The existing house is a picturesque 1920’s suburban house set on a leafy knoll next to a pond; its high gables and leaded windows further enhance the Grimes fairy tale image. As in most fairy tales there was a down side, the kitchen was a cramped dark space with failing fixtures, ugly cabinetry and cracked floor tiles.

Project Name: Shorthills House
Studio Name: Messana O’Rorke
Shorthills, United States
Photography: Elizabeth Felicella

Shorthills House by Messana O'Rorke - Sheet1
Kitchen ©Elizabeth Felicella

Initially the client had imagined renovating the kitchen and adding a sunroom. This option proved to be impractical as the only sympathetic site to add on to the house was on the North façade, so we suggested that the existing kitchen should be converted into a den and a new addition on the North façade should contain the kitchen.

The gable end of the house contained the dining room with the master bedroom above. The concept was to extend the house with a volume that corresponded exactly with the gable; this maintained the scale and form of the house. A band of glass was introduced to separate the existing structure from the new and further abstract the connection between the two.

Shorthills House by Messana O'Rorke - Sheet2
Backyard ©Elizabeth Felicella

The resulting double height space is flooded with natural light and is the antithesis of the cozy cottage interior aesthetic of the rest of the house, however, together they compliment each other. A single story glass corridor links the addition back to the new den and provides a new entry point for the back door.

The intention was to complement the existing house in volume and material, but not to copy it, there by allowing both the old and new to have there own integrity. In keeping with the simple design concept for the exterior of the new addition we choose cedar siding, this matches the existing cedar roof shingles but is in contrast with the white stucco of the house. Sliding glass panel doors replace the French Windows at the north end of the dining room opening that space up to the kitchen.

Shorthills House by Messana O'Rorke - Shee3
Exterior ©Elizabeth Felicella

The interior of the kitchen is simple and abstract. A wall of cabinetry containing the refrigerator is flanked by two marble counters; one containing double sinks in front of a ten foot tall window the other the range oven. The wall cabinetry opens and folds back to reveal additional counter space.

The kitchen opens onto a small breakfast patio on one side and the new glass corridor on the other; glass panel pocket doors replaced the French Windows at the north end of the dining room opening that space up to the kitchen. It is a extremely light and airy space shaded in the summer by overhanging mature deciduous trees and warmed in winter radiant heated lime stone floors. The floor extends into the glass entry hall in which a white lacquered panel wall contains the coat closet and laundry.


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