Residential Architecture

A house that is "of the street
and of the yard"

Of the street...
The owners of this 1950 Cape needed more space for their growing family. They engaged the Frederick Design Studio to design an expansion scheme in a contemporary language that would integrate with the traditional New England architecture of the existing house.
     Alterations to the front of the house were restrained, in order to maintain it as a comfortable neighbor to the modest houses nearby. In lieu of a front porcha potential overstatementmetal-roofed aprons were provided over the front door and the new mud entry. Vinyl siding was replaced with cement-fiber clapboards.
Front, before: Note the lack of a roof overhang at the front door and the mismatched slopes of the front and rear roofs. 

All photos taken during construction

Of the yard...
In the rear yard, a two-story blue box was added to accommodate a new family room and master bedroom. The unique appearance of the addition is largely due to windows that were sized and placed to address specific conditions:
  • The tall casement window at second floor left wraps onto the adjacent side facade, and opens into the boughs of an oak tree to provide a “treehouse” reading corner in the master bedroom.
  • The window at second floor right picture-frames a view of the Neponset River upon entry into the master bedroom.
  • At first floor left, a “birding window” at lower permits views of an avian feeder from a seated position in the family room.  
  • The large triple windows on the first floor allow views from the kitchen and family room to an outdoor children’s play area (at right, just outside edge of photo) and to the river (behind the photographer).

Rear, before: The facade is unengaging and very tall, despite the house being only 1 -1/2 stories. Small windows limit views of the Neponset River, below. 

Unifying the whole: the "hug"
The existing rear roof of the house was extended to wrap the blue box and "hug" the 2-story blue box addition. In this way, a house having one sensibility on the street and another in the rear was integrated into a compositional whole.

   The hug serves several other purposes: Its roof provides summer shade for the triple windows in the family room, but is calculated to admit warming rays during the winter. It breaks up the rear massing, thereby reducing the apparent height of the addition; for comparison, note the overtall original rear elevation (photo, above right). And finally, the hug is perhaps a metaphor, as the older, traditional house (representing the parents) embraces the younger, contemporary addition (representing the children). The articulation of the braces and rafters perhaps even suggests hands or fingers, although they were not literally intended as such.

The roof overhang provides summer shade but allow warming winter rays to penetrate.

Interior features

Skylight baffle: The new Breakfast Room was landlocked between the kitchen, loggia, mud room, and garage, and had no exterior windows. A skylight was provided with an arched perforated metal baffle to filter daylight and lend shape and atmosphere. 
Loggia: Shelves line the loggia and extend into the family room to provide an entertainment center.  The loggia "penetrates" the family room, emerging on the other side to provide a translucent picture window and a new basement stair.  (photo forthcoming)

First Floor Plan
A house for playing tag: If you've ever attended a social gathering in a small house, you know that one person standing in the wrong place can clog up traffic everywhere. This consideration, combined with an off-handed observation by the owners that they needed a house more suited to playing tag with the kids, led to the development of a floor plan with multiple routes of travel. Each room now has at least two entry/egress points. Active kids can run through every space without disturbing the central food prep area, but from which mom and dad can easily supervise activity.
   In the front of the house, a sitting/ office/ guest room provides quiet refuge for adults. At the rear, the new family room addition takes advantage of woods and water views in the rear yard. A play room occupies a former bedroom at left, while a one-story addition between the house and garage provides mud and breakfast rooms. 
First Floor

Original circulation pattern: Primary circulation in a conventional Cape is distributed from the center of the house.  Rooms typically have one way in and out, making through-movement difficult.

Revised circulation scheme: The new circulation scheme provides numerous looping pathways for ease of movement; yet within each room a protected area was provided that is free of infringement by through traffic.  And from the centrally located kitchen, Mom and Dad can keep a watchful eye on active kids -- without ever being in the way!

Second Floor Plan
In the new master bedroom (top of floor plan below), corner casement windows open into the boughs of a large maple tree to create a “treehouse” reading corner. At far right of plan, an existing bedroom for a young girl received skylights to compensate for a window eclipsed by the addition. 
Second Floor

A skylight niche (red square) was introduced at the location of the existing bathroom window, which was eclipsed by the addition. This allowed the interior window casing to remain in place while bringing light into the house in a dramatic way at minimal additional cost.

The Frederick Design Studio
comprehensive architectural services to homeowners in New York and New England. Services include a series of detailed personal consultations, analysis of living space needs, conceptual design, design development, product selections, construction documents and specifications, management of bidding process, contractor selection, and construction administration. Please contact us for more information or to arrange a visit.

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Matthew Frederick is an architect, urban planner, and author
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