Over the course of several years, Charles M. Haver and Stewart R. Skolnick of Haver & Skolnick Architects in Roxbury, Connecticut, have been completing parts of a master plan they designed for clients who own a 70-acre gentleman’s farm in Washington, Connecticut.
They built the grand, two-story main house, a traditional stone structure based on the style of surrounding barns and cottages; converted a barn into an entertainment arcade complete with a billiard room, a movie theater, and a pub; renovated a guest house; built a post-and-beam barn for the owners’ collection of classic cars; and designed the 2018 Palladio Award-winning enclosed garden on the property.
The last piece of the puzzle was the pool house, which won a 2020 Bulfinch Award from the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art as well as a 2020 Palladio Award from Traditional Building magazine. The pool house features a central lounge with a visual connection to the new swimming pool designed by the firm. It also has a gym that can be used year-round, a pantry, a powder room, a laundry room, and storage space for pool toys and accessories.
Because the client wanted to use it as much as possible, the pool house has radiant heat and air conditioning. Haver explains, “Our design extended its use seasonally, and daily into the twilight hours.”
The Manhattan couple, who have teenage children, use the Washington property as a summer compound and spend winter vacations soaking up the sun in the Caribbean.
“We’ve worked with them such a long time that they pretty much gave us artistic freedom,” Skolnick says. Haver adds that their only request was that the pool house be a “little more contemporary” than the house.With that parameter as a guide, the duo designed a classic saltbox that, at a distance, looks like a traditional barn, but which on closer inspection reveals luxury details worthy of a five-star resort.
“The idea was to create a space that feels like a vacation house from the vacation house,” Skolnick says. And, Haver adds, to remind the owners of their beloved
The pool house, which is clad in weathered silver siding and has a cedar-shingle and standing-seam copper roof and shed dormer, has a porch-like look and feel. A trio of copper chimney pots hides the mechanicals.
The building connects to the main residence via a simple bluestone and grass pathway. Landscaping merges indoor and outdoor spaces, notably around the chaise longues and the exterior of the gym.
“The parti of the building is very simple and classical, with a cross-axial organization extending to the terrace and swimming pool beyond,” Haver says. “The open lounge and gym of the center section are flanked by thick poché zones on either side, neatly organizing all of the storage and service spaces.”
Skolnick adds that this design suited the owners because “they are a very close-knit family who wanted to be in a space where they could be together regardless of their [separate] activities.”
Haver adds that “whether lounging on the chaises, taking a dip in the pool, hanging out in the spa, working out in the gym, or just sipping wine by the gas fireplace, everyone feels connected.”
Indoor and outdoor spaces flow into each other, reinforcing the idea of an open-air pavilion: Fully retractable glass doors face the pool and spa, and a wall of windows in the gym overlooks the curvaceous woodlands garden.
The biggest challenge of the project was the tight timeline. Haver & Skolnick Architects had only eight months to demolish the existing swimming pool and take the pool house from conception to finished construction.
“The owners wanted to use the pool house by Memorial Day, which meant that work had to proceed during subfreezing temperatures, on top of one of the most windswept hills in northwest Connecticut,” Haver says. “The contractor constructed a temporary heated building enclosing the construction of the 30-foot by 60-foot swimming pool and terraces.”
Skolnick adds that “the final table was in place one hour before the clients arrived.”
The crispness of the design and the simplicity of the interior detailing of the pool house required a high level of precision and coordination among the architects, engineers, and tradespeople.
The interior walls and ceilings are clad in 10-inch-wide, whitewashed, knotless clear pine planks, which are installed horizontally at the same height in each space. “This is a traditional, vernacular, Connecticut way of doing outbuildings,” Haver says.
To perfectly align all of the boards throughout the pool house, the woodworker had to shim each wall to ensure a plumb surface. And it took a team effort to perfectly center the electrical receptacles, light fixtures, and mechanical devices within the boards; to supply air conditioning through nearly invisible slots in the wood instead of through grilles; and to trim flangeless recessed light fixtures and speakers in flush wood.
“The overall result is a calming simplicity,” Haver says.
Skolnick adds, “We love doing this level of detail.”
architect Haver & Skolnick Architects, Roxbury, CT: haverskolnickarchitects.com
construction manager Churchill Building Company, Lakeville, CT: churchillbuildingcompany.com
landscape design Wesley Stout Associates, New Canaan, CT: wesleystout.com
lighting design Westwoods Architectural Lighting Design, Sharon, CT: westwoodsdesign.com
millwork Fairfield County Millwork Bethany, CT: fcmillwork.com