A writer from Manhattan was ready for a change, longing for an open, expansive living space where she could commune with birds, bears and the natural world. That’s when she discovered and fell in love with the lush and historic agricultural town of Cornwall, Connecticut. There, on a rugged piece of land in the Housatonic River Valley, she decided to build her dream house—a Feng Shui-informed retreat utilizing natural materials in harmony with its surroundings; a composition of simple modern lines and bold colors.
After a false start with an architect who turned out not to share her vision, she consulted MA&D principal, Alan Metcalfe, for support and advice. Encouraged by Alan’s insight and direction, she hired us to re-imagine the design and see the project through to completion. With part of the foundation already poured and construction underway, the task was challenging.
Alan and Betty Spence settled on a simple design: a sequence of outdoor and indoor spaces moving from the shelter of the garage and the intimacy of the sunny kitchen garden up a covered walkway into the house, letting layers peel away to reveal expansive views of the dramatic interior and the woods beyond. We created views from the house to focus on the sloped site’s scattered stone outcroppings, towering trees, wetlands, and abundant wildlife. The house stylistically references local agricultural sheds, using red cedar for its exterior and roof decking, fir framing, and a red standing seam metal roof. On its south side, rock outcrops shelter a bountiful garden of raised beds of organic vegetables and flowers. The wraparound deck of Ipe wood overlooks a stunning vista dotted with bird feeders and an occasional visiting bear.
Tucked into the hillside, the front door opens into the main living areas on the second floor. Wide plank ash floors and a brightly colored kitchen open onto a wall of glass doors and porch beyond, while the adjacent living room is more intimate, featuring a wood stove, a Tim Prentice mobile and snug enclosing walls with high windows. High ceilings and windows of varying heights enliven the spaces with shadow, enriching the interior throughout the day and the seasons, while natural wood finishes, and brightly colored custom cabinets combine with a wood fired stove, crushed glass countertops and radiant heated flooring to create a sense of warmth and peace.
Location: Cornwall, CT, US