Morningside’s brief was direct – create a private, resort-like forever home for a professional couple. Two simple forms sit effortlessly atop a concrete foundation on a steep and narrow site. These forms belie an open interior that contains ample amounts of public entertaining and intimate private space, centered around a meditative pool deck. Structure plays a key role, as the home expresses how it was built, and materials were chosen for durability and material tactility. We focused on simple and deliberate solutions, and the result is a home that provides tranquility and respite from life in the city.

Design Challenge

With a 50’ wide lot dropping 18’ from front to back, the site proved to be the primary challenge for this project. Meeting the design brief and desired program required using the site strategically to our advantage. In order to keep the home below the maximum allowable height and ensure the front door was at an appropriate position in relation to the street, we embedded the home’s must-have utility spaces. These included an expansive garage, dog care area, and storage which allowed for the main level to be graciously elevated above the street. With limited yard on all sides, stormwater management was handled by placing large detention tanks at the lowest elevation in the rear yard, with all downspouts and French drains leading to the tanks. A series of landscape beds meeting the sidewalk collect stormwater and create a softened edge as they step down to the lowest level at the rear yard. Native plantings were chosen for their compatibility with the local climate and our exterior material palette, all while aiding with water management on the site. The site proved challenging for another programmatic must have, a swimming pool on the main level. Because of the steep site, we knew this pool would be elevated as much as 10’ above grade. In order to reduce weight, concrete was poured over extruded foam matching the finish profile. The resulting height of this pool allowed for more natural light to reach the kitchen, living, and sleeping areas on the main level.

Physical Context

This new home is located in an intown neighborhood made up of closely spaced traditional homes with large front porches and steep gabled roofs. Knowing that the massing and materiality of this home would be different, five subtle steps were taken to ensure that this home would fit right in. First, by using the grade change to our advantage, most of the lower level is concealed into the site. Second, most of the program was designed for the lower and main level, which allowed the upper level to be relatively modest in size, thus reducing the roof line. Third, the entry to the home is pulled back from the street the same distance as other homes, and a series of floating concrete steps gently flow up to the front door in a similar fashion as approaching a neighboring front porch. Fourth, along the sidewalk, a series of stepped planting beds provide a low-height pedestrian friendly transition from the street to the edge of the house. Fifth, a variance allowed the home to be built closer to the sidewalk on the long edge of the site, matching a distance commonly found throughout the neighborhood. The result is a home that is clearly a contemporary addition on the block yet respects the fabric of the street and the neighborhood in its scale and proportions.