Page B1.2 . 31 October 2007                     
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    Growing a Farmhouse


    For Jeff and Susan the hardware was a defining element of the house. Though period hardware lacked technological conveniences of later eras, keeping the materials and craftsmanship intact was more important than convenience. For the new single-hung windows made of white oak, a wooden peg secures the lower sash when closed and a prop stick holds it open. Doors hang with iron strap, H or HL hinges, and they open with thumb latches; exterior doors have surface-mounted rim locks.

    Finding all this early 19th-century hardware was an adventure. One expedition became many as they traveled as far as northern New England. Once their collection was complete, they sorted it according to style and formality and installed it in rooms of comparable formality. Their hard work was worth it. Every room is a gallery for a different blacksmith's craft, but the collection remains unified.

    Susan and Jeff applied similar rigor to areas of the house that had no historical precedent. The mudroom, powder room, and family bath are furnished with found objects. They purchased antique cabinets for the vanities and antique vessels for the washbowls. Drains and waterlines were added. New faucets match the antiques in style and they are finished in unlacquered brass oxidized to a dark brown.

    The Kitchen Collage

    The kitchen is a symphony of materials orchestrated into a beautiful room. It, too, uses reclaimed materials: random-width unfinished beadboard on the walls and waxed plank floors. This leaves the patina in place and reinforces the informality of the room. The cabinets are new but not of uniform design, like a collage. It is a clever arrangement that makes the room feel smaller, so that it doesn't overpower the older, smaller rooms nearby.

    Keeping it Modest

    The old farmhouse was small and simply detailed, but proudly crafted. Preserving the scale, craft, and charm was paramount. Because the addition was to be as large as the original house, the architects divided it into three sections, placing one on each side of the house and one in the rear. The new wings to either side are telescopes. The balance and formality of the front facade is preserved. The rear addition is sheltered by an assortment of gable and shed roofs casually organized as one would expect on the rear of an old farmhouse. The addition also connects with the old summer kitchen, adding "reclaimed" floor area to the house.

    The stone facade is the first thing you notice upon arriving at the house. Its warmth and permanence leave a lasting impression. The architects used stone sparingly in the addition so as not to steal the stage from the original. The wing to the right of the front facade telescopes in two sections. The first section, which is two stories, is stone taken from the yard and laid to match the original. The second section, one-story tall, is clapboard except for the chimney end wall. All other new wings are clapboard, the most formal of wood sidings but less formal than stone, distinguishing them from the original house. Clapboards and trim are painted olive green, giving the facades a monolithic appearance that also helps them recede from prominence. To the rear, the addition is low slung and covered with a standing-seam metal roof painted red oxide to blend with the red clay tiles of the summer kitchen. Casement windows, hidden from public view, wrap the walls to take in the private garden and bucolic setting.

    Jeff and Susan preserved the spirit of a fine home built when homes were of necessity made from their surroundings and were a part of the land. They built for future generations as well as themselves, and they have added greatly to the joy that may be had in this house.

    Discuss this article in the Architecture Forum...

    Frank Shirley owns an architectural firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is the Boston Society of Architects' appointed member to the Cambridge Historical Commission. Shirley is also co-chairman of the Boston Society of Architects' Residential Design Committee. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

    This article is excerpted from New Rooms for Old Houses: Beautiful Additions for the Traditional Home by Frank Shirley, copyright © 2007, with permission of the publisher, The Taunton Press. Joint imprint with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.



    ArchWeek Image

    Buildings crafted of natural materials can leave a timeless legacy for future generations.
    Photo: Randy O’Rourke

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    The architects also sought to preserve the formality of the front facade.
    Photo: Randy O’Rourke Extra Large Image

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    Plan drawing of house with addition.
    Image: Peter Zimmerman Architects Extra Large Image

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    Traditional materials and framing methods allow the vaulted ceiling of the new family room to blend with the existing house.
    Photo: Randy O’Rourke

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    Pewter, marble, and nickel combine with wood cabinets to form a respectful new kitchen.
    Photo: Randy O’Rourke

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    The back addition is informally composed.
    Photo: Randy O’Rourke Extra Large Image

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    The house today, with additions. The original summer kitchen stands in the foreground.
    Photo: Randy O’Rourke Extra Large Image

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    New Homes for Old Houses, by Frank Shirley.
    Image: © The Taunton Press


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