Real estate: An architect’s dream house
But the modest contemporary known as the Willis Mills Home at 1380 Ponus Ridge Road offers a slice of modern marvel at its best.
Built during the height of the International Style pioneered by the Harvard Five, the house was designed by noted architect Willis Mills, a principal in the architectural firm of Sherwood, Mills & Smith, in 1956 to be used as his private residence.
Perfectly sited on a private two acres of property, with Japanese gardens and a stone-lined pool, the home has it all, including pedigree neighbors.
The house has received design awards from Architectural Record and the Boston Arts Festival for its improbable construction into the side of a rocky slope where many thought it was impossible to build.
Sited on a rocky wooded hillside on the West side of town, the 4,200 square foot home is made of glass and clear-finished vertical redwood siding.
ABOUT THIS HOUSE
ADDRESS: 1380 Ponus Ridge
YEAR BUILT: 1956
SQUARE FEET: 4,368 square feet
NUMBER OF ROOMS: 8
FULL BATH: 4
NOTABLE FEATURES: Willis Mills House, Fireplace, Japanese gardens, stonelined pools, Honored by the Architectural Record, Boston Arts Festival, Architectural Record Houses of 1957, Progressive Architecture (March 1957) House & Garden’s Book of Building (1958-59) The Harvard Five in New Canaan (2006) and Midcentury Homes Today (2014)
SCHOOLS: West Elementary, Saxe Middle School, New Canaan High School
The site drops 45 feet from the street level entrance leaving the three-story house with cantilevered sections at each level.
Built on a concrete block, the house has a rectangular plan, with wood decks on the east façade of the upper level and the west façade of the lower level, with a cantilevered stone patio on the east side of the first-floor level off the living and dining rooms.
Oriented north south, the home offers captivating Western views from nearly every room.
After a stretch of inattentive owners, the house was purchased and renovated over 21/2years by architects Craig Bassam and Christopher Scott Fellows in 1999, complimenting Mills’ initial serene statement, with a total renovation of the kitchen and lower level.
With classic modern lines, meticulous detailing, and a wholehearted embrace of the natural New Canaan site, Bassam and Fellows updated the upper entry floor which houses the study and three of its bedrooms, including the master suite, which was fashioned from the original garage in the 1970s.
Bassam and Fellows refinished surfaces, rebuilt cabinetry and pocket doors, and renovated the bathrooms to include marble vanities and floor-to-ceiling glass mosaic tiling.
The lower level required a bit more effort.
Breaking through a labyrinth of passageways and rooms, the architectural duo created an open common area and a sense of flow with simple and defined spaces.
A two-story living room wrapped in double-height glass windows, is cantilevered dramatically outward some 30 feet above the landscape and offset by diagonal balconies and terraces.
The living room features pristine white terrazzo tiling and flows seamlessly into the dining room with sliding doors that open to a stone terrace surrounded by moss-covered outcroppings.
Done in the same likeness of Mills’ original construction, the kitchen features plenty of streamlined walnut cabinetry and top-of-the-line appliances including a DCS range, Bosch dishwasher and Subzero refrigerator.