Andrei Harwell, Architect
The client for this small project is a non-fiction writer, who in relocating from New York City to New Haven had purchased a house with a tiny, one-car, detached garage in the back yard. The writer needed a quiet, sunny place to work without interruption, and commissioned me to design a conversion of the building to a writer’s studio.
In a building of this size, I wanted to make every new element count. To connect the interior of the studio with the yard, I opened up the corner of the building with a large window and wide, modern, sliding glass doors that could provide lots of natural light and ventilation. A new cedar canopy and porch announce the entry into the studio, mediating between inside and outside by sheltering the door from rain so it can be left open even during a storm.
I was really interested in showcasing the writer’s personal library and wonderful mementos collected during his career and travels, to create personality, intimacy and warmth in the space. The shelving system I developed using the Rakks pole and bracket system provided a contemporary, streamlined “frame” within which all this could be presented. The upper shelves are simple painted pine boards, but to contrast with the machine made aluminum of the Rakks system, a cantilevered, projecting, natural walnut shelf at waist-height provides layout space for reference material or pages of works in progress to be arranged and reviewed. I carefully positioned the shelves in the space and lit them to be visible through the sliding glass doors at night, when the building acts like a lantern, signifying the building’s function from the outside.
To contrast with the modern windows and canopy, the exterior is finished in traditional clapboard, typical of the neighborhood, but painted a saturated, jewel-like purple. Inside, a variable-width walnut feature wall behind the writer’s desk is an homage to the paneled studies of the past, and simple clear Douglas fir is used to trim the windows and as a base.