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Big Ideas for a Small Space

A resourceful architect builds his own home on a challenging Osterville lot by thinking outside the box and making the most of nature’s whims.

A resourceful architect builds his own home on a challenging Osterville space by thinking outside the box and making the most of nature’s whims.

Photo by: Dan Cutrona

Strategically positioned on a small lot in the village of Osterville, this classic shingle-style gambrel offers lovely views of a picturesque meadow below, while welcoming in cool southwest breezes from nearby North Bay. The home is the creation of architect Ivan Bereznicki of Cambridge and Osterville’s Bereznicki Architects, who used equal parts imaginative sleight of hand and architectural ingenuity to design this beautiful home on a challenging lot.

Despite its five-star location—just one block from the center of tony Osterville—the lot on Bay Street stood empty for 30 years. With a property six feet below street level and bordering wetlands, siting and building a home that would offer inviting views seemed almost impossible. Bereznicki, however, has a talent for seeing the possibilities of any site and for finding unique solutions to even the most complex problems.

To combat the issue of the low-lying site, the architect had 16 to 18 truckloads of fill brought in to build up the lot an additional eight feet. This new height not only accommodated a home built above street level, it allowed for the house to capture the southwest breezes that come in off Nantucket Sound. Bereznicki was careful to consider all of the angles when orientating the house.

“I wanted a band of rooms that would be westward looking, but I also wanted to be able to take advantage of the southern sun in the winter,” he says. Rather than positioning the home so that the front door faces the street, the architect “turned the house sideways” so that the short side of the house faces the street, allowing the back of the house to take full advantage of the meadow and woodland views.

One of the biggest construction challenges on the property surfaced just after the site had been cleared—and a heavy rain had fallen. “I was standing on the lot and when I looked down, I could see my feet sinking into the ground,” Bereznicki recalls. After testing the soil and finding quicksand and peat, he tried to excavate further to bring up good soil. But after re-testing and finding that it was still not quite good enough, he consulted with a geotechnical engineer who sugggested building the house on pilings—a clever solution to a pretty daunting situation.

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