Launch Slideshow

house on the connecticut river, essex, conn.

house on the connecticut river, essex, conn.

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    Jeff Goldberg/Esto

    The glassed-in porches on the south and north can be opened and closed to modulate temperatures inside the house.

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    Jeff Goldberg/Esto

    The house evokes the area’s rich history of riverboats, many of them with flat hulls supporting two stories of porchlike wooden decks.

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    Courtesy Centerbrook Architects and Planners

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    Jeff Goldberg/Esto

    Stairs at the entrance lead to the home’s public spaces.

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    Jeff Goldberg/Esto

    The house is bilaterally symmetrical, like the old riverboats. At the entryway it “floats” between two sheds, as though it’s moored at the end of a dock. Next door is a boat launch used by kayakers and duck hunters.

centerbrook architects and planners, centerbrook, conn.

Architect Chad Floyd’s house sits on the north cove of the Connecticut, River, in a colonial-era shipbuilding town. Next door is a marina, and across the water is a pristine natural landscape, a flyway for geese. So it’s fitting that his design plumbs the genetic code of marine architecture,  and of 19th century riverboats in particular.

The entry sequence unfolds as though you were coming down to a boat on a wharf between old sheds. Inside, bedrooms—like below-deck staterooms—are on the first floor, with the larger public rooms on top to capture better views and breezes. “Riverboats had a stair that was close to the bow,” says Floyd, FAIA. “You walk in the door and go straight up the stairs.” The house spreads out symmetrically onto sun porches—“glass saddlebags” on the south and north sides that provide passive heating and cooling. They also shade the first-floor bedroom windows, so the occupants can sleep late without getting sun in their eyes. Interior finishes—marine paint, plantation mahogany, and brass fittings—recall the interiors of fabulous old boats.

“It’s all very straightforward carpenter-built stuff, the way those old boats were built,” Floyd says. Our judges agreed. Said one: “It’s romantic and iconic in the best sense of the word.”

principal in charge: Chad Floyd, FAIA
project architect: Peter Coffin, AIA, Centerbrook Architects and Planners
project manager: Nick Deaver, AIA, Centerbrook Architects and Planners
general contractor / interior designer: Brenda Huffman, Brenda Huffman Graphic Design, Essex, Conn.
landscape architects: Lester Collins, FASLA, Millbrook, N.Y., and Chad Floyd, FAIA
project size: 3,600 square feet; site size: 1 acre
construction cost: Withheld
photography: Jeff Goldberg/Esto