Sleek Yet Kid-Friendly in Middletown Home
Contemporary meets country in this inviting house.
The inventive house (contractor: Oldport Homes, Middletown) is composed of two overlapping volumes. One holds the main living areas and play loft; the other, bedrooms and garage. An expansive deck adds more living space, generating endless reasons to stay outdoors.
Launching the Dream
Somehow a classic New England abode just wasn’t right. When possible, these busy parents spend their time on athletic pursuits (sailing, polo — you name it). With two young children, they were looking for efficiency: a home that was airy and definitely modern. New construction seemed the proper course of action but then came the dilemma of how to create a handsome house that would also fit the neighborhood and — this is always the sticky part — their modest budget. Luckily, Portsmouth-based designer Michele Foster, a whiz at problem solving, had the answers.
“We did numerous iterations until we came to the final design,” says Foster, who’s devised houses in myriad styles and sizes. Each go-around helped shave off unnecessary (and cost-expanding) elements to fine tune the 4,000-square-foot building. What you see today is everything the family needs minus frills. The open-plan interior allows kitchen/dining and living to seep seamlessly into one another, while generous expanses of glass keep parents and kids connected to the seasonally evolving landscape. The materials — snowy plaster walls, white washed oak floors, painted steel and pale marble — enhance the sense of space. No high-maintenance decor here; instead, furnishings are comfortable and low-key. Well-planned storage (including a dedicated mudroom) puts a clamp on clutter.
The blue door marks the mudroom at the entry.
A minimal aesthetic translates into greater practicality and faster cleanup even the family cat appreciates.
Ingenious planning also lends the house unexpected elements of surprise. The sleek stairs zoom up to the second story and the fun play loft, which reconnects to the kitchen by a vertical opening in the floor above the kitchen desk. Kids convene happily overhead while dinner comes together below and everybody remains in touch. Best of all, toys are neatly sequestered. No tripping over blocks or stepping on delinquent crayons. More formal meals take place at the table. Everyday grab and go repasts make use of the handy kitchen counter. There’s plenty of life-enhancing upper cabinetry for the cook, but note what’s underneath. Low windows parading the entire length serve forth natural light and views — views at the perfect height for dining, sit where you will.
To foster bonding, the kids share a sunny bedroom. The parents’ private quarters claim the more cinematic vistas. Foster and her team at Foster Associates (project architect and associate principal Chris Cote along with intern James Efstathiou) were intent on making the most of the site. Locating the house at the back of the dog-leg shaped lot, Foster explains, not only strengthens the agricultural vernacular (there are grand old barns standing on either side) but provides privacy from the road and separation from the area’s more traditional nests. Of course, the point isn’t to fool passersby into thinking this is a farm building, but how perfect? A stunning similarity complements the family’s active lifestyle and, as is not always the case, the bucolic surroundings, too.