Back to the Family
A3 Architects teams up with a mother and daughter to design a Chatham home fit for a tight-knit family
Actor Michael J. Fox once said, “Family is not an important thing, it’s everything.”
That’s certainly true for Chatham resident Suzanne, who, along with her husband, JR, and their three children, has been vacationing in town for nearly two decades. “It’s not just our summer vacation,” Suzanne says of their trips to Chatham, “it’s about bringing all the family together,” including her 95-year-old father as well as her brother and sister.
When the opportunity arose in 2013 to purchase the Chatham cottage they had been renting for the last nine years, Suzanne and her eldest daughter, a Manhattan-based architect, jumped at the chance to own the property—and custom design the family home of their dreams. “My daughter and I had thought about it for so long—dreamed about it—not ever knowing we’d own a place,” she says. “We know how we live down there, so we really knew what we wanted.”
It would require a complete rebuild on the site to accomplish exactly what Suzanne envisioned: an intergenerational home base that comfortably accommodates all who stay. Her daughter worked on the initial conceptual designs of the new house, eventually passing those plans on to Alison Alessi and Meghan O’Reilly of A3 Architects. “I can’t stress enough what a pleasure it was to work with them,” Suzanne says. “They listened to me. If I asked for advice it was offered, but nothing was ever pushed on me, and I felt like anything I said was listened to and incorporated.”
“She’s always thinking about others and how her family’s going to live in the space,” says O’Reilly. That consideration is evident in the home’s five bedroom, three-and-a-half bath layout. The house features two master suites, one upstairs for Suzanne and JR—complete with its own walkout deck and views of Mill Pond—and one downstairs for Suzanne’s father.
“The owner’s father was often on the job site,” recalls builder Todd LaBarge. “He was our sidewalk superintendent, checking all of our work. It was nice.”
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