An artist’s studio, a poolside cabana, a 24-bay carriage house to hold an exotic-car collection, a grotto, a rifle range, a model-train pavilion—designing outbuildings to complement an estate’s main house tickles this architect’s fancy
Over the 20 years I’ve been designing homes in the Greenwich area, I’ve been asked to create many interesting accessory structures (the buildings on the property other than the main house). They have ranged considerably in style and scope, from utilitarian storage sheds to multi-million-dollar guest cottages. But I’ve always enjoyed working on these projects, for they call on an architect’s creativity; many times they’ve given me an opportunity to inject a bit of whimsy onto a property.
As part of the initial master plan for a new home, I usually include a pool house and, depending on the property and client, other outbuildings. (In Fairfield County and other upscale areas, clients are commissioning more and more of these structures.) Many of the accessory structures my firm designs are hybrids that have multiple functions: a guesthouse/pool house, a carriage house/art studio, a pool house/garage. This makes a lot of sense, since a series of individual buildings would take up a lot more space and cost much more to build. Also, zoning regulations usually limit the number, size, and type of accessory structures allowed on a property. The rules vary widely from town to town, so before contemplating adding an outbuilding, an owner should consult with a local architect, zoning attorney, or land-use professional.
I recently designed and constructed an accessory structure at my own home in Greenwich—a poolside cabana. (See the photograph on page 67.) Ironically, it was one of the most expensive structures I have ever built: On a square-foot basis, it cost approximately $1,000 per square foot! That’s because the plumbing and mechanical work had to be so concentrated and I needed to bring all utilities to a pool house, and also because this tiny structure allowed us no economies of scale.
However, while outbuildings can be very costly, my firm has also designed many that conformed to tight budgets. Some of our wildest projects were a rifle range, a grotto, and a model-railroad pavilion. I’m always looking forward to a new “amazing accessory structure” challenge.
Below are just a few of the accessory projects that my firm, R. S. Granoff Architects, has designed.
The Pool House
Completed in 2006, this pool house would be considered “typical” for Greenwich. The exterior is clapboard and lattice, with a zinc-coated copper standing-seam roof. It is approximately 800 square feet and contains a living room with a fireplace, kitchenette, full bathroom, changing room, and a storage room. The covered portico provides a shaded area off the pool.
The Poolside Cabana
We “had some fun with the design of this tiny (125 square feet) cabana,” says architect Richard Granoff, who constructed it on his own property in Greenwich. It is made completely of cedar, with a stone base and a copper roof. Inside, the floor and all of the walls are covered in teal-colored glass tiles. Light-ash cabinetry completes the ensemble. “My guests are always delighted when they go inside to change into their swimsuits,” Granoff says.
The Hybrid Structure
Above, left and right: Many accessory structures are “hybrids” with multiple functions—a guesthouse/pool house, a carriage house/art studio, or a pool house/tennis pavilion, like this hybrid in Greenwich. This makes a lot of sense, since individual buildings take up a lot more space and cost much more to build than a hybrid, and zoning regulations usually limit the number, size, and type of accessory structures allowed on a property. (Zoning rules vary widely from town to town, so research them before you build any accessory structure!)
The Carriage House
Left: It’s not your grandfather’s carriage house (though it just might house your grandpa’s automobile): This 21st-century version, on an estate in Bridgehampton, includes a two-bedroom apartment above a floor that accommodates 10 cars. Many luxury-home owners in the Fairfield, Westchester, and Suffolk County area collect exotic automobiles; some collections are so extensive that the carriage house must have a hydraulic lift so the cars can be stacked. R. S. Granoff Architects, which designed this carriage house, often proposes to its clients a fairly high level of finish that includes mahogany wainscoting, grease-resistant flooring, low-voltage lighting, and a wet bar, so that these structures can double as a living or entertainment area (usually for the guys).
The Ice Rink
Left, and below: Like tennis courts, ice rinks are large, “long-span” structures. To freeze the water, they must have complicated—and therefore expensive—mechanical systems. It is very tough to get zoning approvals for large accessory structures, unless the estate has a lot of acreage. Philip Clark, Architect, of Claris Construction designed this private ice rink to sit well proportionally on the land.
The Artist's Studio
Above right: “We recently completed this sculpture studio on an estate in Bedford, New York,” Granoff says. “Many of our clients enjoy the creative arts. We have designed painting studios, darkrooms, and arts and crafts centers. These are custom-tailored to the artist’s desires. This client needed a steel structure with a mechanical winch to move the 2,000-pound blocks of raw marble that were shipped to him from Italy. We designed a unique accessory structure that was clad in the same materials as the main home: stone and clapboard, with a slate roof. But the building is thoroughly modern, with a glass garage door and clean lines.”
Above left and left: Originally developed as hothouses for growing plants, these structures have become popular as sunrooms, breakfast rooms—even a room whose centerpiece is a fish pond. Typically constructed of mahogany or steel, with glass walls/roof and stone floors, they can be bought prefabricated or custom-built. Either way, they may be extremely expensive because of the high cost of their materials: a lot of glass, mahogany, or other decay-resistant wood, elaborate heating/cooling systems, and stone or tile floors. Oak Leaf Conservatories fabricated this conservatory in England and shipped it to Southampton by cargo ship; two British fabricators then assembled it on a foundation made by a local contractor. It consists of one room—a sunroom off a breakfast area known as “the tea parlor.”