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Homes of the Modern House Trust

Breaking the Mold, Annual 2017 Cape Cod Home |

Angles, skylights, balconies and bridges are all telltale marks of Zehnder’s designs, as seen here with the Corey House. Photo by Josh Shortsleeve

One man is credited with designing close to half of the Outer Cape’s modern houses: Charlie Zehnder. A self-taught architect who grew up in New Jersey, Zehnder once spent an evening talking with famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who was visiting the University of Virginia, where Zehnder was a student. Wright’s influence is obvious in many Zehnder homes. “By the mid-1960s,” McMahon writes, “[Zehnder] began to refine a highly personal and surprising language including complex perimeters that often telescope down in area at one end of a plan; walls that lean in at a slight angle; and turretlike windows akin to those in medieval castles.”

Robert Corey, a retired teacher from Brockton, still spends summers in the Truro home he commissioned Zehnder to build for him in 1968. From the outside, the building is all boxes and angles, with a steep pitched wall at one end. Two distinct wings—living areas and a loft bedroom in one and guest bedrooms in the other—are connected by an elevated open deck. The street side is nearly one continuous expanse of deep brown-stained cedar clapboards, broken only by Zehnder’s signature “gun-slit” windows. An exterior stairway runs from the elevated guest wing to the ground.

Corey asked Zehnder for lots of decks, and the architect delivered. Decks affording views of the surrounding woods are everywhere—one off the living room, one off the loft bedroom, one connecting the main house to the guest wing, and three small “pocket decks” off the guest bedrooms.

In the soaring two-story living room, a wall of windows leads out to the deck. A two-story brick fireplace dominates the opposite wall, which is paneled with warm, honey-colored cedar; at one end a round, silo-like structure hides the narrow circular staircase that leads to the loft bedroom. Other walls are made of white homasote, a fiber wallboard similar to papier mache, on which Corey has hung an eclectic assortment of colorful art. The back of the fireplace serves as one wall in the compact kitchen.

Upstairs the fireplace opens into the loft bedroom. The attached master bath features a large, tiled walk-in shower with a skylight. There’s a private deck on one side of the loft and a large open deck that leads to the guest wing on the other.

In the guest wing, the two bedrooms face the woods for privacy, while skylights in the hallway admit light. Bedrooms are small but functional, with original pressed wood paneling and built-in chests of drawers.

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