WRITTEN BY JOEANN HART | PHOTOGRAPHED BY JOHN GRUEN
STYLED BY RAINA KATTELSON
recycled oak boards wrap around a corner of the living area. The entire cottage is without baseboards and the crackled patina of the heated concrete floor reflects the owner’s love of Japanese pottery. The sliding glass doors open to an outdoor Garapa platform. A large wooden screen (above, right) slides across the facade to manage sunlight and privacy.
the cottage in the Lyme, Connecticut, backyard had been in decorative disrepair for some time, but the tipping point — in more ways than one — came when the bathroom slipped into the abut- ting ravine, tumbling down to the Eightmile River. The owners, a couple whose primary residence is in Manhattan, had already rebuilt one of the two cottages left from days in the 1970s when the prop- erty was home to an art colony called Green Shad- ows. All that remained of several other cottages were the stories.
The couple had done the first rehab with a traditional bent for use
as a guesthouse, but for this project, which they hoped would lure their
adult children out to the country, they aimed for the unconventional.
“We knew we wanted a modern structure with glass and steel,” says
the wife. Those can be fighting words in this land of white Colonials —
including their own, the main house on the lot. However, the cottage
is in a secluded location (all the better to promote an artist’s creativity), and the neighbors cannot be alarmed by what they cannot see.
The couple had lived in Japan for five years, so when they brought
in architect David Mansfield, of dMAD pc of New York, who had renovated their New York City apartment, they asked him to fuse the elements of a Japanese home with the essence of a New England outbuilding. Oh, and embrace its location on the slope’s edge, which is precarious but dramatically alluring. To prevent future slippage, the new
structure’s foundation was set 8 feet deep along the drop-off. Once
secured, it was safe to maximize the view, so the ravine side of the
building is composed almost entirely of simple rectangles of glass,
inviting the outside in and evoking the Japanese concept of harmony
with nature. “You wake up with the birds,” says one of the owners.
“It feels high up like a treehouse because it’s level with the treetops.”
Simplicity is the common denominator of both Japanese and rural
outbuilding design, so Mansfield conceived of the structure as three
basic areas: two open spaces, one for living and one for sleeping, sepa-