It was the perfect find: five pristine acres abutting a serene pond near Crane’s Beach in Ipswich. The quintessential New England setting promised water and woodland views, plenty of privacy, and an abundance of peace and quiet. For Roger and Iris Louis, who were downsizing from their family home in Needham, the parcel also delivered freedom from having to conform to a neighborhood’s existing architecture. It was their chance to build something truly personalized and unique.
During their initial conversations with architect Thomas Catalano, principal of Boston-based Catalano Architects, the couple said they wanted to maximize pond views with a simple yet elegant design. “There’s a Da Vinci quote— ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’—and that, I think, best describes this house,” says Iris, who teaches cooking classes at the Boston Public Market and Gathr in Ipswich. She and Roger, a senior executive at a Cambridge biotech company, have two grown sons. “We didn’t want just a beautiful home; we wanted to soak up all the beauty and relaxation of the natural environment,” she describes.
“It’s basically a streamlined Shingle style,” agrees Catalano of the 2,700-square-foot home, completed in 2016 by Newell Farm Builders Custom Homes. “It doesn’t have all of the traditional Shingle-style bells and whistles. They wanted the exterior to be as low maintenance as possible, so all of the exposed red cedar cladding is meant to weather naturally,” he continues. “We differentiated the home’s two levels with horizontal shiplap on the first floor and shingles on the second.”
Catalano hugged the pond as closely as possible. The result is a structure with two distinctly angled wings that hinge upon a central two-story glass space—the dining room. The porch wing faces east and contains a three-season porch (with both screen and glass panels), kitchen, and two guest bedrooms above. The westerly wing houses a living/reading space topped by an expansive master suite.
Oversized Marvin windows accomplish the task of immersing the house in nature. Mullion free, and decidedly modern in feel, strategically placed picture windows are topped by operable transoms. “The transoms can stay open even in the rain, allowing for natural cross ventilation. This arrangement also keeps any screens up and out of sightlines,” explains the project architect, Gwendolyn Duchardt. The clients love all the glazing: “The windows are huge and unobstructed and the pond views and westerly sunsets are fabulous,” they describe.
Tackling the interiors herself, Iris was inspired by Ipswich’s natural landscape and the site’s changing light and seasonal hues. “It was important to me to copy the colors and the calmness from the outdoors,” explains the homeowner. She limited the palette to just a handful of pale neutrals, which complement the abundance of natural wood, particularly the character-grade, plane-sawn hickory floors.
Evocative of Swedish design, the kitchen is an ode to the couple’s preference for classic simplicity. Its light oak cabinets, crafted by Village Woodworking Shop in Topsfield, are covered in a light, translucent stain. Designed after one of Iris’s furniture finds, the kitchen island base makes its own statement with a distressed white finish. Wrought-iron hardware and black soapstone countertops provide visual contrast.
The goal was a simple yet refined aesthetic for the kitchen,” sums up Catalano, adding that the island has a drop section on one end for working with dough. A long stretch of glass cabinets on the view-facing wall displays platters, serving ware, and other entertaining items, while an adjacent butler’s pantry features more whimsical, old-world touches, including a pub-style polished wood countertop and antique buffet.
From the kitchen, the first floor bends into the light-filled dining room, where three sets of French doors open onto a wooden terrace. Then the house bends once again into the living area with fireplace. Here, a corner bay window overlooks the pond below, erasing the visual barriers between outdoors and in. In this easterly corner, Catalano stacked two identical bays, giving the master suite above an equally transparent corner. And the suite has its own fireplace.
In the master bath, a grey-and-white Carrera marble basket-weave floor “glitters in sync with the pond view,” Iris reveals. Furniture-style his and hers vanities flank a central bank of picture windows, fronted by a hand-carved bluestone soaking tub from Italy. “It’s been called the jewel of the house. It’s like a piece of art,” says Iris of her Boston Design Center find. The glassed shower, lined in marble, allows for equal-opportunity pond gazing.
Just off the front entry is the main stair, whose design—Shaker style with candlestick balusters and a curved mahogany railing—is purposefully traditional. Built-in bookcases and window seats dose the interior with timeless elegance as well. However, the home’s two-sided elevator is a decidedly modern infusion of forward-thinking convenience. It makes a total of five stops, including the finished lower level, complete with family room and gym.
Like a nature observatory, the house interacts respectfully with its surroundings, treading lightly and blending right in. It’s exactly what the owners wanted: “We asked for simplicity and elegance, and Catalano delivered. The house is stunning—we don’t even have a favorite spot; there’s just no bad seat.”
This article originally appeared in North Shore Home.