Connecticut is rich with architectural traditions that provide cultural continuity. Traditions are defined by a wide variety of underlying styles, including, but not limited to: Colonial, Georgian, Greek Revival, Queen Anne, Shingle and Vernacular. This award is named for the distinguished Connecticut residential architect Alice Washburn, an early-20th-century Connecticut designer and builder, largely self-taught, whose work is known for its thoughtful stylistic and programmatic invention. The Connecticut Chapter of the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA Connecticut) Alice Washburn Award program is to acknowledge excellence in traditional house design. Winners were honored in three categories: new construction, accessory buildings and additions/renovations. The three jurors chosen for their expertise were: Neil Carnow, AIA (Neil Carnow AIA Architect; Carmel, New York), Julie Evans, AIA (Julie Evans Architecture & Design; Croton-on-Hudson, New York) and Manny Andrade, AIA (Kenneth Irving Architect, PC; Suffern, New York).


New construction Winning project

CRR8-Interior.jpg

This shingle-style classical-revival home in Greenwich takes full advantage of its coastal location.

Douglas VanderHorn Architects, Greenwich

A Classical Revival residence in Greenwich is a resort-like sensation on the water. 

Admiring jurors describe this shingle-style Classical Revival home with its bluesy views and vibrant landscaping as “beautiful,” “impeccable,” “strong” and “inviting,” with interiors that are “extraordinary” and an overall environment that is “very sensitive and well done.” Take one look and you’ll find it hard to disagree.

What Douglas VanderHorn Architects describes as “formal symmetry in the plan,” introduces a “dominant façade to the neighborhood, signaling entrance and front yard while creating a private and a resort-like promenade of lawn, gardens, terraces, pool, spa, cabana and sport court.” Clipped gable ends, which at first glance seem identical, stretch at elegant angles before assuming a unique variety of bays, porches, balconies and dormers. Alaskan yellow-cedar shingles, left natural at the roof and stained a cool gray on the walls, traverse complex but tailored volumes, while intriguing window shapes and patterns along with white decorative railings, columns and trim deliver fluent styling. A shingle flare crowns the rubble-stone veneer that clads the home’s first floor and foundation before branching into lower retaining walls and planting beds.

CRR5-Interior.jpg

This shingle-style classical-revival home in Greenwich takes full advantage of its coastal location.

Open, contemporary styling in the home’s interior includes a grand paneled stair hall with rhythmic details and rich accents as well as a den with stained cherry beams, shiplap wainscoting and a custom mantle paired with the deep-blue V-groove ceiling. Classic detailing continues in formal rooms of the home, including a cool and elegant master suite. Oversize windows throughout let in the serene coastal light along with the continued chance to drink in those views.

Multi-tiered in both its structure and landscaping, this home makes a dramatic statement. Inside, details like exposed wooden ceiling beams and rope lighting nod to its nautical location.


New construction — Winning project

7-Rear Terraces.jpg

Perched on Long Island Sound, this French Country residence in Greenwich has just as many outdoor living spaces as indoor.

 Mark P. Finlay Architects, Southport

With its château style and antique-filled interior, a Greenwich home is a trip to the French countryside. 

This 9,500-square-foot French Country residence overlooking Long Island Sound is the cohesive culmination of the owner’s broad stylistic tastes. Exquisitely detailed interiors that jurors say are “to be admired” were designed to showcase an eclectic collection of antiques and art gathered throughout years of travel, while on the exterior, formal terraced gardens create outdoor rooms that are utilized just as often as their indoor counterparts. Flared slate roofs, arched dormers, and intricate iron railings and balconies evoke the romantic French châteaus of the 16th century, while limestone details firmly ground the composition in present-day Fairfield County.

5-Study.jpg

Perched on Long Island Sound, this French Country residence in Greenwich has just as many outdoor living spaces as indoor.

“The overall design concept for this project was to establish a French Country aesthetic and define the proper relation of the home to the landscape,” says architect Mark Finlay, who admits that one challenge in designing the home was the lot itself, whose topography is steeply sloped and leads directly to a private access to the Sound. In order to appropriately integrate the home and landscaping with the lot, while maintaining the best possible views of the water, the home’s terraced gardens were strategically oriented and, as Finlay describes, “their massing designed to cascade down to the water and mask the intensity of the grade.”

Another challenge was maintaining the quaintness of the French Country aesthetic as a means of downplaying the size of the home’s square footage. “The home’s volumetric composition allows the central body to be the initial focal point,” Finlay says. Its true grandeur, however, is a delightful discovery as viewed from the extensive outdoor living spaces and garden on the waterfront side of the property. 


Accessory buildings Winning project

2_Anne Curtis Renovated Garage Carriage House.jpg

An unremarkable two-car garage behind a circa-1840 Victorian house in New Haven was transformed into a Victorian carriage house with “whimsy and delight.”

Paul B. Bailey Architect, New Haven

A plain New Haven garage is transformed into a princely carriage house.

Architect Paul Bailey took many different points of view into consideration when planning the transformation of the nondescript two-car garage behind a stately circa-1840 Victorian home in New Haven into a Victorian carriage house. The street view: “partial viewing of the new garage from the urban streetscape complements the Victorian forms, materials and imagery of the main house and beckons visitors to the backyard to see more,” Bailey says.

The views from inside the home itself: the ugly duckling turned swan dominates views from expansive windows in the main house’s contemporary two-story addition, from a new curving terrace attached to the back of the main house and from a third-level rooftop terrace. And, finally, the neighbors’ views: considering the tight urban setting, chockablock with small lots and historic 19th- and 20th-century single-family homes, Bailey also strived to create “good neighbor” views from adjacent backyards and decks. 

Yes, the spiffy new carriage house continues to provide its previous functions as both shelter for the owner’s cars and for convenient storage of garden tools, trash cans and off-season furniture, but, as jurors opine, it’s also “an incredibly sweet project. It’s charming, the attention to detail is lovely and it works well with the main house without copying it.”

In the end, the backyard eyesore was transformed into a unique visual attraction that “successfully evokes the spirit and purposes of a ‘Victorian folly’ with whimsy and delight,” Bailey says — an unqualified success from any angle.


Accessory buildings Winning project

Washington_Poolhouse_08.jpg

Perched on a hilltop in Washington, this pool house is reminiscent of historic barns and cottages of New England, while adding decidedly contemporary touches.

Haver & Skolnick Architects, Roxbury

With nods to New England history, a Washington pool house is a hilltop heaven.

This handsome 1,200-square-foot pool house, sited on a hilltop to afford far-reaching mountain views, takes its cues from the historic barns and cottages of the rural 70-acre gentleman’s farm upon which it is set. Its simple, classic New England salt-box form is clad in silver weathered siding punctuated by warm copper overhangs and lanterns. Its design, describes architect Charles Haver, “contrasts a traditional vernacular form with a composed classical plan,” one in which “rustic native materials are contrasted with crisp contemporary details.” 

The serene structure, a weekend retreat for a busy Manhattan family, includes a central lounge with wide-open views of a stunner of a swimming pool, a gym that can be used throughout the year, a pantry, powder room, laundry and, of course, storage for all those pool toys. The part of the house with a “cross-axial organization” that extends to the terrace, swimming pool and beyond, is “very simple and classical,” Haver says. The open lounge and gym are flanked by thick poché zones on either side, neatly organizing all the storage and service spaces. 

Washington_Poolhouse_07.jpg

Perched on a hilltop in Washington, this pool house is reminiscent of historic barns and cottages of New England, while adding decidedly contemporary touches.

Because it’s designed to blur the line between interior and exterior, the pool house also boasts fully retractable glass doors, as well as bluestone paving that extends from the pool terrace into the building itself, where simple, elegant white-washed pine boards reinforce the concept of the interior as an open-air pavilion.

Admiring jurors deem it “comfortable, inviting and quiet on the land.” 


Accessory buildings Winning project

carriage house landscaping.jpg

“As an accessory structure, the carriage house is designed to look stylistically like it belongs with the antique house without being just a smaller and simpler version of it,” architect Scot Samuelson says of the Essex structure.

Scot Samuelson Architect, Sherman

Boasting a loft suite and space for three cars, this Essex carriage house serves many masters.

Jurors call this grand carriage house, reminiscent of those found on estates of yore, “big,” “bold” and quite stunningly “visually involved.”

The inventive, 860-square-foot structure with three oversize garage bays, storage areas and a guest suite shares a flat, irregularly sized 15,000-square-foot lot with a Main Street residence in the center of Essex. In fact, there was just enough allowable lot coverage for the deluxe structure to be set back and at a right angle to the house — positioning that relates the two buildings formally and allows for the utility equipment to be placed out of sight and out of mind behind the carriage house.

“As an accessory structure, the carriage house is designed to look stylistically like it belongs with the antique house without being just a smaller and simpler version of it,” architect Scot Samuelson says. Its complex multi-gabled roof form allows for 950 square feet of lofty living space under the dormers and gables of the second floor, which is reached via a private entry. The fact that the roof flows down over portions of the first floor reduces the perceived height of the building and covers latticed storage areas as well as a welcoming entry porch. 

Standard-height overhead doors have been detailed to look taller, as if to accommodate an elegant coach (if only), as well as a central projecting gable that provides extra bay length for a large vehicle. To finish things off, a custom-designed pilastered cupola sits like an exceedingly distinguished cherry on top. 


Additions / renovationsWinning project

2. After - Rear Elevation of the North Wing- New Mudroom Entry- and New Conservatory.jpg

This 1940s Greenwich country house was updated inside and out to pay homage to its classic design while bringing its overall aesthetic forward into modern times.

Charles Hilton Architects, Greenwich

A country estate in Greenwich goes from rocky to rock star.

This 7,127-square-foot 1940s Greenwich country house’s lackluster wings and dated interior distracted from its classic design and were in dire need of extensive and thoughtful renovation inside and out. Enter Charles Hilton Architects of Greenwich.

First up: the exterior. Supplementary exterior trim and details, new slate roofing, new energy-efficient reproduction windows and doors, and meticulously matched stonework revived the classic Georgian character of the home and added new life. 

Inside, nearly three-quarters of the interiors were completely redesigned. The addition of an English conservatory and breakfast room and a completely redesigned 1½-story mudroom annex “added both visual interest and greater functionality to the north wing. The new mudroom was designed to be a hub offering access to the garage, the backyard and, thanks to a new staircase, indoor access to a new guest suite above the garage.”

Additional features of the new interiors include a redesigned entry hall, reconfigured main staircase, a new refined farmhouse-style gourmet kitchen/family room, new “his and her” studies and a significantly redesigned master suite detailed to seamlessly blend with the existing interior architecture. A consistent palette of quality, carefully detailed materials such as classical trim and paneling, hand-scraped walnut floors, and bright color choices artfully combine new and old throughout what can now be described as a “modern traditional home,” says Nicholas Rotondi of Charles Hilton Architects — and the jury agrees.

“This house is really well done,” jurors comment. “The detailing is consistent and at a very high level, and the proportions are done well. The interiors are both varied and imaginative, but they still work in the house.”


HONORABLE MENTIONS

New construction

Kitchen Photo by Nancy Elizabeth Hill Resized.jpg

The heart of this New Canaan beauty is a stylish south-facing Great Room, which opens to a kitchen whose ceiling beams, arches and island base were all fabricated from trees on the property. A winding drive brings visitors to an entry courtyard fronted by a welcoming porch, and then continues through an arched porte cochere that connects the simple, yet elegant shingle-style structure and its horse barn, and acts as the entrance to an inner courtyard.

Jennifer Huestis, AIA, Huestis Tucker Architects, Woodbridge

Country Home, New Canaan

The heart of this New Canaan country home is a stylish south-facing Great Room, which opens to a kitchen whose ceiling beams, arches and island base were all fabricated from trees on the property. A winding drive brings visitors to an entry courtyard fronted by a welcoming porch, and then continues through an arched porte cochere that connects the simple, yet elegant shingle-style structure and its horse barn, and acts as the entrance to an inner courtyard.


Additions / renovations

2018DS44 Grove Lane Residence

One of the challenges of restoring, renovating and adding to this vintage Tudor home in Greenwich designed by Henry Pelton in the late 19th century was to create a private outdoor space where none seemed possible. On the exterior, a severe drop in the rear was used as a place for a handsome new pool and deck area, which was given privacy by a covered breezeway from the house to the garage.

Saniee architects, Greenwich

Tudor House, Greenwich

One of the challenges of restoring, renovating and adding to this vintage Tudor home in Greenwich designed by Henry Pelton in the late 19th century was to create a private outdoor space where none seemed possible. On the exterior, a severe drop in the rear was used as a place for a handsome new pool and deck area, which was given privacy by a covered breezeway from the house to the garage.


Accessory buildings

Pool Pergola on a Country Estate 02.jpg

Simple Doric columns and a modified entablature provide the structural framework for this classical poolside pergola on a country estate in Greenwich, yet details such as a flared lead-coated copper roof with embossed decorative edging and the delicate tracery of its trellises give it an exotic, Eastern feel. Most notable are the perforated shafts of the in-antis columns, which each bear the traditional Chinese symbol for “good fortune” suspended in a field of tendrils and vines and when lit from within evoke the feel of traditional paper lanterns.

Charles Hilton Architects, Greenwich

Pool Pergola, Greenwich

Simple Doric columns and a modified entablature provide the structural framework for this classical poolside pergola on a country estate in Greenwich, yet details such as a flared lead-coated copper roof with embossed decorative edging and the delicate tracery of its trellises give it an exotic, Eastern feel. Most notable are the perforated shafts of the in-antis columns, which each bear the traditional Chinese symbol for “good fortune” suspended in a field of tendrils and vines, and when lit from within evoke the feel of traditional paper lanterns.


Accessory buildings

02 Pavilion Evening.jpg

Three load-bearing brick arches define each façade of this open-pavilion designed as an accessory structure for a grand Georgian estate in Greenwich rich in classical detailing. The pavilion’s style evokes a fun and relaxing atmosphere, while the warm natural color, scale and visual texture of its brick provides an intriguing heirloom-material connection to the home’s stately façade. Its slate roofing, wood cornice, limestone keystones and bluestone paving are also derivative of the main house.

Douglas VanderHorn Architects, Greenwich

Classic Georgian Pavilion, Greenwich

Three load-bearing brick arches define each façade of this open pavilion designed as an accessory structure for a grand Georgian estate in Greenwich rich in classical detailing. The pavilion’s style evokes a fun and relaxing atmosphere, while the warm natural color, scale and visual texture of its brick provides an intriguing heirloom-material connection to the home’s stately façade. Its slate roofing, wood cornice, limestone keystones and bluestone paving are also derivative of the main house.

This article appears in the September 2020 issue of Connecticut MagazineYou can subscribe to Connecticut Magazine here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get our latest and greatest content delivered right to your inbox. Have a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.