Outside In

Hawaiian style inspired the home of a Haddonfield family who practically lives outdoors

“Something different” is what many homeowners say they want, but what few ever actually build. So when a Haddonfield couple hired Kimmel Bogrette Architecture + Site to design a house that would bring the feel of a Hawaiian island to the New Jersey suburbs, Martin Kimmel, partner of the Conshohocken firm, was skeptical about their commitment. He


“Something different” is what many homeowners say they want, but what few ever actually build. So when a Haddonfield couple hired Kimmel Bogrette Architecture + Site to design a house that would bring the feel of a Hawaiian island to the New Jersey suburbs, Martin Kimmel, partner of the Conshohocken firm, was skeptical about their commitment. He shouldn’t have worried.

The homeowners took one look at the first set of blueprints Kimmel and his partner, Jim Bogrette, showed them and didn’t want to change a thing. “Different” definitely fits the result: A two-story cedar and stone structure that looks right at home in Haddonfield from the street — and right at home in Hawaii from just about everywhere else.

That favorite family vacation spot in particular, along with a love of the outdoors in general, drove the design. “They were relocating from a small house that overlooked a lake, and thought they would have to give up any real connection to the outside,” says Kimmel. “I took that as an interesting challenge.”

Inside are open, casual living spaces; outside, an exterior that fits the neighborhood and offers privacy for the family of four. Striking that balance began with the site, a double corner lot covered with mature trees. Kimmel, with contractor John Schad, owner of Schad Construction in Wenonah, New Jersey, positioned the
house to “hold the corner” and to preserve as many trees as possible, which makes the house seem much older than its two years.

To keep the large house from overwhelming the site, the architects imagined it in pieces, as an older home that had been added to over the years. The great room is the hub, designed to resemble a courtyard that was enclosed by later construction. To make the fantasy more realistic, and to continue the theme of bringing the outside in, building materials from the facade — cedar shake and gold-flecked stone from a local quarry — cover the interior walls, and a row of balconies is built into a second-floor wall, each with custom wrought-iron railings and working doors and locks.

A two-story curved bank of windows faces the backyard, bringing light and warmth inside regardless of the season. Wide-plank floors of Siberian oak fade into stone tile that leads past the open kitchen to a glass-enclosed solarium and outside, to the pathlike patio that makes a circuit back to the great room. The painted wood framework above the kitchen, which was built by Schad Construction, mimics a
trellis or pergola.

“We were working with that whole notion of the outdoors, and what things are really compelling when you’re outside,” says Kimmel. “Water, light, shade — and fire.” Suspended in the middle of the room is the cylindrical chimney of a gas fireplace wrapped in copper mesh and steel bands, Kimmel’s solution for anchoring the space without obstructing any views. In the center of the great room, it’s more than an ordinary conversation piece.

As open as the home’s layout is, privacy was an important consideration. Just inside the front entry, the bulk of the great room is hidden from view. “You kind of have to be invited into that part of our house,” says the homeowner. “It’s not immediately revealed. It’s like a little secret surprise.”

Kimmel wanted the same welcoming feel for the garage entry, what he calls a “front-door experience,” because it is the entrance people use most. A rear foyer connects to one of two gallery halls that run the length of the L-shaped house, each framed in cherry wood with floorboards set at right angles. “You can take two steps and see all the way down to the front door,” says Kimmel.

Arguably the best view in the house is into the backyard. “We treated the outside like a room in its own right, instead of it being something you landscape,” says Kimmel. The wings of the house and the gently curved back wall of windows embrace the backyard. A stone path that isn’t quite a patio meanders through like an “inside-out stream,” its rounded edges flowing like water.

Though re-creating the Hawaiian tropics proved too difficult in Haddonfield’s less-than-temperate climate, Ledden Palimeno Design Build Landscape Co. in Sewell, New Jersey, built a water feature that Kimmel designed with rock outcroppings in the shape of the Hawaiian Islands and a waterfall that carries the sound of trickling water all the way up to the second-floor guest bedroom. Jerry Fritz Garden Design in Ottsville did the rest of the landscaping.

Like the outdoor elements, the interior design takes its cue from the architecture. The homeowner worked with Charles Geiter, ASID, owner of Charles Edward Interiors in Moorestown, whom she’d met five years prior after placing the winning bid on an hour of his consulting services at a charity event.

“He’s so good at making things seem like they’re your idea,” she says. “He really helped me see the way the interior finishes needed to complement what we had going on outside.” Most of the cherry wood trim came from Scheel & Sharp in Norristown, while Metalsmiths, a metalworking company in Virginia, made the stair and balcony railings and copper fireplace.

Most of the tile in each of the seven bathrooms came from Avalon Carpet, Tile & Flooring in Cherry Hill, including sleek glass floral motifs and “gorgeous, weathered black tiles that look like they were dug out of a Tuscan villa.”

Natural, organic-looking materials maintain the outdoorsy feeling. A built-in breakfast bar in the guest bedroom is made of bird’s-eye maple, with a roll-out cart in one lower cabinet for serving breakfast in bed.

In another bedroom, black-and-white toile covers everything in images of birds and leaves. For the formal dining room, Geiter commissioned an oval cherry and walnut table and chair set from Julian Hamer, an Oregon woodworker whose business, Fine Art Furniture by Julian Hamer, he spied on the Internet. Curtain rods shaped like curling metal leaves echo the wood detailing.

Inside and out, the airy, light-filled home is a breath of fresh air in traditional Haddonfield. “Martin designed this house based on what he thought our needs and wants were, and he got it right the first time,” says the homeowner.

“Whenever I got frustrated during the process, people always said to me, ‘When you move in, you’ll forget all about it.’ It’s really true. You move in and it really feels like home.”

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