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Orleans House

Orleans, MA

Client: Couple with three grown children and extensive art collection

Scope: Stand-alone office tower; guest house with painting studio; bunk room set off from main house; wine cellar; open floor plan with large walls to display art

Orleans House occupies one of the easternmost points in the U.S., a place exposed to salt water, light, sky, marsh, bay, barrier beach, and open ocean. Tides, wind, and waves are forever remaking the landscape; here is a world in motion. We let these elements guide us as we began designing.

Built on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic, Orleans House is a set of active forms that express free movement. The house follows a ridgeline, which begins at the bunkhouse and steps up toward the water and formal entryway. There, it reaches a commanding point on the bluff, turns a corner and opens dramatically to the water. On one side is the master bedroom; on the other is a sequence of public spaces—living, dining, and kitchen—that are book-ended by an office tower. A terrace and spa separate it from the main house.

Structurally, the house is a hybrid, with load-bearing walls and clerestory windows landside, and stainless-steel columns opposite, which allow the use of expansive glass windows seaside. The public spaces capture light, sky and water views, but sunlight is modulated by clerestory windows and fixed louvers. The effect in daytime is one of highly ambient light. A notable feature is the sculptural main stair that starts as glass (bringing light to the lower level), becomes folded wood and ends as open wood risers. While an anomaly among the weather-beaten shingled Cape houses, Orleans House is so tightly integrated with the landscape that it’s tough to spot from Pleasant Bay.

Materials: Board-formed concrete; granite; copper; mahogany windows; cedar; fir; acoustical plaster; jatoba; pre-cast concrete; glass planks; patinated stainless steel

Awards:
The Chicago Athenaeum, American Architecture Award
Boston Society of Architects, Design Honor Award
Cape Cod Magazine, Architectural Design Award
Residential Architect, Design Award

Collaborators:
General Contractor: Homes By Sisson Inc.
Landscape Architect: Stephen Stimson Associates
Civil Engineer: Coastal Engineering Company, Inc.
Structural Engineer: RSE Associates, Inc.
Metalwork: Cape Cod Fabrications, Inc.
Lighting Consultant: Reflex Lighting Group, Inc.

Photographer: John Edward Linden Photography