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Simplicity rules in this summer house, where a pared-back interior and bleached color palette enhance the holiday ambiance

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Forging a close link with the great outdoors is an essential design element for any waterfront home – the location is, after all, the key drawcard. For the owners of this house, it wasn’t just the pond and sea views that had to be maximized in the design. They also wanted a variety of outdoor living areas where they could enjoy a more immediate connection with the landscape. Architect Rick Sundberg of Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects says the position of the house on the five-acre lot was largely determined by the existing pond, and the need for privacy. “The layout of the land helped define the house – its slightly elevated position allowed for a variety of courtyards and stepped terraces that overlook a pool and the views beyond.” Sundberg says the design was also influenced by the geological history of the site, notably the presence of two huge erratics that were left by a glacier that carved through the landscape thousands of years ago. “We built the house around these gigantic rocks, which can be seen through the corner windows in the entrance hall. These erratics form an integral part of the entry sequence.” Architecturally, the house was designed to have an unassuming presence. “I wanted to break down the perceived scale of the house, so that at no one time can you see the entire structure,” says Sundberg. “The house appears smaller than it really is – we didn’t want it to read like a large, shingled mansion. The low, single-story building also fits more comfortably on the property. You almost don’t see the house until you are right at the entry, where it begins to unfold in an episodic way.” A wooden boardwalk leads directly to the entrance, with a line of sight providing a view right through the house and out the other side. The entrance hall is designed to force a turn to the right or left before stepping into the large open-plan living area where the view opens up once more. “The entrance is also the only room to be painted in a non-neutral color,” says Sundberg. “The robin’s-egg blue of this space is a reference to the traditional New England summer houses in the area, which often feature this shade.” The living area was conceived as a single, long space – a simple, unadorned room with a slightly curved ceiling. “The ceiling is something of a surprise – I like to include the occasional unexpected element in a design, and I like to create a little tension between the exterior and interior,” says Sundberg. “The curve of this ceiling cannot be guessed from the outside due to the asymmetric gabled roof. The roof is low at the entrance to enhance a sense of intimacy and welcome, but rises on the sea side so that the house opens to the view.” In keeping with the simple openness of the interior, the kitchen cabinets appear to be freestanding within the space. “I made a rule that, apart from the chandelier, nothing would touch the ceiling,” says Sundberg. “This helps to keep the interior very simple, and was a way to articulate specific features, including the gallery that forms an axis running the length of the living space.” The gallery displays some of the owners’ extensive photographic collection. The architect has also made provision for automated shades to cover these images when the owners are not in residence. A neutral material palette further reinforces the room’s simplicity. Bleached white oak paneling and in-built cabinets are complemented by light-colored stone floors. Bleached oak floors define the circulation areas throughout the house. “The washed-out look of these materials gives the house a relaxed, summer quality,” says Sundberg. “It’s a very straightforward palette, reduced down to the essentials. I wanted to celebrate the simple beauty of the room, and not have the distraction of lots of different materials.” Large soffits extend into the interior of the house, enhancing the horizontal lines of the house and adding definition to the windows. The soffits also limit the amount of direct sun coming into the house in winter. Further visual interest is created by a change in levels. The sitting room in the main living area is stepped down from the gallery and kitchen areas. Both levels open directly onto terraces. Bedrooms are located in two separate wings, providing a sense of retreat, and a degree of autonomy for guests. The master suite is positioned at the end of a narrow bridge, which also forms a gallery. This space features painted siding walls – another quiet reference to traditional New England buildings. A pivoting door at the end of the bridge leads to the suite, which includes a small sitting room that can double as a study.

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First published date: 27 April 2007

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Credit List

Architect Rick Sundberg, AIA, Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects (Seattle, WA)
Interior designers Alessandra Branca, Jessica Guy, Branca; Debbie Kennedy, Charlie Fairchild, Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Interiors Studio
Landscape architect Stephen Stimson, Stephen Stimson Associates
Structural engineer Monte Clark Engineering
General contractor Andrew A Flake
Wood casework American Homes & Design
Lighting consultant Studio Lux
Exterior windows and doors Duratherm
Flooring Custom milled white oak; French limestone
Furniture Custom pieces, as well as Holly Hunt and Gulassa furnishings
Blinds Mechoshade
Cabinetry Custom white oak
Countertops Granite Exterior photography by Peter Vanderwarker Interior photography by Eric Piasecki