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January 2007


FEATURES

A Class Act
By Gwen North Reiss
Photographs by Jeff McNamara

AN ARCHITECT SPECIALIZING IN CLASSICAL DESIGN TAKES ON A MODERN SPLIT-LEVEL

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It might seem strange at first to hire an architectural firm noted for classical design to renovate a sleek modern house—especially one designed by the office of Marcel Breuer, the Bauhaus-trained modernist who, after moving to the U.S. in the late 1930s, helped to revolutionize American residential architecture. But in the case of a 1982 split-level on the Connecticut coastline, the choice worked well.

The house was one of the last projects undertaken by Breuer before his death. When he first saw pictures of the property, located on a crescent of land that affords water views on three sides, he envisioned his type of home—a central hall with separate wings for the living and sleeping areas—cantilevered out on a fieldstone wall. He was ill at the time, so his longtime partner, Herb Beckhard, followed through with an open, warm design featuring large windows, cedar railings, teak woodwork, bluestone floors and flush wood trim, a Breuer trademark.

Four years ago, when the owners considered updating their home, they admired a friend's Palladian house, which was designed by David Parisi of Allan Greenberg's Greenwich office. The details, quality of material and craftsmanship impressed them, and they decided Parisi, who doubles as an architect and COO for Greenberg, was the right person for the job. (It didn't hurt that Parisi was steeped in modernism as a student, and welcomed the opportunity to work on a Breuer/Beckhard project.)

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