One Couple's Contemporary Coastal Retreat Celebrates Their Irish Roots

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By Sarah Akkoush
A contemporary interpretation of a traditional Irish cottage, a couple’s second home celebrates their shared heritage and the sublime landscape around them.
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In Atlantic Canada, the wild roses along the maritime coast have a powerful significance hidden behind their obvious beauty. Lining the coast, the delicate flora plays an integral geological role in preventing erosion in the harsh climate. It is in this landscape of contrasts that the distinctive roses informed the architectural direction of Acre Architects’ unique client project – a metaphor for soft and hard, light and heavy, beautiful and rugged. Inspired by this natural dichotomy, Monica Adair and Stephen Kopp, founding partners of the local firm, aptly named the project "The Rose Coast."

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Homeowners Jamie and Kathy were initially drawn to the vistas and views at the Coastal New Brunswick land that would eventually become the site for their future home. "At any particular time of the day, there are different colors on the water as it changes with the sun," says Jamie.

Homeowners Jamie and Kathy were initially drawn to the vistas and views at the Coastal New Brunswick land that would eventually become the site for their future home. "At any particular time of the day, there are different colors on the water as it changes with the sun," says Jamie.

Homeowners Jamie and Kathy approached Acre’s Adair and Kopp after regularly coming to the area, and toying for years with the idea of a getaway home on the coast. Jamie, a design/build contractor, and Kathy, a New Brunswick native, both share a rich Irish heritage that they wished to honor through design. The couple brought the idea of a traditional Irish cottage to Adair and Kopp, and during their talks, the idea of a farm or grange with multiple buildings took shape. The design team would use one volume as private space with family sleeping quarters, connected by a transitional bridge to the more public social space – the act of movement between the two volumes would become an experience in its own right.

Imagining a second home as a cottage retreat gave the team the creative opportunity to "think about how you want to live in comparison to how you’re living," says Adair. To their clients, this meant centering their daily experience around family, nature, and socialization – emphasizing simplicity and cutting out excess.

Imagining a second home as a cottage retreat gave the team the creative opportunity to "think about how you want to live in comparison to how you’re living," says Adair. To their clients, this meant centering their daily experience around family, nature, and socialization – emphasizing simplicity and cutting out excess.

From the front, the stone façade with three gabled walls initially appears traditional and reserved. Set within the context of hilly meadows and farmland surrounding it, it was important to the team that the home not feel excessive or ostentatious, but rather simple and discreet. The locally quarried stone became central to the design, referencing Irish ruins, and adding weight and texture to the structure.

The locally quarried stone, along with locally milled cedar, plays a prominent role in the materials profile throughout the home. Investing in local tradespeople was an important priority for both the homeowners and design team – beyond simply creating a place of beauty, they felt it was important to support the local economy, while investing in quality construction that would last.

The locally quarried stone, along with locally milled cedar, plays a prominent role in the materials profile throughout the home. Investing in local tradespeople was an important priority for both the homeowners and design team – beyond simply creating a place of beauty, they felt it was important to support the local economy, while investing in quality construction that would last.

Moving to the rear of the home allows the viewer to experience its volume, light, and views progressively. "When you break through those, then everything opens up," Adair explains of the ruin-like stone gables at the approach. The home initially withholds the view, but then opens up to allow nature in.

The home’s central bridge not only connects the public and private spaces, but also brings together local materials. The natural cedar siding, sourced from a local mill, is used on one side of the bridge and is a fluid extension of the wood on the "barn." On the other side of the passage, the natural stone is exposed, further differentiating between the two volumes.

The bridge, which started as a narrow connecting space, went through several design iterations, eventually getting wider and bigger. The result was a space with elevated function and versatility. Flanked on both sides by floor-to-ceiling glass, the bridge is a visual portal to nature, giving the family generous space to relax or host large dinner parties. The thoughtful approach to the home’s design meant that no space was overlooked or wasted.

The transitional "bridge" connects the public social spaces to the more private sleeping quarters. One side of the bridge features cedar-clad walls, flush with the cedar siding on the barn, while the opposing side features the same local stone seen on the cottage.

The transitional "bridge" connects the public social spaces to the more private sleeping quarters. One side of the bridge features cedar-clad walls, flush with the cedar siding on the barn, while the opposing side features the same local stone seen on the cottage.

Flanked on both sides by Marvin windows and Marvin Swinging French Doors, the sunny bridge is flooded with light at all times of the day, and became one of the homeowners’ favorite and most regularly used parts of the home.

Flanked on both sides by Marvin windows and Marvin Swinging French Doors, the sunny bridge is flooded with light at all times of the day, and became one of the homeowners’ favorite and most regularly used parts of the home.

The goal of marrying multiple styles and materials prompted the team to call on Marvin Windows and Doors to bring cohesion to their vision. The idea of using light as a material is central to Adair and Kopp’s practice, and particularly relevant to the Rose Coast residence in connecting interior to exterior.

"Everyone says, ‘You use a lot of windows.’ We actually say, ‘We use a lot of light,’ " explains Adair. "Each window, whether it be a small window within the stone, or a larger opening towards the main views, became hyper-important," says Kopp. "Every window doesn’t have to be large. Sometimes we want a window wall, sometimes we want a framed view," adds Adair.

Adair and Kopp carefully studied each window opening in model form, testing the light quality and making adjustments as needed. At the rear façade, customized Marvin Special Shapes gave them the freedom to create the stunning showcase of symmetric gabled glass. The pair forewent a slick curtain wall in favor of multiple glass panes with visible mullions, to add coziness and maintain the scale and feel of a cottage.

Adair and Kopp carefully studied each window opening in model form, testing the light quality and making adjustments as needed. At the rear façade, customized Marvin Special Shapes gave them the freedom to create the stunning showcase of symmetric gabled glass. The pair forewent a slick curtain wall in favor of multiple glass panes with visible mullions, to add coziness and maintain the scale and feel of a cottage.

Between the front of the home (the "road side") and the rear of the residence (the "bay side"), there is a marked difference in the size and number of window openings. With so much glazing at the rear, "it is interesting to explore the intimacy of how you break up what is glass," says Adair. Kopp and Adair did this by creating more visible frames in the glass that would celebrate the structure, rather than make it disappear.

Between the front of the home (the "road side") and the rear of the residence (the "bay side"), there is a marked difference in the size and number of window openings. With so much glazing at the rear, "it is interesting to explore the intimacy of how you break up what is glass," says Adair. Kopp and Adair did this by creating more visible frames in the glass that would celebrate the structure, rather than make it disappear.

Marvin Special Shapes, along with Marvin Ultimate Double Hung Next Generation windows, were used to establish a connection to the breathtaking landscape from the home’s upper bedroom.

Marvin Special Shapes, along with Marvin Ultimate Double Hung Next Generation windows, were used to establish a connection to the breathtaking landscape from the home’s upper bedroom.

Marvin Ultimate Push Out Casements, and smaller fixed windows, are used at the front façade to add character and context to the home, referencing the traditional form of the Irish cottage. Heavy stone lintels can be seen above many of the home’s windows, also contributing to the traditional cottage vernacular.

Marvin Ultimate Push Out Casements, and smaller fixed windows, are used at the front façade to add character and context to the home, referencing the traditional form of the Irish cottage. Heavy stone lintels can be seen above many of the home’s windows, also contributing to the traditional cottage vernacular.

Much like the locally sourced stone and wood, an emphasis on craftsmanship and quality was a key attraction to Marvin products. Adair and Kopp wanted to design a home that would not only look great, but also stand the test of time. This was particularly important considering the harsh coastal climate. The energy efficiency of Marvin glazing, along with coastal hardware that withstands salty sea air, ensured that the home would be quiet, comfortable, and efficient for years to come.

Looking towards the future, Jamie and Kathy hope their home will continue to be a place to escape, recharge, and gather with family and grandchildren. Architecturally, Adair and Kopp managed to strike a delicate balance between a structure that feels like it’s always been there, and one that heralds the future. Reflects Kopp, "It’s pretty fantastic to see how [the home] is starting to evolve and fit in with its landscape, and I think it will continue to evolve more and more."

By foregoing additional landscaping, and rejecting unnecessary ornamentation, Jamie and Kathy wanted their home to appear, simply, as "a house on a hill in a field."

By foregoing additional landscaping, and rejecting unnecessary ornamentation, Jamie and Kathy wanted their home to appear, simply, as "a house on a hill in a field."

The Rose Coast Residence, illuminated at dusk, makes an impactful contribution to the unique coastal landscape, bravely looking towards the future.

The Rose Coast Residence, illuminated at dusk, makes an impactful contribution to the unique coastal landscape, bravely looking towards the future.