Green Peace

June 28, 2011

Text by Megan Fulweiler    Photography by Michael J. Lee


Remember that familiar saw about not judging a book by its cover? Or the old adage that beauty comes from within? Both are true and relevant for this house. Gorgeous on the exterior, the home also incorporates the latest in protect-the-planet technology thanks to its environmentally conscious owners.

The couple hadn’t really planned on building, having just finished renovating their previous home with architect James Sandell, principal at Carr, Lynch and Sandell in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But this site, on Boston’s South Shore, was remarkable. They took the plunge, turning again to Sandell, by now a good friend, for help.

Sadly, the existing circa-1900 house proved beyond repair. Built on a ledge outcropping, the foundations were literally crumbling. Rather than raze the structure, the conscientious owners had the house dismantled by ReStore in Springfield, Massachusetts, and focused on creating a home that would respect the environment. Tons of materials from the deconstructed house were recycled or shipped off to be incorporated elsewhere, including a load of salvaged lumber destined for Habitat for Humanity’s affordable housing.

Landscape designer Wesley Wirth of Thomas Wirth Associates in Sherborn, Massachusetts, took charge of the house’s surroundings, painstakingly restoring portions of the coastal bank by pulling out invasive plants and replacing them with appropriate native species like sweet pepperbush and sturdy oak leaf hydrangea. Existing trees were gently relocated, and stone removed from the ledge was recycled for the hardscape and gravel drive. “We had to tread lightly. We were addressing a critical coastal area,” Sandell says. “It was complicated making the house site-specific and user friendly at the same time.”

Needless to say, the savvy Sandell, along with architect James Rissling, the project manager, accomplished both.

Gathering inspiration from renowned architect H.H. Richardson, Sandell designed a Shingle-style home that bears witness to the New England vernacular while addressing the future.
State-of-the-art from its broad-gabled roof (artificial slate—a fifty-year-guaranteed composite of mineral-filled polymer) all the way to its heating and cooling systems (supplied by two earth-coupled geothermal wells), the house is a model of efficiency. There’s even a 19,000-gallon cistern, constructed as part of the foundation, to collect rainwater.

Still, if first-time visitors pass through the mahogany front doors and don’t zero in on all the miraculous green components, no one could fault them. They’re bound to be distracted by the view across the lofty foyer, over the shimmering swimming pool and out to the water. A spectacular Bocci chandelier dangles above; nearby, a staircase of glass and steel gracefully ascends to the upper levels.

Interior designer Douglas Truesdale, who was at the time employed with Nicholaeff Architecture + Design in Osterville, Massachusetts, and has since moved to Boston’s Carter & Company, created rooms that exude the essence of sea and sky. The luminous palette mimics colors the owners observe every day through their triple-glazed low-emissivity windows—all the muted grays, shimmery blues and tans that drew them to the spot. “It’s never good to compete with Mother Nature,” Truesdale says with a laugh.

Having seen one of the designer’s projects, Sandell recommended Truesdale, who readily embraced the concept for the home. With such commanding architecture, there was no need for over-the-top accoutrements or jarring patterns. Only a sophisticated, clean-lined decor could foster the Zen-like ambience the house demanded. “Douglas was wonderful at interpreting,” says the wife. “We wanted the house to be serene but also comfortable. Our living room is a perfect example. We entertain or relax there with the Sunday Times. I think between Douglas and me, we got it all just right.”

With two adult children who frequently visit and a range of interests that are often catalysts for large gatherings, the owners find the three-story house is as flexible as it is captivating.

The living room is conducive to lounging. Paneled in rift-sawn white oak, the space holds a flotilla of custom upholstered furnishings in beachy sage hues. Soft-looking white oak trim complements the yellow-toned marble hearth. An Art Deco plaster portrait bust rests atop the mantel.

The sleek sideboard moored in the dining room is also Art Deco. Here walls are upholstered in a luscious Elizabeth Dow fabric, which adds texture and mitigates noise. “The owners’ tastes lie in the contemporary realm, but I wanted to temper that with materials and colors that soften the edges,” Truesdale says. A generous Holly Hunt pendant sails over the glass dining table. The ceiling is clad in two distinct wallcoverings—a hand-painted Maya Romanoff creation and a mica covering from Stark for subtle sparkle.

The semicircular family room is a favorite haunt. Milk-olored leather sofas with adjustable backs allow the owners to rearrange their seating to enjoy the views or to catch the evening news. A Dakota Jackson coffee table anchors the room and provides a perch for drinks and magazines. “This is the owners’ year-round residence,” Truesdale explains. “There’s a great deal of attention to details and richness of materials.”

Certainly this is evident in the master suite. The bedroom’s headboard wall is sheathed in a hand-painted iridescent silk wallcovering by de Gournay. The handmade rug with its random dot pattern copycats beach pebbles. And—who doesn’t enjoy a little luxury now and then?—the custom sheets and curtains are embroidered.

An infinity-edge tub brings a spa-like mood to the master bath. The recessed dome above sports a Venetian plaster finish. Italian porcelain covers the floor. And once again, the vistas are astonishing.

In the end, the architects and Truesdale, along with these commendable owners, show us that going green is no deterrent to a comfortable lifestyle. It’s a very good lesson. For truthfully, what is more precious than the beautiful world around us?

Project Team
Architecture: James Sandell, Carr, Lynch and Sandell
Interior design: Douglas Truesdale
Landscape design: Wesley Wirth, Thomas Wirth Associates
Builder: Christopher Britton, Britton Industries

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