Weston, Massuchesetts is home to one of architect Henry Hoover’s most remarkable houses. Built for Kenneth and Polly Germeshausen in 1958, it is representative of the late period in Hoover’s work.
The house reflects some of the many influences he had absorbed along the way and really captures the special distinction of the mid-century style which he eventually arrived at towards the end of his career, especially when compared to his earlier modernist design. Specifically, it is warm and smooth rather than cold and harsh (a quite frequent distinction between modernist and more avowedly mid-century design).
This is most apparent in the preoccupation with natural materials, in contrast to earlier designs by Hoover, which were much harder and considerably less concerned with nature. For instance, there is extensive use of California redwood and Douglas fir throughout the house, finished so as to really bring out the texture of the grain.
Moreover, entrance to the house is up a series of stairs, rising along with the contours of the land. The stairs themselves appear cut from the same rock that litters the rough, wooded terrain, giving the appearance that the design is hewn out of the very hillside.
This theme is carried on indoors. The angles of wooden beams frame the connection with the outdoors, and their extension from indoors to outdoors gives the impression that they are akin with the forest outside, momentarily separated branches of the surrounding trees. Meanwhile a stone fireplace, built with the same rock as outside, again points to the materials of the surrounding area.
After having changed hands a few hands since its completion, the house was recently redesigned by the architecture firm Flavin Architects. The firm have been keen to emphasise how much they themselves learned in the process of the project. On their website they state how “we learn so much from mid-century modern homes. They allow us to continue to improve our own skill set and grow as designers.”
Even still, there was considerable work to be done to improve the house and bring it up to modern standards. Indeed, Flavin comment on how there were “major imperfections” that needed addressing.
For instance, the original poured concrete slab flooring made for a very cold atmosphere in the house, even with the indoor heating turned on. And so, they tore up the entire floor, removing the existing tiling in the process, inserted new radiant heating, and then topped this with a mottled purple and green slate from Vermont, which, as they state, “beautifully compliments the warm tones of the wood that runs throughout the house.
In another major restorative flourish, the original aluminium window frames, while not appropriate to be maintained in their current function, were repurposed for the cabinets and closet doors. This also remained in keeping with the original cabinets, which used the same raw aluminium finish as the original windows.
Flavin named their project “Sculpted to the Land”. It’s an apt phrase, not only because of sculptor-like sensitivity of their restoration, but also because of Hoover’s original impulse. It remains an excellent harmony between home and nature.