“I had my second home built,” says anesthesiologist Jim Alpers, “and it just happens to be attached to my first house.” What Alpers is saying, in jest, is that the vacation home of his and his family’s dreams (wife Carol Jannetta, M.D., and two sons, ages five and two) is the house they currently live in, in Dover, Massachussetts, about 25 miles west of Boston. The 3,100-square-foot house, designed by architect Paul Lukez, started out as a 1,600-square-foot, timber framed, 1960s Contemporary Cape. Sited on a hilly one-acre lot overlooking the Charles River, the house “wasn’t executed as elegantly as it could have been,” says Lukez. Though structurally sound, the original house was situated awkwardly, with the living room embedded in the center of the house, making the primary living space dark and uninviting. “It was hard to find the main entrance as well,” Lukez says. For Alpers and Jannetta, who do a lot of entertaining, the idea of recycling the bones of the original structure while totally reconfiguring the spaces and creating new ones sounded appealing and cost effective.
A year passed between design and construction while financing was secured. The resulting two-story, 1,400-square-foot addition was lifted and attached to the completely renovated original house (Lukez says he kept about 75 percent of the existing structure). Along with the new living, dining, and breakfast rooms, the addition includes a cantilevered entry porte-cochere with parking, an entrance vestibule, a master bedroom suite, an office, and a ground-floor playroom.
Throughout the house, Lukez established a rhythm of awning and casement windows that filter natural light and frame vistas. “It was important that every space in the home feel both contained, yet connected to each other, and to the amazing views,” says Lukez. The effect was achieved not only with the windows, which activate the interiors by bringing the outside in, but also by creating a variety of ceiling heights with soffits, that help to delineate areas within the open-plan living, dining, and kitchen spaces. “The soffits are practical too, as they hide ductwork and mechanicals, and in the dining room, a major beam,” says Lukez. “Between the living and dining room the soffit helps with a spatial transition, and in the master bedroom it stiffens the corner, adding some extra structure there.”
Also in the master bedroom suite, the patterns continue with the geometry of the translucent, shoji-like closet doors, which run along the length of the suite. Made of glass covered by a white film, the pattern on the doors mimics the window placement and adds one more rhythmic element to the house.
Materials are rich and warm, including red birch floors and stair treads, walnut cabinets in the kitchen, cherry for a built-in sideboard in the dining room, and limestone in the master bath. “All the surfaces were chosen to bring another dimension of light, shadow, and reflection into the home,” says Lukez. A custom steel and glass stairway, located off the entrance vestibule and anchored to the back of the fireplace adds another reflective surface to the mix.
Alpers, who just returned from Ethiopia with his family and their newly adopted two-year-old, says he loves coming home to the house whether it’s back from a trip overseas, or just home from his easy commute to work. “I love to be cooking in this kitchen and to look over and watch the kids playing in the living room,” he says, trying to describe his favorite space in the house. “But then, I also like the master bathroom. Oh, and the living room is pretty nice. The truth is, we use all the space in this house. There’s nothing we would change.”