A family’s spectacular new home takes cues from the past
When Roxbury architects Charles Haver and Stewart Skolnick were commissioned to design a 12,000-square-foot weekend retreat on 80 acres, they knew it was a rare opportunity. Not only were they hired as the architects and site planners, they were also engaged as the project’s landscape and interior designers. A blank tableau like that doesn’t come along often, says Skolnick. Their clients, a couple with three young children, had one specific request: the house had to appear “very barny.”
“They wanted the house to look like it evolved over time—so it may have been in one family, then passed down to one generation and then that family added a little addition and then another little piece to it,” explains Skolnick. Fortunately, Haver and Skolnick were well versed in local, historic architecture. Originally weekenders themselves, they had recently restored a two-story 1796 Colonial house in Roxbury as their full-time residence, and had renovated an adjacent 18th-century barn for their architectural offices and Haver’s antiques shop.
Designing a home that would have the feel of an authentic, early New England structure was familiar territory for the architects. “A lot of old houses in Connecticut have this wonderfully charming feel because they’ve been added onto over a period of time with somewhat of an artistic eye, but not necessarily with an architect involved,” says Skolnick.
To create the illusion that the house evolved naturally over the years, the footprint was modulated to resemble a collection of smaller, connected barns. It also made the sheer size of the 12,000-square-foot structure seem less imposing. “It’s a very large house, but when you drive up to it, it doesn’t appear that way because it’s been broken up into smaller parts,” notes Skolnick.
Siting the house atop a sloping hillside offered a spectacular vista of rolling hills, open meadow, and old-growth trees. “The potential for this amazing view is what really drew the clients to the property, so we wanted to take full advantage of it and make it available in every room possible,” says Haver. Large windows, French doors, and additional dormers placed on various portions of the house provide ample opportunities to enjoy the view.
As for the “barn” effect, the architects turned to Litchfield County’s agrarian heritage, drawing inspiration from rural farms with their quirky outbuildings and whimsical features such as cupolas, weathervanes, and classic red exteriors. Small, single-sash windows were installed on the front façade, giving it the “buttoned-up” look of a classic barn, explains Haver. He and Skolnick played with other design elements, including varying roof lines and alternating siding with shingles, vertical board, and clapboard. The result is convincingly “barn-ish.”
Approaching the house from the long, winding drive, the residence looks utilitarian, as if sturdy Yankee stock had built it. Antique light fixtures, stone water troughs, copper gutters running down the façade, and a stonewall-enclosed courtyard further enhance the farmstead appearance. Even the outdoor pool has rustic flare, framed at one end by a semicircular arbor of rough cedar posts draped in wisteria.
From the courtyard, the eye is drawn naturally toward the main entrance of the house with its wide, granite steps and portico that leads into a stair hall. From there, visitors transition into the great room, constructed from antique timber and planks. A massive stone chimney with a walk-in fireplace commands attention at one end of this large and promient living space. Opposite, sliding barn doors separate the dining area from the adjacent kitchen.
Above, a 30-foot overhead bridge connects the second-floor master bedroom with the children’s wing. A loft between the bedrooms serves as a cozy nook where the entire family cuddles up together to watch television.
Most of the clients’ entertaining revolves around preparing meals, so the kitchen is control central. With a visual connection to the great room, media room, and sun room, it was designed like a summer kitchen. Typically a whitewashed, large, airy room with cathedral ceilings, a summer kitchen was a common addition to many a gracious home before the advent of air conditioning because it served to remove the heat of the cooking fires from the main house, according to Haver.
Throughout the home, period furnishings are paired with traditional pieces for an interior that is warm, cozy, and relaxed. Haver chose a color palette that reflects the red-barn exterior, complementing it with soft moss-greens and beiges. The antique beams and natural plaster walls echo the worn patinas of the vintage furnishings, making this rustic home feel as though it’s been passed down through many generations.
“I’d have to say one of the greatest compliments we got during construction was when a workman asked us when the house was built and what part we were renovating,” says Haver. “We knew then we’d reached some level of success.”