2012 Connecticut Cottages & Gardens: Innovation in Design Awards


Contemporary to classic architecture dominates the landscape in Connecticut.
By Eva Hagberg

Connecticut Cottages & Gardens sixth annual Innovation In Design Awards competition recognizes superior architecture and design throughout Connecticut and Westchester. The categories are Architecture, Landscape, Kitchen, Bath, and Interior Design. The awards were presented at a dinner at the Hilton Stamford Hotel on May 22, 2012.

Innovator Two: By working around established oak trees and using the existing footprint, the architect created a new home that soars into the tree tops

Creating a summer lake house just six miles from the owners’ regular house put Christopher Arelt, owner of Nautilus Architects, at both an advantage and a disadvantage. Advantage: total familiarity with the landscape, easy access to the clients. Disadvantage: It’s much harder to make something when you know it really has to stand out. Luckily, the clients had an idea of what they hoped would contrast with their old-school Colonial just up the road. “She pulls out a magazine with some funky house from South America with corrugated metal and glass and steel,” Arelt says. “That was just a dream come true.” A few weeks later, the architect showed up with a little wooden model of a three-story 24-by-24-foot tree house. “And that was it.”

The new structure sits on the footprint of the former house, which was torn down because it was, as Arelt says, a “hideous brick-faced New Jersey mafia place, a universally detested building.” The home rises two stories higher than the old one did. The top floor is taken over by a master bedroom whose ceiling is a direct counterpoint to the roof plane, with a view that extends over the treetops. It’s reminiscent of Philip Johnson’s New Canaan glass house (the architect famously said that nature acted as his wallpaper) and of John Lautner’s swooping forms (the Los Angeles architect is a huge inspiration for Arelt).
“There’s the feeling of being outdoors with nature,” Arelt says. “You’re just up in a tree house.”

Photographs by Devon Perkins