Oak Row House

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This house in suburban New Jersey attempts to reconcile several competing forces. The first challenge is to provide comfortable living space for five while preserving as much exterior space as possible for outdoor living. Given the relatively small site (50'x100'), our solution involves manipulating the typical house footprint in order to create usable exterior spaces. We go from a basic rectangle placed in the middle of the site to an "L" shaped configuration that creates a substantial sideyard to complement the backyard. This strategy also opens up more of the interior to the exterior and consequently, allows more light and air to move through the space.

The second challenge is to reconcile cost and customization. The perception is that custom houses must cost significantly more than production houses. In this case, we employ a number of production house building techniques including a straightforward foundation profile, framing on a module and vertically stacked bathrooms to reduce costs. The customization comes in the form of the layout of the spaces and the building on the site, as well as, locating the windows to take advantage of trees, views and sunlight. The result is a completely custom house built at a cost that rivals production houses.

The final challenge is balancing old and new. The house is located in an older suburb with wonderful homes from the late 1800's and early 1900's. While our clients were not interested in recreating a period home with its characteristic small windows, low ceilings and closed floor plan, they were sensitive to the importance of the house integrating into its surroundings. In response, we approached the massing of the house by starting with a traditional rectangular, gable roofed structure. We then manipulated the form to address the issue of interior vs. exterior space, view and light and finally, entry. The final result is an unabashedly modern home with clear references to the past.

Photography by Bruce Buck, Sue Daley and Steve Gross

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