A Taste For Modern

Stephanie Sipley has modern tastes, evident in the clean lines and no-frills attitude found in her fashion boutique SoleAmour in Andover. However, finding a modern house in the same town, which is known for its quaint colonials and McMansions, is challenging. 

“Everyone here wants new houses, and I’m not so much about that,” Sipley says, recalling the struggles she and her husband, Richard, faced when they moved here from Chicago in 2008. 

Designed by Marcel Breuer, this home looks almost exactly as it did in 1956 except for this updated kitchen. The built-in bookshelf (right) separates the home’s entryway from the living room/dining room/kitchen area. Photo by Emily O’Brien.

Unable to find a modern house, the couple had just about settled on a shingle-style house when their real estate agent took them to a home built by Bauhaus designer Marcel Breuer. Constructed in 1956, this house offers a European take on modernism known as the International Style. Its design is simple, functional and open, and its distinctive features include a flat roof, radiant heat and natural construction materials such as cement, stone and glass. 

Homeowners Stephanie and Richard Sipley prefer the clean, simple lines of these table and chairs, consistent with the home’s minimalist design. Photo by Emily O’Brien.

The open family room/dining room/kitchen, measuring 30 by 40 feet, immediately impressed Sipley. Narrow cedar boards line the ceiling, so it looks almost like the hull of a wooden ship — warm and sleek. At one end of the room is a painted-white rock wall and fireplace. At the other is an updated kitchen with a stainless steel backsplash and appliances with gray cabinets. A floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcase separates this space from the entryway. Floor-to-ceiling glass allows natural light to fill the room and bring the outside in. During the summer, the Sipleys open the sliders and a cool breeze flows through the home. 

“[Breuer] created these great areas where everyone can gather,” Sipley says. As the mother of three young children, she sought a home with multifunctional communal space. While this house has four well-designed bedrooms with ample storage, they are small. Thus, everyone gathers in the great room to eat, watch television, read, use the computer, play and work on projects. 

Left: The master bedroom offers a view of the koi pond and fountain, renovated a few years ago. Right Midge, a rescue dog, loves to sit on the bed and keep watch over the property. Photos by Emily O’Brien.

Richard’s attention turned more toward the property: 2-plus rolling acres landscaped by noted architect Daniel Kiley. Beyond the backyard is conservation land, including Baker’s Meadow and woods with
well-marked hiking trails. Deer, groundhogs, foxes and turkeys travel through here. It is hard to believe that Andover High School is on the other side of these woods and that downtown is a mere mile and a half away.  

Breuer, the home’s architect and builder, studied and taught at the famous Bauhaus school of design in Germany, which was founded by architect Walter Gropius in 1919. Both men fled Germany as Adolf Hitler rose in power, and both joined the faculty at Harvard Graduate School of Design. In the United States, Breuer continued designing private homes and commercial buildings, including The Met Breuer (formerly home to the Whitney Museum of American Art) in New York City. 

Homeowner Stephanie Sipley buys what she likes, mixing patterns and textures as seen in these zebra-upholstered modern chairs from The Taylor’d Room Interiors set against this white-painted rock wall. Photo by Emily O’Brien.

Breuer is perhaps best known for a chair he designed in 1925, while still head of the Bauhaus cabinetmaking department. In keeping with Bauhaus’s mission to meld art with industry, Breuer created a portable, lightweight tubular-steel chair with four simple strips of fabric for the arms, seat and back. Produced first in Germany, the Wassily chair, as it’s now known, became an international sensation. 

When the Sipleys finally moved into their new home, they discovered a little present left behind by previous owner Keith Vangeison, who collected midcentury modern furniture. It was a Breuer B35 armchair. Now, it sits in the living room amid all the great features Breuer designed for this space 62 years ago. 

Left: A glass wall, seen off to the right, fills the great room with natural light. Comfortable seating is a necessity where this family gathers and spends most of their time. On the left is a Marcel Breuer B35 armchair — a gift of the previous homeowner Keith Vangeison. Right: Marcel Breuer is seen pictured in the tubular steel Wassily chair he designed when he led the cabinetmaking department at Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany. The chair would become an international sensation and is still produced today. Photos by Emily O’Brien.

“People keep asking me, when are you going to put on an addition?” Sipley says, shaking her head and smiling. She likes the house just the way it is.                           


style editor and set design
Lysa Pelletier – Anchor Artists

Emily O’Brien – Boston, Mass.

Debbie Hagan

accessories and furnishings
Acorn Design Center
Andover, Mass.
(978) 273-9717

The Taylor’d Room Interiors
Andover, Mass.
(978) 239-0386

Rose & Dove Specialty Gift Shop
North Andover, Mass.
(978) 689-4141

Sole Amour
Andover, Mass.
(978) 409-1541
Winchester, Mass.
(781) 721-5300

Helen Thomas Simply Smashing
Andover, Mass.
(978) 475-7981

landscaping and water gardens
Dana Landscaping
Andover, Mass.
(978) 682-9267



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