Shingle Style

Two architects adapt a traditional New England design to fit a family's contemporary waterfront lifestyle.

Text by Anna Kasabian

Driving through coastal New England reveals rounded, rambling, shingled matrons along the shorefront. In faded gray and silver tones, their graceful wooden forms blend into the beach palette. On misty mornings, they look like giant sand castles atop the dunes.

The shingle-style house―a culmination of architectural periods and vernaculars―began cropping up in fashionable late 19th-century summer destinations such as Cape Cod, Newport, and Long Island. Heavy stone masonry foundations anchored free-form two- and three-story floor plans, while continuous wood shingles wrapped walls and roofs. Expansive porches offered wealthy vacationers shaded areas for family life and socializing. While the unadorned style finds a home on many coasts today, it remains a fixture of the New England landscape.

Massachusetts architects Mark Hutker and Phil Regan, known for their commitment to the grand old design, set to work planning this shingle residence. "We tried to take the seemingly familiar, yet introduce a fresh look," Mark says. The result employs many classic elements of the genre, notes Phil. The two-story home incorporates shapes such as a rounded screened porch and half-octagonal master bedroom. "In shingle style, the work is loose, in different forms with different shapes and gestures," Mark says.

The variety of silhouettes translates to dramatic rooflines, dormers, and bays. A gambrel roof tops the new structure, and shed dormers create a place for second-story terraces. First-floor porches tuck beneath the main roofline and wrap the house's irregular footprint. "When you look at these shapes," Mark says, "you can imagine the rooms inside because the exterior expresses their nature."

Although the interior shapes reflect the century-old architectural composition, they feature present-day amenities. An open great room invites friends and family. A master suite with fitness room gives homeowners a private escape. A trio of bedrooms and baths shares the second floor with a billiards room. The idea, Phil and Mark say, is to update shingle style to address the expectations of people who buy waterfront property today.

But the spirit of shingle architecture still reigns without compromise. "We know care was exercised in the design and building of historic shingle homes," Mark says, "and that makes us want to preserve them for generations. They were heirlooms―that is what we are trying to create here."