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Tree Hugger

The Kent design blends in and pops from its surroundings



Photos by David Sundberg/Esto

At first sight, it might seem that the Bridge House—a minimalist, modern house situated on a 300-foot ridge in Kent—is jarringly out of place with the pastoral countryside of Colonial farmhouses and rustic barns. But it was the very heart and soul of the landscape that inspired Greenwich architect Joeb Moore to design a 5,000-square-foot weekend home that blends ethereally into the natural environment. 

The project began more than seven years ago when the current homeowners were looking for a getaway retreat from Manhattan. After discovering Kent, they found a 15-acre lot surrounded by meadow and woods with panoramic views of boulder-crested mountains. They decided almost instantly to purchase the property, but building a residence to suit the terrain would take another several years to complete from design to finish.

The owners wanted the house to have plenty of natural light and to be modern, with a nod toward architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright believed in designing structures that were in harmony with humanity and the environment, a philosophy that is referred to as “organic” architecture. One of Wright’s strongest examples of organic is Falling Water, a private residence he designed near Pittsburgh that was constructed with a stream and waterfall running under part of it. “My ideas of ‘organic’ are quite different from Wright’s,” Moore says. “Each of the our projects is unique, but each has a key idea or spatial concept that is the driver behind the form and spaces.”

Moore developed the concept for the Bridge House after thoughtfully studying the topography in Kent. The ridge on the property parallels the Houstonic River and Kent Falls State Park. Moore’s impression of the Kent Falls and the more historic covered bridges of the area largely inspired the conceptual bridge design. But one challenge in designing the house was making it fit into the existing landscape and its natural surroundings. At the same time, Moore wanted to transform the view and site so that the house would have unexpected views and connections to both near and far landscapes.

“So we invented a strategy where the building becomes a bridge, springing out of the sloping topography. As the house takes on form and volume it turns and spans across the landscape, which rolls directly under it and down the hillside,” he says. “Much like old New England barns or houses that were built buried into the slope of a hill, the Bridge House burrows into the hill and natural landscape and then leaps above the land and bridges over it.”

On the lower-level, where there is an outdoor living room, homeowners can burrow into a space, that includes an outdoor kitchen facility, dining, and a remote movie-screen; above, in the living area, you feel as if you are in a tree. The house design also protects the surrounding environment because the structure was positioned to minimize disturbance and to optimize natural light without excessive solar gain. Planted swales, permeable paving, and natural stone work to filter storm water, and an extensive irrigation and drainage system was also installed. Radiant heat, high efficiency cooling, filtration and water systems also keep the environmental impact low.

Bringing the outdoors inside was central to the design. A series of floor-to-ceiling panes of glass along walls of the living and dining areas create a light screen with panoramic views. The covered porches and horizontal louvers control solar and light and to help soften the space, and prevent overheating.

Interior spaces are also minimal in design, and decorated with the work of local artists including Kent painter Ed Martinez. “We designed and selected furnishings that had straight lines, classic proportions, made with elegant materials,” says interior designer Ann Nicholas, of CRC, Inc. Recessed walls, sleek, dark-stained wooden floors, and architectural features like a floating coat closet at the foyer entrance, evoke a clean and open feel. 

“On a experiential level, we wanted to have the entrance foyer both to allow you to see right through the house into the distance but also turn your eye up toward the blue skies and clouds promoting a feeling of being suspended in mid-air as you entered the house,” Moore explains. 

The powder room is vibrant visual experience in itself. With a massive skylight, it also has a similar effect of drawing your eyes upward, while allowing light to flow downwards. It is a striking example of what Moore defines as “one of the house’s paths of discovery and mystery.” The giant skylight achieves the effect of shimmering, soft gold, and red sunlight beams. Moore describes the space as  “truncated pyramidal room.”   

Tree house, camp or cave, the Bridge House is a house that is like no other in Kent. It blends into landscape as if it belongs there, bridging the past with the present.

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