A project description from Manhattan-based architecture firm Billinkoff Architecture paints a pretty abysmal picture of the original state of a recent renovation in New Milford, Connecticut: built in 1968, the house was a "decade too late to qualify as midcentury, and from a period considered less than stellar in American residential architecture." The broker that had scouted it out reported that it was a "peculiar house with some very unattractive features," and potentially "an insurmountable design problem." And that's quite the origin story, given how stellar the home looks now.
Billinkoff goes on:
The long high narrow aluminum windows inserted in the beige brick facade lent the house the appearance of a rest station in a public park. The bedroom hallway behind those windows was 52 feet long and only 32 inches wide. At its far end was a bathroom mirror that further accentuated the hallway's narrowness and length. Fluorescent fixtures, partly hidden behind wood valances, illuminated many of the rooms. The floors and walls in the entry hall were covered in travertine. A recessed kidney-shaped planter filled with white gravel was just inside the front door. While the layout had some evidence of rationality, the rooms felt enclosed with little connection to each other or to the landscape outside. But all those failings where nothing compared to the fireplace, "a mansard of embossed chocolate brown clay tile set on a beige brick base with a multicolored terrazzo hearth" that "terminated in unresolved angles as it intersected with the sloped wood beams and decking in the ceiling." But looking past all that, the architects found a few features they wanted to accentuate, what they call the "higher aspirations" that had influenced the original design.
These potentially strong features included "deep overhangs" that made the sun less oppressive and were well-positioned for cross ventilation, as well as an "impressive beamed ceiling" and expansive windows with custom detailing. With a primary goal of "opening up the interior and maximizing views to the landscape," Billinkoff reconfigured large parts of the interior, opening up one long hallway and replacing the wall separating the media room from the guest room with a sliding plywood panel.
The slotted windows in front were replaced with floor-to-ceiling panes of glass, and showcase bulbs were mounted along what was left of the central corridor to better light the home at night, and in their words, create a "dynamic tableau as one approaches the house from the road." When it was found that the original mason had embedded the fireplace tile right in the concrete column forming the mansard of the fireplace, which "did not easily yield to demolition," they decided to hide it behind a "screen of concrete block, blackened steel and sheetrock," with steel shelves installed on one end to hold firewood.
Floors of porcelain tile and plywood were brought in to reduce costs and lend a "casual contemporary feel." To this end, laminate-fronted cabinets, Corian countertops, and industrial light were put in the kitchen. A brand new 600-square-foot screened-in porch was added by "borrowing" the original pitch of the roof, "flipping it up at its far end to open the space to woods and sky beyond."
Setting out to "reduce the impact of its weaknesses," Billinkoff ended up with a strong residential design that combines midcentury roots with contemporary finishes. Check out more of their projects here.
· New Milford Residence by Billinkoff Architecture [Home Adore]