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Building History

A New Canaan guesthouse gets a renovation perfect for a modern family

 It’s safe to say that a lot of expert hands have helped shape this New Canaan property over the years. Though the main house was originally built by Harvard Five architect Eliot Noyes’s firm in the early 1950s, the pool house wasn’t built until the 1980s—by the same firm, which had by then been taken over by architect Alan Goldberg. Since then, architect Joeb Moore of Joeb Moore + Partners and Dave Prutting of Prutting & Company have gotten their hands on the home, completing a renovation of the main house in 2004. Prutting owned the house at that time, having purchased it in 1998, and lived there until 2004, when he sold it to its current owners. A couple of years after their purchase, the new residents hired Doug Reed of Reed Hilderbrand to give the landscape design an overhaul that matched the minimal, modern aesthetic of the rest of the property. And finally, when it was time for a pool house renovation, Amanda Martocchio’s firm, Amanda Martocchio Architecture + Design, came onto the scene. “The entire property really has a legacy of these great architects and designers having been involved,” says Martocchio, who also worked with Prutting on the pool house renovation. “It was truly an honor to work in the shadow of some of these greats.”

As time has passed, new residents have changed the property to fit their needs, and the current homeowners wanted the pool house repurposed as a guesthouse for their parents’ long-term stays. “As a couple, I believe nothing is more important to them than their boys, parents, and extended family,” says Martocchio of her clients. “I know it brings them great joy to have their parents actively involved in their boys’ lives.”
Martocchio had a very personal connection to this project as well: Before he passed away, the wife’s father had been a close friend, and also very involved in preservation, including saving the Edward Durell Stone House on Oeneke Ridge Road from almost certain demolition. “He had a real appreciation for the mid-century gems we have in New Canaan. Part of my work here was kind of an ode to him,” she says. “It makes me happy to think he would have liked what we did with the guesthouse.”

The full gut renovation of the structure produced a space perfect for two—and a few guests, of course, most often in the form of the home owners’ three young sons, who like to watch a movie or have dinner with their grandparents there. The new space “is much brighter, and even more open” than the original design, says Prutting, who, years ago, actually lived there with his family while the main house, which he owned at the time, was being renovated. “The materials make it very interesting,” says Martocchio, both inside and out. The palette used on the exterior of the dwelling is consistent with those used on the main house and even landscape design: Natural materials of different types and scales that create texture and interest and help integrate the building into its site. “It was really my goal to tie it in to the whole property, and to make a gesture towards the main house and the materials that Joeb had used there,” says Martocchio. But while the exterior materials echo those used in the main house, inside, “I felt like I could be a little distinct,” she says. In a small space, light, bright and airy became the key to keeping things open and uncluttered, creating a perfect aesthetic for a poolside location.

The materials chosen—clean, bright and large-scale—create a Zen feeling inside the space. “There is this sense of calm and serenity inside,” says Martocchio, whose material palette included bleached oak, polished white lacquer cabinets, creamy porcelain ceramic floors, and white-painted window frames. This light and breezy atmosphere was further emphasized by the selections of interior designer Dena Schulman of Good Access Design, who pulled in furniture with clean shapes that worked with the architecture of the space—and around the owners’ contemporary art collection of clean, minimal pieces that add to the overall sense of design. The space “is really a reflection of the owners, and how they want their guests to feel,” says Schulman, who also attests to the space’s feeling of serenity and restfulness. “It’s not your big, overdone house. It’s comfortable, functional and timeless.” Of course, this feeling could not have been achieved without natural light, so in her renovation plans, Martocchio reconsidered the placement and size of the guesthouse’s windows. When she was unable to place the bathroom on an outside wall with a window, she discovered that a small square skylight could generate quite a bit of brightness in the all-white space. In the den, where there once were tiny ribbon windows at the top of the stone wall, there is now a big corner window framing a view of the main house.

The large bedroom window is a new addition too, giving the grandparents a great view of the trees beyond in every season, and connecting the whole house with its natural surroundings.
But even though light and bright was the goal, glaring sun was not, so to reduce glare and increase privacy, Martocchio integrated motorized shades into the design of the larger windows. Together with the existing overhang, part of the original structure, the blinds created a space that was bright but kept the sun from beating down on guests. Efficiency is another keyword for this guesthouse. The galley kitchen and living space are open to each other, but Martocchio also wanted to separate them into two distinct rooms. The fireplace proved to be the perfect divider. Though all the other finishes in the house are very smooth, on the fireplace she used a very textural finish to help break up the space. It sounds like history just might have been made yet again on this property, because Martocchio still gets positive feedback from the client months after the project was completed. “Recently the client commented that her mother had been there for several weeks and she is ‘loving the guesthouse! The boys spend hours down at the house playing games, eating dinner and having weekend sleepovers.’” And so, in the end, the architects and designers have built a property fit for the history books, but its inhabitants are the ones who have brought it to life.

Amanda Martocchio, Amanda Martocchio Architecture + Design, 203-966-5707, amandamartocchio.com
Dena Schulman, Good Design Access, 203-515-6538, gooddesignaccess.com
Dave Prutting, Prutting & Company Custom Builders, 203-972-1028, prutting.com