Double Duty Beauty
All summer long, a Provincetown condo offers warmth and welcome to friends and family. Come autumn, it becomes a place of serenity and respite for its owners.
You know that terrible moment when you think “I give up!”
New England Home’s Cape & Islands 2008
You just can’t move that sofa one more time. First it was here, and now it’s there. And it’s never quite right: too much sun on your back or not enough, great seating for a party but lousy for a tète-a-tète.
We’ll, here’s consolation: architects Tom Huth and Bruce Skiles Danzer moved the furniture around in their getaway condo in Provincetown, Massachusetts, for years before they felt they had it right. And this is a couple with credentials longer than their condo’s nine-foot sofas. Both graduate from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Huth (rhymes with “tooth”), who has an office in Newton, Massachusetts, is in his thirtieth year of designing high-end New England homes, while Danzer is busy creating the interiors for architect William Rawn’s projects –most recently the performing arts center at William College.
Competing goals for their get-away lie behind the pair’s years of acquiring, schlepping, arranging and rearranging. “The big challenge for us,” says Huth, “was how to make a summer beach house that can accommodate a never-ending stream of guests –inevitable in Provincetown –and at the same time create a winter place that’s comfortable for just the two of us.”
Another consideration, he adds: “How to show all the art we’ve collected in a modern, gallery-like setting and still treat it like someone actually lives there.”
The front hall –small and intentionally dark with its brownish-beige paint –shows the effects of the push and pull, of the challenge and energy of opposites. “The other rooms are so bright that when you pop out into the living room you have this effect of great release following the compression of the entry,” says Huth.
A large, graphic Rauschenberg occupying the entire right side of the country, almost like a mural, stands as an architectural element in itself, energizing this space as impressively as a piece of antique molding or a brilliant chandelier. To the immediate right of the entryway the architects installed a home office along the margins of a longish hall leading to the master bedroom. As a general principle, Huth says, he favors halls that have some actual use. Empty halls lined with bland botanicals don’t do much for him.
Looking all the way down the hall-cum-office, all the way down to the very southernmost wall of the bedroom, one spies a nice surprise: a Noguchi lamp and a Rennie Mackintosh chair standing like two leggy friends conversing on a distant shore.
The hall leading to the guest bedroom, gallery kitchen and light-flooded living room is actually the second right. A columnar wall element painted bright yellow acts like a guidepost, letting visitors know they should turn right here, rather than take the first right into the office and master bedroom.
The bright yellow hints at the role paint plays in the overall project (and lays to rest the old saw about architects knowing nothing about color). “We used $3,000 worth of paint rather than sink $50,000 in structural changes,” says Danzer.
Chalky, seemingly sun-bleached walls running north-south show off the couple’s art and stand as atmospheric, architectural elements in themselves: bold planes in the modernist style of a Mondrian or Corbusier. “Former occupants would fill the place with chintz and armoires,” says Huth, but he thought it important to stay true to the modernist aesthetic of the building by the Boston – and Vineyard-based architects Ahearn ï Schopfer and Associates. Titanium, paired with blue in the living room / hall axis and green in the bedroom/hall/office axis, unifies the spaces while defining little niches, offering up innumerable vignettes. “There’s always something to discover,” says Huth.
The couple’s home in Brookline has a loft-like feel, but here, says huth, “It’s nice to have rooms, especially with so many guests.”
The living room is perhaps the most loft-like space with its picture windows and sisal rugs over bleached maple. Summer guests readily move chairs, clustering them to suit what’s going on. “But on Sunday morning in winter when you’re alone, you can sit on the couch and feel the warm sun on your back. And the sun in the living room is actually brighter in winter than in summer, lying low to the south across the Provincetown wetlands,” says Huth.
A sculpture by Provincetown artist Robert Bailey is commanding presence no matter where the furniture ends up. The Bert Yarborough on the wall was a birthday gift from Danzer to Huth. “I had a choice of either the Yarborough or a trip to Paris,” Huth says.
Another piece de resistance is the steel dining table surrounded by Vitra chairs. Originally designed for gardens, the table is the work of Danzer’s celebrated brother John, founder of Munder-Skiles furniture.
Provincetown is one of the country’s oldest and largest art colonies, and the condo lies in its salty, windswept heart. It’s only natural to wonder whether there is a method to Huth and Danzer’s art- and furniture collecting madness as it caroms off a Bob Bailey to a Yarborough and then off again to a Noguchi. “Not really,” admits Danzer. “We buy things and then we rearrange the house. Once, when we said we were finished a friend just blurted out, ‘Oh, at last!’’
More John Danzer bedside tables dress the bedroom. The bedroom walls combine titanium, blue and green, and the vaulted tray ceiling is blue as well, “like the sky,” Danzer says. “It’s a pretty nice way to wake up.”
The guest room is dominated by a wall of books: travel, art, architecture, and the latest magazines. “Guests don’t want to leave ,” says Danzer.
But eventually they will depart as cooler weather sets in, leaving the couple to themselves. Low winter sun will toast the steel table, light up the Yarborough, then curl up for a nap on the sisal rugs. It’s fair to predict, though, that once everything seems so very settled, Danzer and Huth will once again start moving the furniture and rehanging the art. NEH