Classic Shingle Style Beauty
WHAT IS IT ABOUT SHINGLE STYLE ARCHITECTURE that makes its imagery so seductive? This deliberately informal style—noteworthy for being so uniquely American—was first introduced as an architectural form in the 1880s by architects who were designing rustic summerhouses for their well-heeled clients in coastal New England communities. This classic beauty, which Wadia designed for a family in New Canaan, was inspired by the Isaac Bell House in Newport, Rhode Island. Widely considered to be the best remaining example of shingle style architecture, the Isaac Bell House—designed by the prestigious firm of McKim, Mead, & White—is noteworthy for its colonial American detailing and a lack of fussiness that characterized earlier Queen Anne-influenced shingle style homes.
Likewise, this shingle style home is noteworthy for its simplified treatment of building trim and exterior surfaces. The front entry of the home features a vaulted porch, which leads into a double-height stair hall. Rising to the left of the porch is a tower reminiscent of a shingled lighthouse. On the first level, it houses an octagonal office from which the owners can keep an eye on who comes and goes through the front door. The second level houses their daughter’s bedroom, a fanciful space reminiscent of Rapunzel’s tower that fuels her imagination every time she gazes out the windows. To balance the heft and scale of the tower, Wadia clustered the gables of the house and sheathed several of them in wavy board shingles for artistic effect.
The floor plan of the house is organized around the generously proportioned stair hall, which is noteworthy for its highly unique staircase. In a nod to the Arts and Crafts movement, the custom designed staircase features hand-turned balusters in an alternating corkscrew pattern and finely carved finials on the newel posts. An open floor plan, which eliminates corridors and doors, promotes the flow of air and light and transforms every nook into an informal gathering space. One particularly inviting space is the billiards room, which features floor-to-ceiling burled oak paneling. The exceptional craftsmanship and luxurious materials that make this room so inviting are also on display in the kitchen, which was custom designed by Wadia. A one-of-a-kind kitchen range hood and false drawer fronts filled with colorful sweets are just two of the rich details that abound throughout the house. Ornamental yet highly functional at the same time, they provide the distinctive accents that give this home its much-loved character.