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Franzen house / SchappacherWhite

  • Architects: SchappacherWhite
  • Location: New London, CT, USA
  • Architects: SchappacherWhite Ltd. & Gregory Cranford - Brennan Beer Gorman Architects
  • Principal: Steve Schappacher
  • Design/Restoration Architect: Gregory Cranford
  • Interiors: SchappacherWhite Ltd.
  • Construction: Mixed Structure
  • Project Year: 2005

Franzen house / SchappacherWhite Franzen house / SchappacherWhite Franzen house / SchappacherWhite Franzen house / SchappacherWhite

From the architect. Hugging the shores of the Long Island Sound, Ulrich Franzen's 'Castle House' typifies the school of East Coast modernism established by the generation of post-Bauhaus architects at work in the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s when personal expression and dramatic effects were no longer illicit.  This house was built on a historic rock outcropping adjacent to an eighteenth century landmark lighthouse facing the sea.  This modern classic, almost a fallen victim to total demolition, has undergone a complete renovation and expansion by SchappacherWhite Ltd. and Brennan Beer Gorman/Architects (BBG), that honors Franzen's original design intent while satisfying the needs of a 21st century family.

Ulrich Franzen's vision for the house, which was completed in 1964, represents the forefront of early 1960's residential design.  The home's signature element is its dramatic free floating glass living room pavilion with cantilevered paraboloid vaults and flanking service wings.  The pavilion's cypress butterfly ceiling has been restored and all new furnishings selected for the home, including a 14' custom designed Nakashima dining table.

To remedy a flaw in the original design that sought to direct views away from the water, the architects introduced two new sets of 9' tall sliding glass panels into the central building, replacing solid walls.  The new windows now provide stunning vistas across the landscaped pool area and onto the Sound beyond from both the master bedroom and kitchen/family room.  The bedroom wing was extended to accommodate the size of the client's family and a staircase added to a lower level playroom.

The existing kitchen has been expanded and includes a family dining area, creating a fluid and open plan that matches the new owner's lifestyle.  Original details were carefully studied and retained in the Modern spirit of the new kitchen, which features the reuse of the original material palette of birdseye maple casework, white lacquer cabinets and luminous white marble countertops.

Originally the waterside site was treated as a rough rocky outcropping.  New landscape design has softened the house's setting, offering a reconceived approach to the water, as well as the public and private sides of the home.  Since the lot is semi-surround by water and limited in size, it was determined that a variety of places to occupy and sit should be provided for.  For example, the reconstructed circular dining platform hung above the waters is just a short distance from the renovated kitchen, but offers a unique and removed experience.

It was not an easy exercise matching the rigor of the existing scheme. The more it was studied, the more the architects became enthralled with the intricate and complex geometries of the details.  Every line in the house was considered, every detail obsessed over, so that the spirit of the house, even in the areas completely redesigned, remain true to the original.

Franzen's houses have an important place in our country's architectural history.  Your readers are attuned to the significance of homes such as this and would surely be interested to see how contemporary residents are preserving a piece of history while living very much in the present.

Cite:"Franzen house / SchappacherWhite" 29 Apr 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>