A unique addition brings the backyard inside this contemporary North Andover house.
When it comes to their yard, the owners of a contemporary house in North Andover like to infuse an element of surprise. They feel the hard work they put into their property is rewarded when friends and family enjoy the surroundings and when people driving by slow down to stare. And it’s hard not to. A striking rock cliff towers 35 feet high over the compact backyard. A fountain and party dock embellish a fishing pond outlined with layers of perfectly crafted stone walls. A putting green, numerous sculptures neatly tucked into manicured gardens, and nearly 1000 impatiens inspire your eyes to dart around the property like you’re searching for hidden treasure on a scavenger hunt. [Editor’s note: This article appeared in the May/June 2010 issue of mvm. It has been updated to reflect current AP style guidelines. Otherwise, for historical reasons, we are publishing it now in its original form, with dates and ages unchanged.]
Charlie George and his wife, Gretchen, are so passionate about their yard (Charlie is a businessman with his own work truck titled “On Charlie’s Pond”) that they recently decided they wanted to experience their outside surroundings from inside their home. They spent months talking to builders before finding the right team to create a design consistent with their ideas. In collaboration with the builders, the couple recently finished a unique, 480-square-foot addition that was built in a triangular shape so the outer two walls — featuring 28 windows, including skylights on the cathedral ceiling — would accomplish the main objective of bringing the backyard highlights into the room.
“I love the windows and how each window frames a completely different work of art … nature,” Gretchen says. “Honestly, it changes by the minute, the day, the season. This was exactly what we wanted when we were thinking of the addition, and it truly captures the outside … bringing it indoors.”
Furthermore, multiple design elements make the space perfect for entertaining, yet intimate enough for small gatherings. As a bonus, Charlie gained a dream garage under the addition.
Establishing a Vision
The Georges started the process by meeting with four or five design/build companies, but still struggled to decide exactly what they wanted. “We needed a vision,” Gretchen says. “Builders were recommending traditional boxes with cathedral ceilings. But we weren’t looking for wainscoting and crown moldings.”
G.M. Roth, a full-service home remodeling company with a 6,000-square-foot showroom and design center in Nashua, N.H., persevered, determined to understand the couple’s dream room. Together, they came up with a unique and challenging design concept.
The triangular shape of the space creates a dramatic effect. The two outer walls form a point, like the bow of a ship, and the numerous windows enable an expansive view of the yard.
“The triangle shape is a little different,” says Gerry , who started his business in 1986. “Then we took rectangular windows and stacked them in a unique way. We sized them to follow the roof line, so they looked good on the outside and the inside. That was a little bit of a structural challenge. It was a very creative job.”
Entering the Room
With structural elements creating angles, the homeowners softened the room with layers of curves. When entering from the kitchen, a glance toward the back wall on the right reveals a 13-foot, curved granite countertop with cherry cabinets below that serves as a buffet area. Refrigerated drawers, a sink and a dishwasher all make entertaining
easy. Above the buffet, a window that used to provide a view into the backyard now is available as a pass-through for dishes into the kitchen.
A two-tiered, 9-foot center island is also curved and makes a statement with a black and gold countertop made from the same “Cosmos” granite as the buffet. “The granite is very special,” Gretchen says. “It’s a work of art. There’s so much motion to it.”
The flooring under the island adds another layer of curves and point of interest. Italian-made porcelain tile with a metallic glaze makes the floor look like textured metal.
“We curved the floor, which is a challenge because you’re working with wood and tile,” Roth says. “We followed the curve of the island to help direct people flowing into the room.”
“The room has a lot more character because of the curves and bends,” Charlie says. “Even the cabinets have a bend.”
On the left side of the room, an 8-foot bar area also features curved Cosmos granite. The homeowners custom designed the cabinet doors below in two woods to help transition from the kitchen’s maple cabinets to the dark cherry cabinets in the new room. In fact, it took two companies to do the job. One built the cherry cabinets, and another crafted the bird’s-eye maple highlights in the middle. A 55-inch, flat-screen TV above provides additional entertainment.
More than 60 lights, many controlled by hand-held remote, enable the homeowners to change the mood of the room, and decorative lighting enhances the contemporary feel. The island is illuminated from above by monorail lighting that features an elegantly curved rail and suspended bronze glass pendants.
Many unique features contribute to the richness of the room, including the Brazilian mahogany floor and a modern Napoleon Torch GT8 Direct Vent Fireplace that serves as a focal point. “We wanted a fireplace, but we didn’t want to give up that space for a brick chimney, so we found a torch,” Charlie says. “It looks like the Olympic torch. Now we have flame.”
With nature already flowing into the room, Gretchen continued the earthy theme in her decorating. When making selections, she drew on sensibilities cultivated as a textile and clothing design major in college and as founder of PetRageous Designs, a company that offers stylish pet products, such as handcrafted stoneware dog bowls. “Tuscan gold” paint (as she calls it) glows on the walls, a leather chair and a semicircular couch overlook the backyard, and wrought iron and copper sculptures adorn the walls.
“They’ve really given the house another level of design,” Roth says. “The design aesthetics were extremely important. They were like interior designers who got into the whole process. They were very good together making decisions. He was big on the outside and the landscaping; she was more about the inside and how it flowed together. Together, they wanted the view. They were a very good team.”
Another element blurring the boundaries between outside and in is an Andersen Frenchwood swinging patio door that helps visitors flow from the island area to a patio and deck. The environmentally conscientious builders saved and reused the mahogany deck that was removed for the addition. “We dismantled it, redesigned it, put it back together to tie into new patios in the yard,” Roth says.
A bonus of the project was the garage Charlie gained. The one-car space (to accompany an existing three-car unit) resembles a Craftsman showroom with all of its shiny red and gray surfaces, including an epoxy painted gray floor, gray diamond-plated walls, tricycle red walls, and red and gray Craftsman storage drawers. “The only reason I did the addition was to get the garage,” Charlie says with a laugh.
Whether they’re hosting a large party or enjoying a quiet day at home with their wheaten terrier, Buddy, the Georges couldn’t be happier.
“We’re visual people, and we have high expectations,” Gretchen says. “This project is probably one of the few things that exceeds them. If I have said it once, I have said it every week since the room was done: ‘How did we live without it?’ ”
And as for surprises, Charlie has already dreamed of the next project for his home, but he’s not telling.