clinker bricks & ac­ces­si­ble de­sign


WHEN YOU START with an or­ganic con­cept like a not-so­big bun­ga­low, some­times the house and gar­den must evolve to meet your needs. That was the case for a Penn­syl­va­nia fam­ily of five, who soon re­al­ized their cho­sen set­ting in Bucks County lent it­self to a larger for­ever home. When the de­signer/devel­oper Bela Ross­man showed them ex­am­ples of the residential work of Arts & Crafts ar­chi­tects Charles and Henry Greene, the own­ers were in­trigued. A visit to Pasadena fol­lowed, in­clud­ing a tour of the Gam­ble House, with its iconic stained-glass trip­tych en­try.

Sev­eral of Greene & Greene’s most iden­ti­fa­ble mo­tifs and tech­niques ap­pear in the de­sign of this house: cloudlift hor­i­zon­tal wood­work; deep, ex­posed rafter tails; and ex­te­rior shin­gles cus­tom-cut to the same 6" width used in the frm’s Ul­ti­mate Bun­ga­lows. There are many whim­si­cal el­e­ments too, like a replica Blacker House bench used as a swing in the liv­ing room. So when Ross­man pre­sented the idea of a pa­tio en­closed by clinker-brick walls, the fam­ily was en­thu­si­as­tic. “With boul­ders at the base of the wall,” Ross­man ex­plained, “it will look like it came out of the ground.”

Ross­man sug­gested an oval, slightly el­lip­ti­cal shape for the pa­tio to bal­ance the square and rec­tan­gu­lar el­e­ments of the house. It’s an out­door room set per­haps 60' from the house, which “al­lows you lit­er­ally to smell the roses be­fore you ar­rive at the ter­race.” En­fold­ing the sand­stone ter­race is the rolling clinker brick wall, fnished with a ra­dius per­gola. Ross­man drew ini­tial de­signs, but build­ing the walls was a mat­ter of trial and er­ror as the ma­sons learned to work with the quirky bricks. Ross­man saw the wall as a fluid struc­ture—al­most like a wave, or a river tum­bling stones in its wake.

The clink­ers spread like warm candy through­out the prop­erty. A set-back bench is large enough to seat the en­tire fam­ily, which in­cludes three small girls. Lined with cush­ions and lit­tered with books and toys, it plays the same role as a roomy out­door sofa or porch swing. Be­neath the dap­pled shade of the per­gola, it’s a cozy nook. “It feels a lit­tle like Alice in Won­der­land when you’re sit­ting there.”

that be­gan as a de­sign for a not-so-big house slowly evolved into a fam­ily home that in­cludes the most com­fort­able el­e­ments of the dreene & dreene style.

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