Restricted by a long, narrow rear lot with dramatic elevation changes and inspired by the adjacent green space and angular rock outcroppings on either side of the property, this new single-family residence is a simple and direct response to its site. Because of the strong historical and social character surrounding the site the town requires that the house have a formal-material connection with the village character of eclectic Victorian and Colonial houses along Grace Church Street. Historically, Grace Church Street connected the town of Rye with Long Island Sound. Ferryboats once landed trolleys at the end of Grace Church Street and the road served as an important residential promenade for wealthy New York society. This property is situated in a rear lot along this road, and thus is part of the village but also disconnected from the street.
The narrow street frontage and the long driveway help to produce a kind of forced progression and perspective as one approaches the house. The tall gable form of the house lures the visitor’s eye and provides a simple, child-like notion of what a house looks like. But note how, like a child’s drawing, the house’s features are slightly exaggerated and distorted (vertically in this case). Intentionally, the house is exaggerated in height, reaching upwards like the trees and land surrounding it in an attempt to capture the light, sky, and views beyond its narrow boundaries.
The entry and tower conjoin to produce a lantern and lattice structure that is dynamic and clearly visible as one enters the property. From inside, the stair tower affords a 15-foot tall window and light well at the entrance hall and stair. And from the second floor level, there are panoramic views of the adjacent green garden space as you move up and down the stair and the long hall. We conceived of the stair tower as a kind of mysterious but beautifully detailed glass box suspended above the first floor in the tree canopy. The house is a simple yet powerful response to the formal and spatial qualities of the surrounding neighborhood and the natural landscape just beyond its narrow
Photography by © Timothy Schenck Photography