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Country house with formal symmetry, glass walls, steel windows, large fireplace

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This vacation house by Paul Siskin and Joan Chan has a formal architectural symmetry that radiates a sense of order and calm

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Loft-style living might not automatically come to mind when planning a country house, but that was precisely the look required for this vacation home.

Interior designer Paul Siskin says he loves the idea of living in one big great room, and it seemed a perfect solution for his new home in the country.

"I have never really liked the idea of lots of small, separate spaces," he says. "It makes much more sense to me to have one large, flowing space, with floor-to-ceiling glass walls and no window treatments. It was also a way to maximize the great view from all sides of the house, which sits on a ridge – there are often wild turkeys and deer wandering past."

Siskin says he was initially taken with the idea of the Philip Johnson Glass House, which was mentioned in early discussions with architect Joan Chan.

"The concept is wonderful, but in reality, I could see it would help to be able to close off a few of the walls."


With this in mind, Chan created a highly symmetrical plan for the house, placing the living area at the center and bedroom wings off either side. The central living space features 12ft ceilings, which step down to 10ft ceilings in the two wings. The symmetry and stepped roofline give the house a formality that belies the relaxed lifestyle within.

"Although this is a modern house, it has a classical scheme," says Chan. "In a sense, we started with a solid rectangular form and carved out a series of L-shaped voids that let in the light, including a high entry hall with a skylight."

Siskin says he has always liked the idea of entering directly into the living area, but the architect convinced him to create the formal entry, which the designer has lined with bookshelves.

"There is a definite processional feel to this space," says Chan. "You come into this very tall 14½ft atrium – essentially a library – which in turn opens into the living area. The large fireplace is on the same axis – you just get a tantalising sense of what lies beyond in terms of the view."

In keeping with the desired loft-style aesthetic, the main living area is a large steel-framed pavilion, measuring 20ft by 40ft. The space is completely open to the master bedroom, which features another sitting area. The extra-wide opening can be closed off with a sliding door.

Steel windows and doors enhance the industrial look, as do the large steel I-beams that form the fireplace mantel. These were ground and polished by the contractor, a former bridge builder.

Rough-sawn reclaimed pine wood on the chimney, polished concrete floors and natural walnut cabinetry in the kitchen area reinforce the raw quality of the material palette. Natural materials are also a feature of the furnishings, with leather, steel, chrome and wood most prominent.

"The furniture is mostly pieces I have gathered over the past 40 years, for various apartments and stores," Siskin says. "It's a very eclectic mix – the dining chairs are new, but I have had the Corbusier chairs for four decades. They were originally black but I had them recovered in an orange-red leather."

Another room, which can be used as a guest room, features two vintage 1930s day beds, a collection of framed photos and art work, and a replica wooden rifle.

The designer's collection of antique chemistry glass bottles and flasks is also displayed in many of the rooms, including the master bathroom, which again mixes the old with the new.

First published date: 10 August 2014

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Credit List

Architect Joan Chan AIA, with Jose Pimentel, Studio Joan Chan Architecture (New York)
Interior designer Paul Siskin, Siskin Valls (New York)
Builder Mitch Rabideau
Cabinet company Henry Built Kitchen
Flooring Colored concrete
Paints and varnishes Sherwin-Williams
Lighting MSK Lighting
Kitchen cabinets Walnut
Countertops Absolute Black granite
Bathroom vanity Thassos marble by Fong Construction
Bathroom floor tiles Artistic Tile