The New Classics:
Shingle Style on the Sound
What makes Charles Hilton Architects’ traditional—and spectacular—Shingle Style new construction on a cove on Long Island Sound a “new” classic? “It’s the kind of spaces and the circulation” of the picturesque waterfront estate, explains principal Charles Hilton, and how the home lives. While the client asked for a “traditional old New England home feel” and received just that, there are elements to the house that are far more reflective of today than yesteryear.
The open plan of the entry hall, living and dining room, for example, is a layout prized in new homes today. Years ago, living and dining rooms would be separated, rather than unfolding as one expansive, contiguous whole. In this home, areas are defined by traditional architectural millwork—ivory wainscoting, beautiful beamed ceilings—and open up to one another, as well as the outside views. “The arrangement of the rooms is different from a house 50 or 100 years ago,” maintains Hilton.
Decades ago, three-car garages, ensuite bathrooms, walk-in closets and large family rooms connected to eat-in kitchens weren’t in the mix, Hilton adds, and you might find a formality to a home of this caliber. Instead, this Riverside, Connecticut home is instilled with an air of casual elegance and a profound connection to the landscape.
As Charles Hilton Architects laid out the home in a very linear fashion facing the water, two-thirds of the rooms overlook azure coastal views punctuated by a mossy green terrain, with the service spaces occupying the street side of the home. Given the site, generous fenestration in the design was the natural choice; “both the master study and the family room are extensively glazed,” says Hilton. They soak up the scene on the other side of floor-to-ceiling doors or beyond a gently curving wall of windows.
While the bearing of this home may have an old-time sensibility, the materials used represent the latest developments on the market. Architects today are armed with whole classes of materials that builders weren’t using long ago. Cellular PVC, for example, an alternative to wood trim that is durable, green and low-maintenance, is perfect for homes right on the water. It was used for the entirety of the widow’s walk and mingles with wood in key features throughout the home, including a grand circular porch that’s almost Southern in its grace.
“There are new technologies in absolutely everything,” says Hilton, and a wealth of energy saving features available for new constructions. While the mechanical and electrical systems may not be as sexy to discuss as, say, the veranda, advances like spray foam insulation, ultra tight building wraps, LED lighting, geothermal heating and cooling systems are both on point and on trend, and a boon for homeowners today. This home, in fact, takes these efficiencies a step further, says Hilton, using something called cogeneration, a system, which, in essence, makes its own electricity onsite and recaptures and reuses the heat expended.
It is also a smart home throughout, with lighting, audiovisual systems, heat and alarms all controlled by the touch of a button. Of course, you wouldn’t know it. “It is our intention and by design that you don’t see all of this technology, but when you look inside the walls and in the ceilings, every bay is packed with either mechanical systems or duct work or low-voltage control and sensors,” underscores Hilton.
It’s all there. A mix of cove, accent and LED lighting in the halls and living spaces, speakers wired into the ceiling of the porch above the fans, radiant heat in the floor of the master bath and shower for comfort, even a TV concealed in a side panel by the vanity—yet it’s all presented in a timeless package. “The home lives high-tech even though it looks very traditional. It has the warmth, the comfort and beauty of all the old traditional materials and forms,” says Hilton. It is today’s heirloom.
Architecture by Charles Hilton Architects