Shingle-Style in Riverside, Connecticut

January 19, 2021

From every angle, a classic Shingle-style home in Riverside presents a lovely face.

Text by Paula M. Bodah    Photography by Michael Biondo and Jane Beiles

Most of us have a “good” side. When someone pulls out a camera, we jockey for position, turning this way or that so the camera catches our best angle. Then there are those rare individuals who seem to be made up of nothing but good sides. While everyone around them is caught mid-chew or with eyes closed, that one photogenic soul never looks anything but radiant and totally put together.

This house is a lot like that camera-friendly acquaintance. Every side of the two-story, 5,800-square-foot dwelling exudes the relaxed charm so characteristic of the Shingle-style. No matter the vantage point, there’s some detail—the multiple gables and sweeping rooflines, the ornamentation around a window, the graceful
wraparound porch—that delights the eye.

That, of course, is by design, says architect Robert Butscher. He and colleague Melanie Smith, also an architect, tag-teamed on the home; he was responsible for the exterior, while Smith focused on the interior architecture. Because it would sit on a triangular corner lot, virtually every side of the house would be visible to passersby.

“We really had to think about designing in the round,” Butscher says. The clients, active participants in the process, came armed with photos of details they liked, many of which found their way into the final design. On the front of the house, for instance, inspiration for the recessed top-story window with its curved shingles came from the clients’ files. And, notes Butscher, the husband suggested the tall arched window that bathes the main stairway in natural light. Early on, the architect and his clients decided the house would be white.

“Traditionally a Shingle-style house is left natural to weather over time,” Butscher says. “We chose to paint it white to give it a much fresher, more contemporary look.” Smith’s interior architecture performs the same era-merging balancing act. In the open-plan living and dining room area, for example, she brought in elegant columns to delineate the spaces. The library walls are paneled, as might be expected, but Smith chose a spare, unfussy version to keep the feeling up-to-date. And in the kitchen, Shaker-style cabinetry is paired with a thoroughly modern waterfall-edge island.

The stairway, however, may be the best example of Smith’s deft blending of old and new. Here, paneled walls give the stairwell the gravity it deserves, while the contemporary metal railing adds an airy touch. “It was a challenge to come up with a railing design that was light and beautiful but met code,” Smith says. “But this really worked out; it’s a fresh, contemporary element just as you walk into the home. It sets the tone.”

Designer Susie Earls further nudged the interiors toward the modern by bringing in clean-lined, neutral-toned furniture and setting it all against a quiet backdrop of pale gray walls. “We used variations of soft gray throughout the house,” she says, from the rich pewter hue of the family room rug to the almost-white hide rugs that top the pebble-colored sisal in the library. She and the clients are still working together (“It’s an ongoing process,” she says) on the home’s final touches. But everyone involved in the process agrees, this pretty house is ready for its close-up.

Architecture: Robert Butscher and Melanie Smith, Wadia Associates
Interior design: Susie Earls, Susie Earls Design
Builder: Wadia Associates
Landscape design: Wadia Associates