Our clients purchased a house constructed from two standardized Acorn suburban house kits. We were asked to work within the existing footprint to transform the generic character of this familiar domestic building type into a contemporary living and working environment for two professionals. To take maximum advantage of the dramatic presence of its wooded hilltop site, the design exploits the incongruities produced by the siting of these standard house volumes on the sloping topography to allow the house to respond to the unique natural landscape it frames. The perceived volume of the Acorn house is compressed to direct views out to the landscape, while a new transparent glass link between the volumes reorients the entry sequence to Flax Pond. A slatted wood deck slips through the new two-story entry to cantilever out to overlook the water below.

The design strategy works with the familiar, but usually inaccessible in-between spaces produced by the wood frame construction of this suburban house type. Through the use of glass and perforated metal panels with a varying range of perceptual effects, the design reclaims these unused, forgotten spaces to create a changing landscape of unexpected vistas and spatial effects. A thick storage wall is configured to form a window seat, shelf, mantle and fireplace.
Reflective and translucent in daylight, sheets of frosted glass enclose the hollow space of the wall between the kitchen and the living room. In the evening the hollow space of the wall is illuminated to become a diffuse source of light.
The ceiling of this suburban house is re-conceived and remade as a porous veil of perforated, powder-coated metal which appear alternately opaque, translucent or transparent under different light conditions. By day, the ceiling filters direct sunlight from the skylights above; at dusk and by night, the volume of the rooms expands as the ceiling dissolves to partially reveal the pre-fabricated trusses in the poche space between ceiling and roof. By working directly with computerized fabrication technology, the material character of this suspended ceiling is specifically designed to work with natural and artificial light to produce a constantly changing perception of the volume of the Acorn house.

Date: 1999
Status: Completed
Client: Private Ownership
Location: Falmouth, MA
Design Team:
Frano Violich, FAIA; Managing Principal
Sheila Kennedy, FAIA; Principal Consulting on Design
Eric Bunge AIA; Project Architect
Markus Freohlin, Hansy Luz Better LEED AP, John Dooley
Architect: Kennedy & Violich Architecture, Ltd
Structural Engineer: Yoder + Tidwell, Ltd

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Acorn House Transformation