When a client came to him in 2004 to show him a .92-acre parcel near a wetland in Deephaven, architect Steven Kleineman immediately saw why it had never been built on.
It has a very steep hill with a drop-off to wetlands.
But Kleineman, principal of Plymouth-based SKD Architects, welcomed the project.
"There's a fair amount of grade change, and that was a concern," Kleineman said. "But I love a challenge."
Working closely with the landowner, Kleineman set about designing a modern 6,279-square-foot house with features that would seem contradictory. His art-loving client wanted something that was contemporary but also warm, artful but comfortable.
The owner values his privacy but also wanted to have openness to take in the natural vistas. And, oh, the house also should be functional.
"You can have clean lines and cool-looking stuff and not necessarily be cold," Kleineman said. "It depends on the types of materials and the artful touches so that something contemporary still feels like home."
The house features an open plan but with defined spaces created by varying the ceiling heights. A whole wall was treated like an art piece, for example, with the buffet recessed, spaced windows and glass shelves.
Kleineman was similarly creative about design elements. His spaghetti rails are an attraction in themselves.
"When people talk about a metal railing, they think of common spindles that you see — twisted metal with little baskets on them," Kleineman said. "This railing is a piece of art."
He used materials like natural limestone for the floor, which can take wear but also impart warmth.
The warmth also comes from making spaces human scale. Vaulted ceilings, for example, don't have to be overly high.
"If you build a box, and the walls get really tall, that becomes cold and uncomfortable," Kleineman said. "There's a rim of indirect lighting to highlight those raised areas."
The house has an abundance of natural light. In the foyer, family room and living room, light comes in from all directions, making the spaces feel evenly lit and more comfortable.
The architect addressed the need for privacy by how he oriented the house, which sits at the end of a cul-de-sac.
"There are porthole windows in the living room when you're coming down the road," Kleineman said. But "all the windows explode to the back of the property, both the south and western sides, to take advantage of the natural setting."
Since the house was completed in 2005, Kleineman has gone back twice for further work. In the first renovation, he converted a narrow closet into a wine room, using glass with a stone back wall to provide texture and to play off the artful theme.
For the second renovation, the master bathroom was converted into a luxury spa with Cambria quartz surfaces that twinkle at night.
"It's kind of magical," Kleineman said. "There are clients who go to a deluxe hotel and can't wait to get back home, because their home is so nice. This house puts me in mind of that."