Tomorrow's Eco-House...

...Was Built Ten Years Ago

Article by Robin Moyer Chung

Photography by Michael Biondo

Originally published in Westport Lifestyle

Environmentally friendly homes are the future. Just like the fall of the mall and the drop of the box store, traditional homes will ebb to eco-builds. But it’s the common knowledge paradox: not everyone’s gotten the memo.

But some have. Vanguards of this eco-evolution, Nancy and Jeff, built on 88 Partrick Road over ten years ago with two things in mind: fuel the home with clean energy and make it large enough to contain Jeff’s book collection (at 8,602 square feet, it does).

Coincidentally, it’s also really fun.

A 2012 Hobie award winner for Best New Construction, the house is a “woodland retreat” situated on three acres with trees shrouding its street views and surrounded by thoughtful native plantings.

It was designed by architect Howard Lathrop, formerly of the internationally renowned New Haven-based firm, Roche Dinkeloo. While there, he’s credited with designing the UN Plaza in NYC, which Frank Gehry had a picture of in his office as an example of his favorite modern buildings (according to an LA Times architecture critic.) He was also the partner-in-charge of the 82,000 square foot Robert M. Morgenthau Wing of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan. 

With his Westport firm, Sellars Lathrop Architects, Lathrop designed MoCA Westport. He’s designed only a handful of residences, including two in Westport (both for book lovers, evidently).

The large triple-paned windows on all sides lavish the home with natural sunlight while regulating the interior temperature, aided by spray-foam insulation in the walls.

Geothermal pumps heat and cool the house without the need for gas or heating oil. Solar thermal panels heat hot water for the pool, while tankless water heaters provide hot water on demand without the inefficiency of a large water tank. Solar panels on the roof provide electricity.

Due to the high-quality building materials - including wood with few, if any, knots that can contribute to defects - and maintenance, the home looks far less than its years, both inside and out.

Now let’s talk about the fun stuff.

The main room was built for Jeff’s expansive library, so floor-to-ceiling bookshelves cover the walls. And if you’re going to have bookshelves like that, why, you simply must have a secret room!

Hidden behind a bookcase “door” is a stealth space with ventilation, should a private event include tobacco. It also has music, as does every room in the house.

Beneath the main staircase is a circular bathroom, a fascinating enclave designed to solve a structural issue. The cork wallpaper gives one the impression of being in the interior of a wine cork.

The massive main staircase itself rests on two enormous steel beams, considered an “extraordinary engineering feat” as each beam is a single piece. The stairs lead to a landing before reaching the top floor. During college, Jeff found himself waiting in the lunch line next to the great architect Louis Kahn. Louis gave Jeff a bit of advice, “When you build a staircase there has to be a landing, so grandfathers chasing grandchildren up the stairs can stop and have a rest.”

Next to the kitchen is a sunroom, or “The Pentagon,” glassed on three sides with sliding doors and a five-sided windowed oculus on the ceiling. While the entire home lets “the outdoors inside,” (ahead on yet another trend!) this room lets it in times ten.

Rocks excavated from the build make up two rock walls; the one beneath the side balcony (off The Pentagon) is a rock garden with colorful blossoms every spring.

Then the house has other niceties: wine cellar, yoga room, terraces, and interesting architectural details throughout.

It was also home to a very kind family, so add “positive vibes” to the list.

For more information or to schedule a tour contact Cindy Raney:

(203) 257-8320

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