It surprises architect Ann Lathrop, AIA, principal of Sellars Lathrop Architects, how people often respond to her work. Sometimes the alchemy of her architectural design connects in ways she never predicted.

An excellent example of that is the Turkey Hill residence in southwest Connecticut.

A family of five purchased this 186-year-old home several years ago. The new owners “… wanted to keep it within the historical setting but with tons of natural light,” explains Lathrop.

The new owners had good reason to bring the outside in. The previous owner was a master gardener, and left behind a backyard botanical wonderland. The challenge for Lathrop? Allow the home to better meld with this lovely feature without disrupting the home’s historic character. To achieve this unity of focus, Lathrop applied her renovation design skills to transform this five bedroom, 4,862 sq. ft. home into a triumphant expression of New England style and comfort:

Addition by Subtraction
The owners, a husband and wife, grew up on the West Coast and expected abundant natural light, explains Lathrop. “They wanted to completely open up the back of the house without straying from the historic vernacular,” she says. That meant one of the early first steps was the demolition of several interior load-bearing walls on the first level that limited interior daylighting. To compensate for the loss of structural support, the architect needed an alternative way to reinforce the structural integrity of the first level.

Steel Beam Liberation
“We put in two very large steel beams for support and stripped everything down to the studs,” Lathrop says. “There were some skylights in the ceiling but we put in larger skylights in the family room area. We do use a lot of beams in our renovation projects to create open floor plans for older homes.”

Front Room Preservation
Lathrop was careful to maintain the historic integrity of the home’s street-side appearance. “The front of the house is basically the same... the windows are in the same location and size. The front rooms remain darker and cozy, as you might expect in a home of this age. But as you pass the staircase, visitors are surprised and delighted by what comes next.”

Back-House Drama
Beyond the staircase the home opens to reveal an expansive, daylight-drenched family room and kitchen. “We opened it all up. Put in all new trim, new lights, new insulation, new windows, and new kitchen. It’s a very seamless living area and leads naturally to a new backyard deck with trellis,” Lathrop says.

Window Showcase
With abundant daylight an owner priority, windows played a critical role in the renovation. The French doors also helped connect the indoors with the outdoors. For Lathrop, that specification was an easy selection: Integrity Windows by Marvin Windows and Doors. “We use Integrity a lot. I love the uniformity of their sizes and the fast delivery. I also like fiberglass. We do a ton of work on or near the ocean. Integrity windows are great for coastal environments. Integrity windows don’t expand and contract with changing weather, so paint doesn’t peel like it does on wood. Painting Integrity windows is a nice option,” Lathrop says.

The Turkey Hill residence has been widely featured in regional magazines and even served as the chief attraction in a private fundraising event. What makes the home such a delight? Lathrop has a theory: “When people step in, the home looks dark and traditional, entirely expected. Then it just opens up. It’s filled with natural light and beautiful backyard views. It’s a wow moment, full of surprise and delight. The owners just love sharing it.”

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