Farm Country, City Style
Marisa Bartolucci -- Interior Design, 9/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Seen from neighboring farms in bucolic Bucks County, Pennsylvania, this residence is self-effacingly rural, with a sod- covered roof and a zinc-sheathed tower that looks like a silo. Viewed from inside the property—a sloping meadow bordered by woods and the Delaware River—the cluster of four pavilions is a commanding architectural presence in glass and concrete. J. Robert Hillier of Hillier Architecture accomplished this sleight of hand for his clients, empty nesters Nancy and Bruce Kanter, simply by inserting the structure into a hillside on the 6-acre site.
If the exterior of the house has two distinct personalities, so does its interior, which is by turns imposing and intimate. The central pavilion, containing the living and dining areas as well as the kitchen, is 1,440 square feet, and full-height glass walls let the woods and river in, making a large space appear even larger. A dropped-frame ceiling of blond English sycamore—used for woodwork throughout the house—helps bring the prodigious volume back to human scale.
Further humanizing the pavilion's impressive dimensions, Hillier encircled the freestanding kitchen in a zinc-faced half wall. This doughnut-shape partition screens culinary activities while allowing the cook to converse with people in the living area and enjoy the pastoral view. The counter incorporates a sink and cooktop; twin ovens, dishwashers, and cabinets are tucked below. Prep work takes place at a kidney-shape center island equipped with a second sink.
The refrigerator, freezer, and large pantries are concealed by sycamore panels in an adjacent L-shape partition, behind which runs a passage to the guest wing. "The kitchen is like a cockpit. It's central to everything that's going on. And it's comfortable for guests to go there without disturbing anyone," says Nancy Kanter.
Since the Kanters' grandchildren are frequent visitors, Hillier put the couple's suite on the opposite side of the central pavilion, in a 2,240-square-foot wing. Running down the middle of this private space, a long skylit gallery leads to a paneled dressing area with generous closets and built-in drawers. An office and an indoor lap pool overlook the motor court; the master bedroom, sitting room, and bathroom face the river.
Concave in plan, with one wall fully glazed, the master bathroom features niches for the shower, whirlpool bath, and toilets. In the middle of the limestone floor stands a dramatic curved vanity of gray-painted plaster, which angles upward to a honed-limestone top. Twin sinks face the room's expanse of glass, allowing the Kanters to be at one with nature while brushing their teeth. "It's just phenomenal," Nancy Kanter says, "when you realize that design can make you feel good in the morning."