Brian Vanden Brink
For a client interested in both “fitting in” and making a unique statement on their highly visible boulevard-side bluff-top site, Windy Brae proposes a Shingle Style for today—incorporating a taught skin over a contained plan shape akin to modernist minimalism but bursting, with the use of disparate historical forms, into an iconic object at the roofline. A gambrel gable end, a stair tower, an entry pavilion and a linear dormered bar are all flush across the front—implied more than fully expressed and jostling for primacy yet never descending into compositional chaos. On both the street façade and harbor façade, order is maintained by localized symmetries, balance between horizontal and vertical, and studied juxtapositions using elements at all scales from small to large. An abstracted fan light, exploded in scale, atop flat representational columns—a crisp bright white interruption to the plasticity of the surrounding gray shingle wrapper—announces the front entry like a sign board. The home’s actual text sign, “Windy Brae,” is smaller, not as powerful from a passing car on the boulevard, but located to still give the words prominence in the overall composition. Quirky and playful but still classically inspired, the hybrid/mannerist whole is grand but not formal, complex but not complicated, balanced into a happy truce between exuberance and calm.
The living spaces are traditionally and efficiently arranged on the first floor and sleeping spaces on the second. There is one exception to the compact rectangular footprint that stretches out along the bluff for maximum view (and contains the house within limited footprint allowed by zoning and conservation requirements). A screened in porch projects off one end to provide it with three exposures to light, air, and view. Under the porch, where the grade at the house dips to its lowest point, a semi-circular arch creates a “grotto” for walkout from the space within. Above the porch a hipped gambrel shaped roof with large overhangs invokes forward motion toward the mouth of the harbor and open ocean beyond, shades the direct sun, and provides a hat (or is it a cow catcher?) from which a stone chimney (or is it a steam engine smoke stack?) emerges. Playful multiple interpretation possibilities abound and, hopefully, delight.