WSJ Article examines how some luxury homeowners are rediscovering so-called campus style homes, using separate wings or buildings for living, recreation, cooking, and sleeping.
Rediscovering the Campus-Style Family Home
Some luxury homeowners are embracing so-called compound properties, using separate wings or buildings for sleeping, cooking and lounging
By CECILIE ROHWEDDER
March 24, 2016 9:58 a.m. ET
To go from the living room to the master suite of their home on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, Hans and Julia Krebs walk to a different building.
Their bedroom is separated from the main house by a book-lined indoor walkway. Another walkway leads to a third building, which houses the kitchen and dining area, as well as a suite for Ms. Krebs’s mother, a frequent visitor. The garage is in a fourth building. What ties it all together: white, modern facades and black, gabled roofs.
“Our goal was to maximize privacy and view,” says Mr. Krebs, a 69-year-old retired gynecologic oncologist. With his wife, a 65-year-old health care lawyer, Mr. Krebs spent $1.5 million to build the four-bedroom, 5,000-square-foot home, which also includes a boathouse and a farm-equipment building.
Architects call them campus or compound-style homes. Like small university campuses, they are made up of separate wings or buildings that have distinct functions, such as sleeping, cooking or lounging. Separating different parts of living, fans say, allows not just for privacy, but also for a different look and feel in each area. Proponents also argue that campuses blend into the landscape and allow for life with few or no stairs, a popular feature with aging Americans.
Campus-style living has its roots in American history. Maryland, where Annapolis-based architect Marta Hansen built the Krebs’s home in 2006, is rife with five-part Colonial compounds that consist of a main house attached to smaller wings on both sides. The classic American homestead is a cluster of buildings that include the kitchen and smokehouse, set apart to reduce fire risk. In traditional Spanish and Mexican architecture, connected buildings are arranged around a patio.
Creating a village for one owner has its downsides. A house deconstructed into different parts can be more expensive than a single-unit home—between 25% and 30% more, estimates San Francisco-based architect Malcolm Davis, who frequently designs multipart homes. More buildings require more perimeter foundation, he explains, adding to construction costs. More exterior walls need more windows and cause more potential heat loss, adding to maintenance costs.
Multibuilding living can also create its own set of practical considerations—one may have to traipse a longer distance to find the children, or retrieve the Amazon package from the front door.
Fans dismiss such criticisms. Kristin and Scott Fine, a general partner at a hedge fund, recently completed renovating their 101-year-old waterfront home in Darien, Conn. As part of the two-year, $2.5 million project, a glass-and-steel structure was created to attach a kitchen wing to one side of the house, and a separate, open-air steel arbor was erected to create an outdoor living room, framing the view of Long Island Sound.
The arbor connects the home to a new yoga and pool house, whose detachment from the main house—busy with four children and two dogs—makes the space more effective, according to the Fines. “A yoga room being physically separate is key to quieting my mind,” says Ms. Fine, a 43-year-old interior designer who has her own company, Fine Concepts, and worked on the project with New York City-based architect Michael Haverland. She says she usually runs to the building barefoot—”maybe” throwing on boots if there is snow.
The Fines’ compound isn’t done: The two buildings are first steps in a master plan for the 6-acre property that now has 13,400 square feet of living space. The couple is expecting to add a sports building with an indoor lap pool, spa and batting cage, as well as a building with private gallery space that can also house three artists as part of a planned residency program.
In 2014, Jonathan King and Jim Stott bought one of the oldest houses in Maine, 354-year-old Bray House in Kittery Point. The founders of Stonewall Kitchen, a York, Maine-based maker of jams, sauces and other specialty foods, Messrs. King and Stott had previously lived in historic homes and knew the shortcomings, such as low ceilings and wind blowing through old walls in the winter. But they were drawn to Bray House’s rich past and waterfront setting, to Mr. King “the most beautiful view in the world.”
The pair turned to Jacobsen Architecture, a Washington, D.C., firm with expertise in fusing contemporary space and historic buildings, including at the U.S. Capitol.
Now, 1,450-square-foot Bray House is undergoing a $1 million renovation. It will be linked on both sides to indoor glass walkways leading to no fewer than 12 gabled pavilions that house a large living and dining space, a master-bedroom suite and an office. As part of the $5 million project, which Messrs King and Stott hope to complete by Labor Day 2017, even the laundry room will have its own building.
“We want friends to come in, enjoy cocktails by the fire at Bray House, but then go into a 21st century space,” says Mr. King, who is 50 and chief creative officer of Stonewall Kitchen. Spreading out the additions horizontally, he says, means adding space—8,125 square feet of it—without adding height. “It’s not going to feel like we’re building this massive thing to block the view of the ocean.”
Owner Diane Goldsmith from Orinda, Calif., bought the 2,700-square-foot, three-bedroom house with her husband, David, for $1.6 million in 2012. “I liked the idea of a sense of privacy and change as you walk from one part of the house into another,” says Ms. Goldsmith, a 65-year-old graphic designer. “Family and interactions on one side; rest and contemplation of the beauty of Sea Ranch on the other,” adds Mr. Goldsmith, a 68-year-old retired investment banker.
Spreading out a house can create inconvenience. Answering the door is a trek. So is hauling around laundry or fixing a cup of tea. Owners say technology helps keep it together: Baby monitors can track children in far-off nurseries, and many keep kettles and refrigerators in the master suite to avoid nighttime trips to the kitchen.
Peter and Maria Grazia Selzer’s $2 million, 3,600-square-foot home built by San Francisco-based architect Nick Noyes in Taos, N.M., consists of a rammed-earth Territorial-style house and two flat-roof Pueblo-style buildings on both sides. As such, the distance from the master bedroom to the kitchen is between 60 and 70 feet.
Mr. Selzer, a 70-year-old radiologist, says the isolation of the bedroom, located at the end of its own wing, is an advantage. “You could have a brass band going on in the main part of the house and we wouldn’t hear it,” he says.
Write to Cecilie Rohwedder at firstname.lastname@example.org