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Nosing out at the intersection of two deep-wooded ravines, this home provides a harmonious vantage point to witness the changing of the seasons

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The great outdoors makes great home entertainment. Viewed from within, the colors and variety of nature, framed by windows, invite tranquillity and contemplation. A home built for the scenery requires optimum viewpoints – but it also needs to find empathy with the environment.

Architect James Fraerman, of Fraerman Associates Architecture, and his wife Andrea Trotenberg, wanted their own home to be cozy enough to raise a young family in but also filled with light and open to its surroundings.

"Situated at the meeting point of two ravines, the tableland the home sits on is of limited size," says Fraerman. "But from it, we wanted to achieve an expansive feel that would optimize the views and reflect the scale of the landscape."

Externally, wood window framing and neutral toned stucco provide a natural affinity with the home's surroundings. These themes of neutral plaster walls, wood and also the metal of the home's zinc roof are carried through into the interior.

The home is open-plan and features a two-story living area which reaches out like the prow of a ship to provide commanding views into both ravines.

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"Almost every room has views of the woodlands, either through its own windows or from vistas provided through this central living area," says Fraerman.

To break up the extensive use of windows, small panes were chosen, creating a lattice effect. At a lower vantage point in the living area, larger panesprovide an uninterrupted view and variety in design.

The compartmentalization of the view is echoed to some extent in the home's use of niche shelving.

"We wanted the home to provide a showcase for our ethnic art collection," says Andrea Trotenberg. "Abundant natural light and backlit niche shelving achieved this."

The living room's dramatic height is emphasized by an internal balcony, which provides a heightened aspect through the living room windows and draws attention to the room's scale.

At night, recessed lighting draws attention to a stepped-back ceiling which again emphasizes the room's stature.

Other themes to the interior are the use of limestone and touches of metal. Similar in tone to the home's exterior, limestone was used for the fireplace surround, buffet counter and surfaces in the master bath.

Metal, found as zinc on the home's roof, is picked up in a leaf motif running around the fireplace.

This use of metal is again echoed in elements of the kitchen appliances and breakfast furniture.

In a sense the first floor level divides into two inter-related areas. The central living room, dining area and library comprise a formal, dark wooded style, while the kitchen and family rooms have a lighter, more informal presence. The kitchen, for example, features a glass back-splash and other light-catching elements.

"Freestanding walls within the greater space provide defining elements without enclosure," says Fraerman. "In-built, customized cabinetry, such as the buffet cabinet in the dining area, provides utility and unobtrusive storage."

Upstairs the home again divides into two spaces – this time clearly defined by a dividing staircase. One area comprises the master suite and study while the other caters to children and guests.

"The home bears close witness to the changing of the seasons," says Fraerman. "In summer the home is surrounded by a profusion of deep green foliage. As fall deepens, the views become longer and falling leaves clear the way for views down into the far reaches of the ravines on both sides."

First published date: 24 August 2003

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Credit List

Architect James Fraerman AIA, ALA, Fraerman Associates Architecture (Highland Park, Illinois)
Interior design Incognito
Main contractor Eiesland Builders
Structural engineer Hutter/Trankina Engineering
Landscape architecture Douglas Hoerr Landscape Architecture
Siding Stucco
Roof Zinc from Rheinzink
Window and door joinery Wood from Loewen
Tiling (living room) Gascogne Blue limestone and metal leaf liner from Lorenstone
Flooring (first floor) White oak, 5-inch planks
Paints Benjamin Moore
Stains Sikkens
Heating Forced air from Carrier
Furniture Donghia chairs, Koch-Smith coffee tables, Pucci day bed (living room); Liagre from Holly Hunt (library); Donghia chairs, table from Room & Board
Kitchen cabinetry Custom designed by James Fraerman in anigre veneer with a clear finish
Countertops Verde dorato from T + M Supply
Backsplash Glass panels
Faucets KWC
Oven Thermador
Cooktop Viking
Ventilation Best
Microwave KitchenAid
Refrigerator Sub-Zero
Dishwasher and waste disposer KitchenAid
Tub Kohler
Vanity cabinetry Custom designed in painted wood by James Fraerman
Vanity basin Ladena in white from Kohler
Faucets and accessories Tara from Dornbracht
Shower Terrano from Hansgrohe
Tiling (master bath) Wall – glass from Ann Sacks; floor and counter slabs – St. Hubert from Lorenstone
Toilet Carolina from Toto
Window treatments Castec