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Visitors to the home are greeted by this walking figure sculpture.—Bryan Haeffele photo

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While the property’s original pool has been replaced, the pool house is as International Modernist Eliot Noyes designed it in the early 1950s. The stone wall is also original.—Michael Biondo Photography

When Kristen and Johan were in the market for a new home within Fairfield County about a dozen years ago, she saw an article about a new Modernist house on Cross Ridge Road in New Canaan that was inspired by and built on the footprint of one designed by international Modernist Eliot Noyes in the early 1950s, and suggested they take a look at it.

Noyes was part of a group of leading Modern architects that also included Marcel Breuer, Philip Johnson, Landis Gores and John Johansen who lived and worked in New Canaan following World War II, and whose influence was felt around the world. Because of their common academic affiliation, they became known as “the Harvard Five.”

“We had begun collecting Modern art,” recounts Kristen, “and when we walked in and saw the large walls and all the light we could envision ourselves living here. Since many of the exterior walls are floor-to-ceiling glass, the home is filled with light. And while some believe a Modern house cannot be intimate, it has an intimate feel.”

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Standing behind the black granite kitchen counter, the view includes the family room, dining room and through the living room window wall, as well as into the patio and backyard. The added large aquarium can be seen on the left.—Michael Biondo Photography

This is especially true in the kitchen/family room space to which a large aquarium has been added — “We had no idea of the reinforcement that would needed to accommodate the weight of the water!” she recalls with a laugh — and adjacent dining room, which also serves as a pass-through to the living room and opens onto a like-sized outdoor alcove with bluestone courtyard with its own waist-high fireplace recessed into a full-height fieldstone chimney. “We use the outside fireplace year-round, and love the way the flames reflect on the glass walls,” Kristen says. The couple added an outdoor kitchen to this space a couple of years ago.

An unusual feature of the dining room is the half-width wooden side walls, which are on tracks and can be closed from either end, or both. Additionally, many of the doorways have pocket doors, whose hidden pull mechanisms are released by the push of a button, creating privacy when desired.

State of the art

The 10-room, 6,275-square-foot house was built by Prutting & Company Custom Builders of Stamford, based ona design from Greenwich architect Joeb Moore; the updated design added a floor to the original Noyes structure, modern amenities and massive Thermopane window walls offering much greater energy efficiency than the single-pane glass of 65 years ago.

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Rear view of the three-level house designed by Joeb Moore that was constructed on the footprint of the original two-story Mid-Century Modern designed by Eliot Noyes. —Bryan Haeffele photo

Kristen notes, “We bought before [Philip Johnson’s] Glass House opened to the public. There is so much interest in the work of the Harvard Five at the moment; New Canaan has opened up a lot of people’s eyes to the beauty of Mid-Century Modern design. For us, the space has been perfect for displaying and enjoying our art.”

The sleek interiors — ceiling heights ranging from eight to eleven feet, walnut floors, mahogany millwork, and no pipes, columns or soffits — have minimal protrusions: only the floating staircase in the two-story entry and the stone or marble around the three gas fireplaces, in the living room, master bedroom and the lower level family room.

There are five en suite bedrooms; three upstairs and one each on the main and lower levels The 18-by-20-foot master is a retreat of its own, with walkout balcony, built-in bookcases, a generous walk-in closet and a 14-by-18-foot bathroom with skylights.

Bryan Haeffele photo

Like virtually all of the stonework on the property, the fieldstone used for the massive chimney came from the property itself. In addition to the outdoor fireplace, the chimney also serves a gas fireplace on each of the three levels; the lower level family room, main level living room and top floor bedroom.— Bryan Haeffele photo

Aside from the aquarium, the couple has made few interior changes, adding a mudroom in what had been a small hallway leading to a large closet. In a nice look-ahead design feature, closets on all three floors were stacked and reinforced so if someone wishes to install an elevator in the future, the closets can be converted to an elevator shaft.

Kristen and Johan, have, however, made substantial changes to the near-three-acre property, using Reed Hildebrand Landscape Architecture (with offices in Cambridge, Mass., and New Haven). It is a private property, but they made it more so, installing tall evergreens across the street front, deer fencing, and electric gates and adding a second driveway that leads to a new three-car garage that was dug into a hill beneath the 1,200-square-foot guest house. “Watching the hill being dug out and the steel support beams put in was quite something,” Johan says.

Make yourself at home

The guesthouse, added in the 1970s, was gut renovated about seven year ago and now includes a bluestone floor over radiant heat and wood-burning fireplace, and is well used by visiting family. It is adjacent to the pool house, which remains from Elliot Noyes’s original design. “Joeb Moore calls it the most important building on the site,” states Johan. It has a bathroom, dressing room and open area; aside from an added backsplash and small refrigerator, it is untouched from Noyes’s time.

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The two-story entry creates a natural gallery for showcasing some of the homeowners’ Modern art.—Michael Biondo Photography

It opens on to a large deck around the pool, which was replaced. The original was kidney-shaped; it is now a large rectangle, “a good lap pool,” says Johan, adding, “The original 60-foot stone wall with its lichen adds character to the space.”

The home was constructed into a hillside, so from the street it looks to be two levels, but from one side and the back, it has three stories. The top level has angled slats over the hallway windows in both front and back that let in diffused light and provide a good view out, but when seen from a distance cannot be seen into.

The property was regraded, providing a large flat rear yard, which then gradually slopes to the back of the property, while the side yard has a couple of step-downs to the guesthouse. “Our kids love it for sledding in the winter,” Kristen says, adding, “We have raised three boys here; Dave Prutting was surprised that a young family moved in.”

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Room with a view.—Bryan Haeffele photo

 

And now as the family needs a change, the property is being offered through William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty. For more information, visit williampitt.com or call Fatou Niang, 212-961-7428 or Inger Stringfellow, 203-321-9361.

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Biondo photo
Michael Biondo photo
Michael Biondo photo
Bryan Haeffele photo
Bryan Haeffele photo
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Michael Biondo photo
Michael Biondo photo
Michael Biondo photo
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Bryan Haeffele photo
Bryan Haeffele photo
Michael Biondo photo
Michael Biondo photo
Michael Biondo photo
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Bryan Haeffele photo
Bryan Haeffele photo
Michael Biondo photo
Michael Biondo photo
Michael Biondo photo
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Bryan Haeffele photo
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Bryan Haeffele photo
Bryan Haeffele photo
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