John Mastera, Architect, AIA
First Look: Exciting New Projects in 2023!
Updated: Apr 14
We are busy with many varied projects in scope and style: an exterior re-imagination of colonial neighborhood home, a very historical refurbishment and addition to a mansion built during the industrial age near Long Island Sound in Connecticut project and a re-imagining of a quirky and iconic mansion on the harbor in New York created by one of the inventors of the automobile - you will get glimpses of these unique current projects and we’ll tell you about more upcoming projects for 2023.
Bringing Outdoor Living In: a Colonial Renovation in New Canaan, CT
A young couple just starting a family were referred to us through family friends. They had just purchased a colonial in a neighborhood in New Canaan. Beautiful colonial homes are a standard vernacular in Connecticut, but they tend to not address modern living very well. In New Canaan this colonial home is getting an expansion that preserves the colonial nature of the home yet opens it up for 21st century family living. Our firm is moving columns, roofs and walls to expand the home into the rear south facing yard. To do this we are carefully adding a terrace, a trellis area and a new outdoor fireplace, plus making plans for an additional pool.
Our design updates the landscaping to create outdoor space with screening front neighboring properties and creating visual vistas from the home. New porches, new plants, trees, and shrubs give the home a fresh, modern look.
An 1861 Industrial Age Mansion Gets a Modern Take in Darien, CT
One very interesting project we have just begun involves the historic preservation of the absolutely beautiful and ornate details of a Victorian home built by Mr. Weed in 1861 using hundreds of European craftsmen. While the home is generally in good shape there are elements around this mansion that need careful refurbishment or replacement in the case of a bargeboard on the front of the house. This high carpenter Gothic fretwork on each of the gables of the home (40’ high). The mansion has been scanned with imaging equipment to give us a 3-dimensional model of the home and its details. The new bargeboard is made by experienced craftsmen, fitted and installed by Vebi Gjligi, V & A, from drawings made from these scans as an exact replacement. The new bargeboard uses modern materials and techniques to improve on its next life over the next 150 years!
This project includes an addition which will also be built of the permanent materials of the main structure, brick, slate and stone for permanence, like the mansion. Unlike the old contraction of homes like this, with advanced technology, this addition will be many time more energy efficient and have a heating, cooling and ventilating system that is completely hermetically sealed so that it can temper and clean the interior air to very high levels of purity. Much higher than any of the air around it, for the healthy living of the owners.
Re-Imagining an Icon: Larchmont, New York
The excellence of our past completed works of architecture bring us many new opportunities. Recently, a young family was looking to purchase one of our “signature” home designs in Pelham Manor, New York. When another family purchased the home, they asked for the Architect’s contact information and called us. They loved the feeling that the design gave them so much that they asked if they could get our professional opinion on the other houses they were now looking at along the Gold Coast. Together we found a great one for them and we have begun designing a “signature” home for them!
What they found was a very large, quirky and old home on a harbor of Long Island Sound that once belonged to author Jean Kerr and her equally notable husband, New York Times resident theater critic Walter Kerr, that has only housed three families in the century since it was built—the Kerrs being one of them. Walter once referred to the awe-inspiring 9,000-square-foot castle-like home as "neo-gingerbread," attesting to its unique beauty. The home immediately inspired the writing of “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” in 1957 by Jean Kerr, just after moving into the home, and the book became the iconic Doris Day movie by the same name, as well as a television sitcom series years later.
The eclectic nature of the current house owes to the fact that over the years, Charles King, the previous owner, traveled all over Europe and brought back numerous artifacts to put into this house as if it was a museum. He trucked 35 loads of the old Vanderbilt's mansion in New York as it was being demolished, the interiors of a sunken steamboat, the Mary Powell, a clarion from France and even the front doors of a local Cathedral which are now the front doors of the home. I describe it as a Tudor, French chateau, French provincial, Georgian eclectic style - five different styles of architecture.
As an architect, it's actually a little scary at first when you first look at it. This is a massive conglomeration of artifacts and architecture that don't really weave together perfectly. Our goal is to make a unified piece of architecture out of a bundle of museum pieces. It’s a very special project. Many writings of the great humorist, Jean Kerr, talked about what a mess their house was, and yet what a joy to experience it.
We want that joyful experience to continue with some semblance of family living. There's a south wing, a north wing, and then a connector which is the front of the house, and they're all on different levels. The north wing is five inches lower than the connector, and the south wing is 30 inches higher than the connector wing and the north wing. We are going to bring all of this together by actually lowering existing floors in some areas and raising floors in other areas to level it out so that on the first floor, you can walk from one side to the other and not have through 5 level changes! This was the “circus” that Jean Kerr referred to in her book.
We’ll share our process on this as we prepare the home for its “next novel chapters”.
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