Like many South End couples starting families, Becky Bermont and Alex Benik knew they would relocate to greener pastures. They just didn’t realize how soon. Having become interested in Lexington’s modernist communities, they spent most of 2011 and 2012 touring open houses. Then they landed one town away at a house designed by local mid-century modern architect Henry B. Hoover. Bermont says, “It was our big Lincoln moment.”
That property wasn’t quite right, but they fell hard for another Hoover home. Originally three 19th-century barns that Hoover turned into a residence in the early 1950s, it was reinterpreted in 1985. “We loved everything about it — the gracious proportions, the attention to detail, the majestic siting in the woods,” Bermont says.
The couple and their daughter, Chloe, now 4 (they also have an 11-month-old son, Louis), lived in the 4,300-square-foot house for a year before hiring Mette Aamodt and Andrew Plumb of Cambridge-based Aamodt/Plumb Architects, a wife-and-husband team with strong modernist sensibilities. Step one was to create a master plan for a layout better suited to a young family.
The prior owners had created a soaring art gallery space (dubbed “the cold, dark room” by Chloe) that connected the garage to the house. Aamodt and Plumb tried every which way to re-purpose it before proposing to tear it down, along with the adjacent main entry. The new plan offered a view from the front walk to the magnificent garden in back, along with a straightforward front entry. Aamodt recalls: “Their faces lit up and they said, ‘This is what we want to come home to!’ ”
The plan pays tribute to the entire history of the building. Removing the gallery and the jumbled entry allowed the traditional barn form behind it to stand out, recalling the property’s origins as a working farm. The new one-story structure with a flat roof is an ode to the mid-century modern renovation that first turned the barns into a house. As for the Japanese-inspired cedar screen, Aamodt says, “It’s modern-day flair.”
Beyond the simple glass-and-slate foyer is the heart of the home, with bleached ash flooring, mid-century modern furnishings, and cheerful aqua and chartreuse accents that interior designer Mary Bablitch helped the couple choose. Aamodt says, “Becky and Alex told us this was the part of the house they loved most, with its high ceilings and expansive garden views, so we made it the focal point.”
Although it still looked fantastic, the funky sculptural kitchen commissioned by the previous owners 30 years ago didn’t function well for a growing family. The new open kitchen, a step up from the living room, lends what Bermont calls a “captain of the ship feeling.” It has concrete countertops juxtaposed against glossy white cabinetry and large windows that frame the landscape.
Upstairs, a semitransparent gray stain gave the 60-year-old cork flooring a fresh look. Aamodt and Plumb created a master bedroom suite with two walk-in closets under the eaves, adding sliding barn doors made of birch plywood. Also built under the sloping roof, the Zen-like master bath has a soaking tub beneath the skylight — another place where indoors melds with outdoors.
For Bermont and Benik, Hoover’s, and now Aamodt and Plumb’s, sensitivity to how the home interacts with the site — the sky, trees, gardens, and wildlife — is momentous. Bermont says: “I can see birds from the kitchen table, living room sofa, and our bathroom. They keep me company when I’m alone. For me, experiencing nature is what Lincoln is all about.”
WHO WAS HOOVER?
Although Bauhaus school founder Walter Gropius put Lincoln on the architectural map with the 1938 home he designed for his family, Henry B. Hoover (1902-1989) was the architect of the town’s first modernist house, in 1937. The Harvard-educated Hoover designed more than 100 houses across the country, more than half of them in Lincoln and other Boston suburbs. His children put the family home, the Hoover House, on the market for the first time earlier this year. It has characteristics similar to those of Becky Bermont and Alex Benik’s home, including its thoughtful siting, which creates a strong connection between indoors and out.
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