both a challenge and the inspiration for the design. Neff explains, "This was a unique and somewhat difficult building because the property slopes down seventy feet from the top of the site down to the lowest point in the back yard. Most of that drop is in the front, which has a very steep slope which becomes more gradual toward the back. This did allow for different levels of terrace in the back and inspired the use of stone for the first story, rather than shingles. You have to drive down a hill to approach the front of the house, where there are stone retaining walls and rock outcroppings. The heaviness of the stone anchors everything into the land so that the structure appears to emerge naturally from the earth."
As with many shingle style homes, instead of an even, symmetrical layout, the wings of the house fit into a unique form of geometry, extending out on various diagonals which serve a very specific purpose. Neff explains, "The layout was inspired by the site and by the position of the sun. The primary view from the house was open to the west. It's kind of a narrow lot, so what we did was really spread the house out and create a rambling structure that opens to that western view, but also steps down the hill and opens to the south. The house is filled with light because it is only one room deep which gives most of the primary rooms windows on three sides." Even the top room of the octagonal tower has windows on all eight sides.
The roof is another important element of a house that Neff likes to focus on. "I focused a lot on the roofline, and I really think the roof, especially for houses as a building type, is perhaps the most expressive element of a house. The idea of a roof represents shelter, and to me it's also an opportunity to really give a house a lot of visual interest." The sloping roof over the windows and the way in which it lifts up to reveal each window, it's a particularly beautiful detail.
Not only is the house significant to Neff because it was designed for his parents, but it also happens to be the architect's first house that he designed pretty much completely on his own, while working simultaneously for Trumbull Architects. Neff explains, Trumbull gave me a little bit of time off to work on it. It was a big project, so with just spending nights and weekends working on it, the project wasn't going as fast as it should have. That's when I took the job to the firm and my boss, Jonathan Lanman, gave me advice whenever I looked for it. It was really a perfect work environment for my first big job, to have someone with a lot of experience giving me support and answering questions when I had them, but also giving me the freedom to let me do my thing. It was my first new house project that was truly my own design and your first design is like your firstborn, it's your baby. If it's done for any client, when construction is over you have to just let it go, but since this was for my parents, it's something I get to visit all the time which is really kind of nice." David Neff works on his own now, since he launched his firm in 2008.
When asked what aspect of the Greenwich house project he is most proud of, Neff answered, "I'm most proud of the way the house relates to the site and the way the floor plan flows from one bright space to another. The house is in a neighborhood with lots of traditional center-hall colonial plans and we tried to break out of that mold and take advantage of the sunlight and the views in all different directions. Not every site allows that, and not every client wants that so it was a privilege to have the opportunity." With all the proper elements in place, combined with Neff's design and architectural skills and the close relationship with his very special clients, the project turned out to be a huge success for all parties concerned.
|Helpful Links for Architects|
AIA Interior Architecture Knowledge Community
The AIA Interior Architecture Knowledge Community provides leadership and expertise to practitioners of interior architecture and design, working cooperatively with its members and other interiors organizations to address relevant, timely practice issues, markets, and trends, such as licensing, liability, environmental, and technological considerations. Through the Interior Architecture Knowledge Community, important links are maintained with allied professionals, service providers, and manufacturers. If you wish to become a member of the AIA Interior Architecture Knowledge Community, call AIA Member Services at 800-242-3837, or visit: http://www.aia.org/practicing/groups/kc/AIAS076039
Architect Online's Continuing Education Center
Architect Online's Online Continuing Education Center gives professionals a convenient way to earn necessary continuing education credits without having to set foot in a classroom. The courses listed, sponsored by the companies noted, are accessible from anywhere you can establish an online connection. Just register, read the required material, and then take the test, either through a downloadable mail-in form, or free via a secure online connection, depending on the course. You'll be able to maintain your professional credentials, at your pace, and at a location that works for you. Visit: http://www.architectmagazine.com/industry-news-section.asp?sectionID=1018
Architectural Record Continuing Education Center
Architectural Record magazine has a free Continuing Education Center where architects can earn AIA Continuing Education Credits online. Visit: http://continuingeducation.construction.com
Architectural Record Discussion Forums
The McGraw Hill Construction Community, publisher of Architectural Record, has provided architects with a forum to express ideas, opinions, suggestions, and gripes. The discussion forums are open to all, and include topics such as Green Building Projects, Virtual Design, Practice Matters and a forum for younger architects. Visit: http://construction.com/community/forums.aspx
CORA - Congress of Residential Architecture
CORA is a grass root organization that encourages our members to participate in the dialog of improving residential architecture in a way that suits them best. The purpose of the CORA is to provide a
continuing forum for advocating and enhancing residential architecture by all
individuals, both professionals and non-professionals, that share a common
interest in improving the quality of the homes and communities we live in. Visit: http://www.corarchitecture.org
The Green Meeting Industry Council
The Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC) is a non profit
501(c)(6) membership-based organization. Their goal is to encourage
collaboration within the meetings industry toward the development of
green standards that will improve the environmental performance of
meetings and events on a global basis. The GMIC is the only
professional green meetings organization that is a member of the
Convention Industry Council. For more information visit: http://www.greenmeetings.info
The World Architecture Community
The World Architecture Community invites all architects to create a free profile on their website. The World Architecture Portal is a unique comprehensive international directory and catalog of contemporary architecture where all architects, scholars and institutions may submit their work and links to share with colleagues from around the world. For more information visit: http://www.worldarchitecture.org
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