The Joys of Summer

May 6, 2011

Text by Paula M. Bodah    Photography by Rob Karosis

The word charming might not be the first term that comes to mind when one pictures a house with eight bedrooms and a five-car garage. Grand—perhaps even palatial—may seem more fitting. Yet, thanks to the clever machinations of its architect and the delightfully down-to-earth tastes of its owner/designer, this home that stretches along a hillside above a lake in New Hampshire is loaded with charm.

Juliana Marriott and her husband, Stephen, knew their summer home needed to be big enough for a crowd. Her three children and her grandchildren (number four is on the way) love to visit, and she often entertains family members who summer nearby. But she also wanted her house to feel cozy. “My favorite house is a gorgeous little cottage in Rhode Island. I kind of took details from it for this house,” she says. “I knew we needed a bigger house, but I still wanted that cottage look. I love gorgeous, detailed, traditional architecture.”

She found a sympathetic partner in architect William H. Soupcoff, a principal with TMS Architects in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. “The two primary motivations for the design,” says Soupcoff, “were that the scale of the house not be overwhelming, and that the plan take advantage of the magnificent panoramic view—it’s to die for—from the back of the house.”

To satisfy the second goal, Soupcoff designed a layout that set the living and dining rooms, kitchen and library along the back of the house. Windows and French doors let the light spill in and open onto a large covered porch with a flagstone floor, erasing the boundary between indoors and out.

He achieved the intimate scale his client sought with an imaginative design that keeps the profile of the house low by tucking the upper level under the roof line. Peaked gables and dormers give the upstairs rooms the height they need. The result, he says, is that the house “melds into the landscape instead of popping out of it.”

Taking advantage of the sloped lot, Soupcoff set the house into the hillside. The two-story house becomes, functionally, three stories because much of the basement level opens to the outside. This level holds a generous family room and a bunk area that Juliana envisions filled with grandchildren and their friends.

At the front of the white-cedar–shingled house a series of gables wear the brackets and tracery typical of the cottage style. The front door sits under a small peaked gable with a welcoming arch cut into it. “We wanted to make a fairly strong statement about where the entry point is,” Soupcoff explains. “You’re eye goes right to the arch, but it’s not overwhelming, not on a grand scale. The entry has a nice, intimate feel.”

Soupcoff outfitted the house in white cedar shingles with white trim. The sage-green roof, he notes, is a synthetic material that’s a dead ringer for slate and nearly as durable. “It should last for fifty or sixty years,” he says.
The final bit of genius that keeps the scale of the house down is the siting and design of the five-car garage. “With so many houses you see the garage first,” Soupcoff says. “It’s tough to build a five-car garage without ending up with the tail wagging the dog.” He tucked this one off to the right of the house and designed it to look like a guest cottage complete with miniature dormers, a cupola and lattice trim and brackets that complement the larger house. The second floor holds a guest suite with a bedroom, living room, kitchenette and bath.

Inside, Juliana worked with her longtime friend Sandi Thompson to create rooms that enfold friends and family in casual comfort. The front door opens to a gracious double-height foyer that gives the first glimpse of the red, cream, black and white color scheme Juliana employs throughout the house. Some of the antiques she has collected over the years create a welcoming vignette. The showstopper here, though, is the magnificent spiral staircase that leads to the second floor. Crafted by Ted Nemetz of Colonial Woodworking in Bradford, New Hampshire, the staircase is constructed entirely of wood, with no supporting steel. The dark banister keeps the floating staircase visually grounded and provides a handsome contrast to the Benjamin Moore Maritime White paint Juliana chose for the walls throughout the downstairs.

The living room, like the foyer, soars through the second floor. Here, too, dark wood accents white walls, and a breezy palette of creams and whites is peppered with shots of vivid red. The room opens to the dining room, where lower coffered ceilings bring a snug feeling. “Sunday dinners are a real tradition in the Marriott family,” Juliana says. “The dining room was more important to me than the living room.” Antique chairs in a red-and-cream Cowtan and Tout fabric circle the long oval dining table. An antique Georgian hutch holds Juliana’s collection of black-and-white Staffordshire pieces.

Arched glass sliders open above a pass-through to the pretty kitchen where white cabinets stand in contrast with the distressed black cabinetry of the island, and natural timbers break up the pristine white beadboard ceiling.

A porthole-like detail decorates the doors leading from the living room to the handsome library, where floor-to-ceiling shelves and a nautically inspired brass chandelier create a masculine ambience.

Down in the lower level, the large family room is dominated by a nautical-themed, curved-top bar that Juliana found in an antique store in Atlanta, Georgia. The room’s barrel-vaulted ceiling was constructed to fit the contours of the bar. “They pretty much had to drop it in and build around it,” Juliana says.

Juliana has long had an interest in interior design; in fact it was her college major. Marriage and children took her on a different path, but when the time came to build this house she decided, with her friend Sandi, to take on the decorating. The two had so much fun they decided to go into business. “We’re doing a house in Salt Lake and one in California,” Juliana says. Still, she confesses, family comes first. “We’re part-time decorators,” she says with a laugh. “But we’re full-time grandmas.

Architecture: William H. Soupcoff, TMS Architects
Interior Design: Juliana Marriott and Sandi Thompson, Liberty Rose Design
Builder: Skip Hurt
Landscape design: Kenny Keith, Keith & Son Landscaping