Leave it to Beavers

written by:
photos by:
January 25, 2009
Originally published in Always Modern

It’s not unusual for New Yorkers to have problems with their neighbors; after all, many a co-op brawl has started over a little late-night noise. But it is rare for the downtown crowd to have a beef with a pack of rowdy beavers—which is exactly the situation in which architect Lynn Gaffney and her husband, financial portfolio manager Bill Backus, found themselves recently at their weekend home in the tiny town of Sharon, Connecticut (population: 2,968). The beavers, who reside in the swamp behind Backus and Gaffney’s house, generally keep a low profile, but every so often let loose with a torrent of logs and sticks that block all the nearby drainage pipes, making a watery mess of local roads and forcing residents to haul away the detritus.

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  Instead of buying new furniture, Backus went in favor of re-use and outfitted the house almost entirely with eBay finds, with the exception of the Flos Arco floor lamp by Castiglioni and the Random light by Moooi. “I spent months online looking for the right pieces,” he says. “It was fun sourcing the furniture myself.”
    Instead of buying new furniture, Backus went in favor of re-use and outfitted the house almost entirely with eBay finds, with the exception of the Flos Arco floor lamp by Castiglioni and the Random light by Moooi. “I spent months online looking for the right pieces,” he says. “It was fun sourcing the furniture myself.”
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  The multitude of windows along with the glass partitions in the house bring in enough natural light that there’s rarely any need for electrical lighting before nightfall.
    The multitude of windows along with the glass partitions in the house bring in enough natural light that there’s rarely any need for electrical lighting before nightfall.
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  The Tom Vac chair is by Ron Arad for Vitra.
    The Tom Vac chair is by Ron Arad for Vitra.
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  The double-height living area features unfinished plywood cladding.
    The double-height living area features unfinished plywood cladding.
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  In the guest bathroom, penny tiles were chosen “because they’re incredibly economical, utilitarian, and we liked their kitschy feel,” explains Gaffney.
    In the guest bathroom, penny tiles were chosen “because they’re incredibly economical, utilitarian, and we liked their kitschy feel,” explains Gaffney.
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  Fir stair treads are cantilevered off the wall with a custom steel support to create an industrial look.
    Fir stair treads are cantilevered off the wall with a custom steel support to create an industrial look.
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  To avoid constant maintenance issues—after all, “durability is part of sustainability,” Gaffney states—the roof is clad in standing seam metal and the siding is composite plastic decking, rather than easily weathered wood.
    To avoid constant maintenance issues—after all, “durability is part of sustainability,” Gaffney states—the roof is clad in standing seam metal and the siding is composite plastic decking, rather than easily weathered wood.
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  Protruding SIP fins on the exterior collude with an overhang to minimize the sun's rays in summer, an important consideration when thinking about heating and cooling the tall, open living areas.
    Protruding SIP fins on the exterior collude with an overhang to minimize the sun's rays in summer, an important consideration when thinking about heating and cooling the tall, open living areas.
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