Outside the Box

A simple brick ranch + a big glass cube = a modern stunner

sloans-lake-house

Photo by J.C. Buck

It’s the ugly-duckling-turned-swan tale.

When Erin Little and Marc Perusse bought their Sloan’s Lake house in January 2017, “it was really just a basic box,” Little says, “a blank slate.”

But it was also the perfect candidate for a remodel. Though the ’60s-era ranch had been updated in minor ways over the years, it was fundamentally unchanged (it even had the original kitchen), and as solid as could be. “The house was incredibly structurally sound—in perfect condition,” she says. “The foundation was two times as thick as it needed to be, and the house could really handle anything we wanted to do with it.”

More important, the location was to die for. “The house was very dated: the rooms were closed off from one another and a bit dark, and the ceilings were low,” says architect Matt Davis of Davis Urban, whom the couple hired to rethink the house. “The biggest strength was the location on a prime corner lot near Sloan’s Lake.”

The couple knew at least two things they wanted to do: “The garage was detached from the house,” says Little, “and I didn’t want to trudge through the snow to get to my car. And Marc really wanted a view of Sloan’s Lake, a half-block away.”

“Their goals were pretty straightforward,” adds Davis. “Erin and Marc wanted a more open, light-filled kitchen, dining and living space, and a better master suite. They also wanted to create views of the lake and gain access to new outdoor patio space.”

The solution to their wishes was brilliant in its simplicity. Rather than doing a total scrape, which is common in the area, Davis left standing the existing shoebox-shaped home (though it was gutted inside) and the existing garage (though the top was popped) and connected the two by designing a two-story glass cube that sits as a modern bridge between them.

“We wanted a simple but bold statement that capitalized on the views to the lake and created a grand dining room,” says Davis. “The height also creates a fun loft bedroom-office. The two-story glass cube is certainly the most significant architectural feature of the new home.”

With Brown Construction as the builder, the yearlong remodel involved popping the top of the garage and adding to it a rooftop deck for the views. The expanded garage also gives Perusse room to get his car with a ski box into the garage, and adds balance to the garage side of the cube.

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Photo by Zachary Cornwell

In the living room, they pitched the ceiling, refinished the existing oak floors with a light mineral wash, and added a modern rolled-steel fireplace and custom steel double doors from FireRock; the doors swing out to a new side-yard entertaining space, complete with built-in grill, designed by Matt Davis and executed by Brown Construction and 19th Greens, which provided a wholesale rethink of the outdoor spaces, including a private area off the master bedroom and a broader, more gracious entry space.

The result is amazing. “Regarding livability, I think the indoor-outdoor room created with the living room and patio is perhaps the most comfortable and enjoyable space,” says Davis.

Little concurs. “We eat out there almost every night when the weather permits, and for breakfast on the weekends in the summer,” she says. “It’s our gathering place. It keeps the mess outside, and it’s nice to have a place for everybody to spread out. In the afternoon and evening, it’s not too hot.”

For the newly designed custom kitchen, by Edge Construction, “we wanted to make it homey and not super modern, so we went with really classic white Shaker cabinets and pendant lights that Marc found on Wayfair.” The kitchen contains Porcelanosa countertops and Kitchen Aid appliances and opens up to the light-filled dining room, which occupies the lower level of the new glass cube.

“In our office, we nicknamed the project ‘the black and white house’ for a reason: The palette is very simple but elegant. The materials are limited to white painted brick, with black custom steel windows and doors, with a dark charcoal standing seam siding at the addition. Many new homes in the area have far too many materials incorporated and, as a result, are quite clumsy. In this case, we felt the simple palette was the answer and the result is a beautiful home.” Others agree: the 3,400-squarefoot, five-bedroom house, which also includes a finished basement, recently won a 2018 Mayor’s Design Award in the category called “This Is Home,” which honors single-family residences that exhibit “excellence in architecture, exterior design, and placemaking.”

The most important judges—the homeowners themselves—are thrilled. “One of the things that Matt Davis is incredibly good at is creating space that lives correctly,” says Little, who is expecting the couple’s first child this month. “You can have a beautiful home that’s not functional, but everything in this house came together in just the right way.”

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