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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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