David Fox and Christopher Stone could have never imagined that springing a leak would lead to a fresh start in the country and a new business model. Eight years ago, however, a plumbing snafu set in motion just that. At the time the couple, founders of the Manhattan-based architecture studio Stonefox, discovered that their shower was accidentally raining down upon the apartment below, necessitating a gut renovation and a frantic search for a temporary escape from the city. Bags packed, they decamped to a rental in Litchfield County, a peaceful pocket of Connecticut where creative types on the order of Meryl Streep, Diane von Furstenberg, and Jasper Johns go to get away from it all. After four years and a blissful conversion to rural weekends, Fox and Stone set out to buy a place of their own. “We wanted a house that was carefree and easy to maintain,” Stone recalls. “But we never found that house.”
Instead, what they found was a pristine lot on which to experiment. Down a dirt road and tucked discreetly between two lakes, the four-acre parcel had languished on the market for many months on account of its restricted building envelope. “No one could imagine how to use the property,” notes Stone. As architects, however, he and Fox are accustomed to finding inspiration in limitations. They set about siting a house at the far corner of the site, with a wraparound driveway and layers of trees and grasses that offer privacy from the road. As for the structure itself, they envisioned a simple barn-like volume that, as Fox puts it, “would fit in with the rural landscape and the iconography of the pitched roof.”
When bids for conventional construction came back with gut-punch price tags, the duo pivoted to prefabricated solutions, adapting a series of modules to create a dynamic Tetris board of spaces, including a double-wide, double-height living area with a mezzanine. “People doing prefab typically go for traditional rooms,” notes Fox. “We went for an open plan.” They were able to exercise greater freedom on the exterior of the house, which they clad in black-painted planks of cedar and punctuated with a syncopated rhythm of windows. “We punched holes like an Advent calendar,” jokes Fox. “We wanted as much openness as possible. We wanted to be able to look up and see the sky.”
Remarkably, prefab construction slashed the cost of the original estimate by 30 percent. That meant that the couple could treat themselves to some of the luxury finishes, fixtures, and appliances they so often spec for their clients. Custom double doors of iron and glass open onto the library, which is cocooned in a geometric wallpaper by Cole and Son. Weathered white oak by Carlisle Wide Plank Floors prevails throughout the rooms. And in the kitchen, a bespoke brass hood—fabricated by metalworkers in Austin—crowns a statement Lacanche range, both complemented by thick countertops of Imperial Danby marble. Leftover scraps of the same stone were used to create a sculptural fireplace surround in the living area, where custom glass doors pocket to transform the room into a porch of sorts. At the touch of a button, a screen descends, deterring insect visitors while maintaining that indoor/outdoor connection. The remaining windows, meanwhile, are standard sizes by Andersen. Balancing off-the-shelf options with upscale elements, they were able to spend strategically.
It’s a concept they now hope to share with new clients. While quarantining in Connecticut during the COVID-19 lockdown, Stone and Fox adapted the design scheme into a series of residential prototypes, ranging from a two-bedroom house at 1,530 square feet to a four-bedroom house at 4,098 square feet. Prices fall between $775,000 and $1.35 million, with three different options for facade treatments and interior finishes. “You check a couple of boxes, you write a check, and six months later you have a house,” says Stone, summarizing what promises to be an enticing option for savvy buyers eager to put down new roots. As for the two of them, they’re leaning into their remote, green-acres existence. “Being forced to stay home, we really tried to embrace the opportunity,” Fox reflects. “Only with this extra time did we realize this plan could work.”
Explore a Prefab Country Escape With a Bespoke Sensibility
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest