Page 34 - The Hunt Magazine - Winter 2019
P. 34

                  Before there is a house concept—before a line is drawn—there is a story. Creating that narrative is how architect Peter Zimmerman begins the process of designing a custom home.
“The storyline for every house in every location is different,” says Zimmerman, who founded his Berwyn, Pa., firm Peter Zimmerman Architects in 1982. “That’s how you make them look authentic, make them fit into whatever environment you’re working in.”
The storyline serves as an overall guideline that informs the design. It includes the architectural traditions of the area, the site where the house will be built, as well as the clients’ vision of their future home and lifestyle. For anyone who’s ever thought of building a home, it’s helpful to understand this approach.
Zimmerman’s 20-person firm may be working on up to 10 different design projects at any one time. But the five elements that form the “story” remain the same.
1. Architectural Tradition
“There’s an architectural tradition in any region you’re working in,” says Zimmerman, whose firm designs homes all over the country.
In Chester County, stone farmhouses have been part of the landscape since colonial times. In Connecticut, wood frame houses dominate due, in part, to the boat-building industry. “They weren’t building boats in the winter, so they went into the construction industry,” says Zimmerman. “The architectural detailing was influenced by that.”
This respect for the architectural heritage of the area guides the design process. “We’re truly rooted in the classical traditions of architecture,” says Zimmerman, whose firm is housed in the stone colonial where Revolutionary War Gen. Anthony Wayne’s mother once resided.
In Chester County, additions were typically made to the original core house over the years as the family prospered. Zimmerman evoked this tradition in a Willistown project that included a large stone farmhouse, a barn and several outbuildings. “On
the exterior, the stone was a little bit different on different sections,” says Zimmerman. “We slightly changed the color of the mortar mix and the style of the pointing—and we changed the level of architec- tural detailing.”
There were also subtle variations in glass, the shutters and the hardware. The interior reflected these differences, too. Though only one wing of the original house on the site was incorporated into the design, the house looks as if it had evolved over time.
2. Site and Landscape
Another key element in home design is the setting. “The landscape needs to be able to have its own life. If it doesn’t, these houses don’t feel connected to the landscape,” Zimmerman says. “The story is one that starts when you leave the road.”
In the case of the Willistown farmhouse, the driveway winds through a wooded area, crosses a stream over a wooden bridge and goes past a pond before coming upon the complex of the house and outbuildings. The approach has all the elements associated with the iconic Chester County landscape.
A recent project in Jackson, Wyo., required a completely different approach. With the Teton Range as a backdrop, the six-acre property has lovely open
continued on page 78
Above and previous pages: The entryway of this Willistwon home is spacious yet down to earth, with a rustic bench and flooring.
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