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Striking ‘Berry Bowl’ in the Northwest Corner Headlines a Stellar Class of Home-Design Projects

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Winning project: Accessory Buildings

The Berry Bowl

Washington Haver & Skolnik Architects

A practical solution to a problem becomes a stunning statement at a gardener’s paradise in the hills of Washington.

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Anyone who has tried to enjoy the bounty of berry bushes knows the greatest enemy is not neglect, but birds. There is a rare pain to strolling into your backyard one warm summer day expecting to fill a basket with plump, delicious blueberries, only to be confronted with barren bushes, purple-stained grass and strewn-about seeds.

Owners of a home in Washington, a land of wooded spaces and rolling hills, know this problem firsthand. As avid gardeners, they attempted the usual scheme of covering their blueberry bushes in netting. But the task proved awkward and would invariably lead to birds being trapped rather than be kept at bay. A new solution was needed.

Traditionally, we lead off our roundup of Alice Washburn Award honorees with the winner of the new construction category. But so creative and eye-catching was the Berry Bowl — the solution to the bird quandary as well as the victor in the accessory buildings category — we simply had to highlight this accomplishment first.

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Roxbury-based Haver & Skolnik Architects had a unique challenge: keep birds out but allow the free passage of pollinators to keep to their appointed rounds in the bushes. The fruits of the designers’ labor was a 452-square-foot, 24-foot-diameter domed circular structure that sits atop a hill.

Leading from the clients’ rectangular and well-appointed vegetable garden, also designed by the architects, the 17-foot-high tubular steel structure has a fieldstone-wall base and features bent steel tubes forming concentric rings to support steel mesh. A huge planting dish hangs from the dome’s apex, and is ingeniously irrigated by tubing concealed within the steel structure. For the final touch, iron rods surrounding the bowl’s base support espaliered kiwi vines, offering a ring of lush greenery.

“This innovative project presents a simple solution to a horticultural challenge. Its use of materials is admirable,” the jurors commented.

Completed in 2014, the Berry Bowl serves as a distinctive sculptural element to the 73-acre farm, drawing visitors to see it in all its glory. Most importantly, it provides protection for the precious blueberries. The architects’ description says it best: “[The] structure resembles a bird cage, this time designed to keep the birds on the outside.”


 

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Winning project: New Construction 

Kirchhoff Home 

DarienBeinfield Architecture PC

Blending into Darien’s woodland coast, this ‘beach house in the woods’ combines New England traditionalism with waves of modern living.

Alice Washburn was known for designing Colonial Revival-style houses with large windows that fill interior spaces with natural light, as well as open living and dining areas. Such are some of the defining features of the Kirchhoff Home in Darien, the winner of the new construction award.

PlanOmatic

Lined with tall windows overlooking a tidal inlet from Long Island Sound, the five-bedroom house is a study in combining traditional New England vernacular forms and modern styles. While the house is of a conventional shingle style to blend in with the neighborhood, contemporary touches abound, including many windows that wrap the structure’s corners to provide diagonal views of the landscape.

Inside, the open floor plan of the main area seamlessly merges the kitchen, living and dining rooms. The space directly accesses a raised structural pool area, complete with a spa and screen porch. Designed by Norwalk’s Beinfield Architecture PC, the house boasts a floating staircase of patinaed plate steel and oak planks for the treads.

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Amid a setting of water features and indigenous grasses, the “beach house in the woods,” as the architects describe it, has a glass bridge spanning a stream and connecting the main house to the studio and garage wing.

Impressed with the amalgam of modernism and traditionalism, the judges had this say: “The house nestles into the landscape. It is nicely detailed, a modern interpretation of farmhouse forms.” 


 

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Winning Project: Renovations 

The Music Barn

At one time the personal concert hall of the world’s greatest violinist, a Redding barn is lovingly raised from the dead to once again make sweet music.

In the 1940s, beautiful music filled a barn in Redding to its rafters. Its chief player was Jascha Heifetz, whom many consider the greatest violinist of all time. Also the property’s owner, Heifetz brought accomplished musicians to perform intimate concerts in his “Music Barn.”

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Heifetz, who died in 1987, long ago moved on from the Redding home. Music would no longer be heard in the barn. In fact, it would be encased in a pentagon-shaped house, hiding away its former glory.

But new owners would come to the property, owners who knew something of its history and what once existed there. The owner’s grandmother was Emily Gresser, also a talented violinist and one of the musicians who had performed in the Music Barn so many years ago. As music aficionados, the homeowners sought to reclaim a piece of the past.

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Austin Patterson Disston Architects, of Southport, was charged with the task of resurrecting the Music Barn. After tearing away nearly 3,000 square feet of the exterior structure, the barn finally saw the light of day. Seeking to preserve as many original elements as possible, the architects kept all pine beams and walls, while also adding protective insulation. Offering a historical look as well as a shield against the elements, the exterior now features siding of antique native weathered board and batten pine.

The careful restoration of the 1,530-square-foot barn was enough to earn the Alice Washburn Award for renovations. “The jury appreciated the fact that the project was taken back to its footprint,” jurors said. “Its new program is in keeping with the historic use of the building. There is a very strong, consistent design element between the inside and outside.”

With a concert-size Steinway piano and music lovers in residence, the Music Barn is once again living up to its name.


This article appeared in the July 2018 issue of Connecticut Magazine. Did you like what you read? You can subscribe here.