The Lighthouse

In deference to antecedents from other centuries the house is ordered symmetrically and hierarchically which creates a certain formal presence that is reinforced by the grassy plinth that surrounds it and abstracts it from nature.

Lest it become too immersed in tradition, a playful lighthouse stair tower is the linchpin of the front facade as it spirals up to the obligatory widow’s walk surrounding the belvedere.  The lowest windows illuminate the basement stair which is tucked underneath the main stair so that children can run in from the outdoors and descend directly.  The tower also creates a stack effect, drawing warm air up and out of the purposefully unairconditioned interior.

The inflected form of the stair tower is repeated on the rear facade by the bow windows of the breakfast room at one side and the master bedroom seating alcove at the other.  The requisite curves also appear in the trelliage which animates this facade and whose rhythm is echoed by the arched transom windows at either end of the house.

The ground floor rooms are arranged enfilade and progress outward in twelve foot increments from the twenty four foot family core.  This central room steps up to allow for a ten foot ceiling height and thus one steps back down to the second floor children’s rooms at either end whose lofts are lit by the hipped dormers.  Parallel axes transverse the house permitting views into the woods through french doors from one end to the other.  Windows aligned on the cross axes fill the rooms with sunlight and cross breezes. 

Ascending the tower to the second floor one transfers onto the circular stair that curls like a chambered nautilus up to the belvedere.  Here each child has his and her own mini suite with adjacent bath and sleeping loft.  The eccentric windows of the guest rooms step up in counter point to the curved treillage below and orchestrate the “andante” rhythms requested by the owners.

In the New England Coastal tradition weathered white cedar shingles encase the lighthouse from top to bottom and flow across its inflected curves.  The trim and treillage is cedar stained white.  Inside, with the exception of oak flooring and a fir kitchen all is painted a nautical white to complete the imagery of a stately island residence with a touch of whimsy.

The landscape plan designed by Michael Van Valkenberg sets the house on a narrow grassy plinth which formally separates the structure from the landscape which is then allowed to grow wild with the exception of a Stewartia ring in the woods that blooms in July when the family is in residence.  As per its owners brief, it is a restful retreat, a safe haven, and a snug harbor.