A Newtown Square Home with German Inspiration

Main Line Today

Tara Behan

05 February 2016

Perched unassumingly atop a hill on a street lined with the expected suburban Colonials sits a contemporary Newtown Square jewel. The stucco façade of the three-bedroom home doesn’t command attention, but it doesn’t take more than a glance or two to realize that this place isn’t like the others. 

Near the front door, a leaning timber bracket props up a prefinished steel roof, and a floor-to-ceiling window frames a view of the open steel staircase inside. Frosted-pane garage doors offer privacy and an unusual visual appeal. At night, the lights within create a warm glow. 

“Our approach to the design was to create something that, from the road, didn’t feel so wildly out of place that the neighbors would feel offended,” says Richard Buchanan, partner of Archer & Buchanan Architecture in West Chester. “It has a Zen-like quality.”

A young couple from Germany, the clients relocated to be close to their family business’ U.S. headquarters in Chester County. “They approached us initially about a collapsed roof on their previous home,” says Buchanan. 

But as the conversation progressed, the clients decided to start fresh. “They wanted the sort of quiet, comfortable home they would find in Germany,” says Buchanan. “And they wanted it to be built for the ages.” 

Comforts of home

In keeping with a German aesthetic, the couple envisioned exposed timber, steel and concrete. 

“They brought a palette of interesting things that all worked together from the outset, and it became our job to compose those ideas and thoughts,” says the project’s architect, Matthew Forsythe. “They gave us the latitude to create a house that was German in design and spirit, but could also live comfortably on a street in suburban Pennsylvania.” 

Such assimilation was crucial, says Forsythe. “If you built a truly German house, it might look very strange,” he says. “I thought they were very respectful of their context, since they built something so unusual.”

Forsythe explains the Arcadian-type design: “The house is designed around a series of internal arcades that allows the person to migrate through the house.”

The unique use of exposed timbers in the design prompted the name “Leaning Timber Haus.” “The timbers were used conventionally in an unconventional way,” Forsythe says. “Instead of going up and down, some of the timbers are leaning in various directions.” 

Concrete makes its way into the flooring on the first level. Framed in steel with a metal deck, it has radiant-heat tubing, which is common in Germany. “In the summer, the flooring is cool to the touch, and in the winter, it’s warm,” says Buchanan. 

Built to last

The home is a shining example of efficient building technologies and high-quality details that require minimal maintenance and energy consumption. 

“Their idea of green is to build with longevity in mind,” says Buchanan. “We created a house that’s very durable and appropriate in terms of both renewability and sustainability.” 

The back of the home features floor-to-ceiling windows and multiple sliding-glass doors. “By using 3-D modeling, we were able to identify what the sunlight pattern would be throughout the year,” says Buchanan. 

The architects incorporated deep overhangs into the design so the solar gain is carefully managed. They also used exterior venetian blinds to control sun exposure on the southwest side of the house. “It’s very European,” Buchanan says. “We needed to stop the sun before it even passes through the glass and heats up anything on the interior. It’s very effective. We’re also seeing this application a lot in the Middle East.”

Efficiency in mind

The kitchen, dining area and great room share one space—a common characteristic of German homes. Each area is distinguished by ceiling volume, with the great room accented by timber framing above.

“We tried to keep the square footage of the house down, which was another sustainable effort on the owners’ part,” says Buchanan. “Their interest wasn’t in having a big house—their interest was in having a special house.” 

The small kitchen mirrors that philosophy. A large pantry in the rear eliminates the need for too many cabinets. Much of the space is reserved for high-end appliances, and the color scheme is white with Douglas-fir trim. Sliding-glass doors lead to a spacious outdoor patio, with a covered living area and fireplace, plus a hot tub with an infinity edge. 

“We had the benefit of learning from our clients—and their cultural basis for what makes a house a home,” Buchanan says of the project. “Every house should be an expression of the people who live there.” 

Resources 

Architect: Archer & Buchanan Architecture, 125 W. Miner St., West Chester, (610) 692-9112.

Houzz Pro Spotlight: How Rural Regulations Can Enrich Your Country Estate

A West Chester architect shares design opportunities - 27 March 2017

Archer & Buchanan Projects Win National Awards

AIA Philadelphia - 25 November 2013

50 Years of Stuckeman Works

Archer & Buchanan Architecture Feature - 1 May 2013

AIA Small Projects Structure Winner

Architectural Products
 - 1 July 2008

Please Vote for ABA's Cor-Ten Cattails

Architizer - 3 March 2015

Far from the Shire, a Hobbit House in PA

Associated Press - 12 December 2012

Far from the Shire, a Hobbit house in PA Country

Associated Press Video - 12 December 2012

Digital Underground

Bucks Life - 1 September 2013

On the drawing board

Building Design + Construction - 1 July 2013

Historic Stonework Defines New Residential Design

Building Stone Magazine - 28 June 2017

Estates of Excellence

Chester County Town & Country Living - 1 October 2001

Bucolic Beauty, Classic Charm

Chester County Town & Country Living
 - 1 June 2005

Preserving Land and History

Chester County Town & Country Living
 - 1 April 2005

An Epic in the Making

Chester County Town & Country 
Living - 23 October 2008

Unique Homes - A House fit for a Hobbit

CNN Money - 28 November 2011

Vision Becomes Reality for Tolkien Collector

Collector’s News - 1 October 2006

Fit for a Hobbit

Cottages & Bungalows - 1 February 2009

73rd Tour of Tours

County Lines - 1 September 2013

Kimberton Sanctuary

County Lines - 1 September 2012

72nd Tour of Tours

County Lines - 1 September 2012

Arts & Crafts Inspiration

County Lines - 1 February 2010

71st Tour of Tours

County Lines - 1 September 2011

Home of the Month

County Lines - 1 March 2013

All Around Farm

County Lines - 1 February 2013

Preserving & Celebrating History

County Lines Magazine - 31 January 2017

Mercer Hill Farm

Covertside - 1 December 2007

Ground broken for Lenfest Center

Daily Local News - 24 May 2012

The return of an old favorite is brewing in Greenville

Delaware Community News - 16 August 2009

Lenfest Center at the ChesLen Preserve dedication planned

Delaware County News Network - 1 June 2013

Archer & Buchanan's Cattail Fence Wins Design Award

Dexigner.com - 20 September 2012

Soundproof Theater Fits Country Lifestyle

Electronic House
 - 1 May 2008

A cottage fit for a hobbit

Fine Homebuilding - 1 May 2007

Adirondack, Shingle Style

Fine Homebuilding - 1 April 2005

Sounds as Good as it Looks

Fine Homebuilding - 1 March 2005

Mud Room's the Name, Organizing's the Aim

Fine Homebuilding Magazine - 24 September 2015

Arts & Crafts and Automobiles

Fine Homebuilding Magazine - 1 March 2017

Swarthmore's New Greenhouse

Garden Design - 24 February 2010

On the Fence

Gardening Australia Magazine - 1 June 2015

Scott's new Wister Center receives Green Building of America Award

Greater Philadelphia Gardens - 20 August 2009

Old-fashioned Entertainment

HD Living - 1 January 2008

"Home Sweet Home" in a Barn

HGTV - 23 February 2017

5 Houses Where You Can Pretend to Be a Hobbit

HGTV Front Door - 9 December 2013

Can't go wrong with...

HGTV Magazine - 1 April 2013

Converting an Old Horse Barn in Pennsylvania

Hooked on Houses - 5 September 2013

15 Dream Closets to Admire

Houzz - 23 January 2017

8 Fireplaces to Feed Your Kitchen's Style

Houzz.com - 21 January 2013

Sample Bright Color in the Kitchen

Houzz.com - 27 February 2012

Fall in Love with Lacquer

Houzz.com - 7 January 2016

Beauty Goes Beyond the Eye of the Beholder

Houzz.com - 28 August 2013

25 Most Bookmarked Houzz Tours of 2012

Houzz.com - 1 January 2013

25 Dream Homes to Satisfy Your Soul

Houzz.com - 17 June 2012

14 Gardens Straight out of Fairy Tales

Houzz.com - 31 January 2015

Help Your Stair Landing Take Off

Houzz.com - 6 June 2012

9 Ways to Boost Winter Curb Appeal

Houzz.com - 28 November 2013

4 Hobbit Houses Bring Charm to the Landscape

Houzz.com - 1 December 2012

Renovation Detail: The Transom Window

Houzz.com - 3 May 2012

Staircase Landings Worth a Linger

Houzz.com - 10 November 2012

Groom your Rooms with Kentucky Derby Decor

Houzz.com - 29 April 2012

Academy Attic Hearth Uncovered

Lower Merion Historical Society Milestones - 1 April 2009

Archer & Buchanan Architecture, Ltd.

Luxury Home Quarterly - 1 April 2011

Mod Men

Main Line - 1 October 2009

A Celebration of Preservation

Main Line Suburban Life
 - 1 September 2010

Peeling Back the Layers

Main Line Today - 1 December 2003

Country Living

Main Line Today - 25 January 2011

A Newtown Square Home with German Inspiration

Main Line Today - 5 February 2016

Handmade Marvel

Main Line Today - 1 December 2006

Homage to Okie

Main Line Today - 14 January 2009

Artsy Elegance

Main Line Today - 1 June 2008

Element of Surprise

Main Line Today - 22 January 2010

Going to The Whip

Main Line Today - 1 March 2008

Custom Cozy

Main Line Today - 1 December 2003

101 Reasons to Love the Main Line and Western Suburbs

Main Line Today Magazine - 1 March 2015

Music Recording, Down on the Farm

Mix - 1 August 2002

The New Hampshire House

Montco Homes, Gardens, & Lifestyle - 1 November 2016

Take a Tour of the Lenfest Center…

Natural Lands Spring/Summer 2013 - 1 June 2013

Chester Co. Hobbit House Belongs to Lifelong Tolkien Fan

NBC 10 Philadelphia - 14 December 2012

Okie Inspired

New Old House - 1 April 2009

Starry Night Farm

New Old House - 1 January 2008

Small Comfort

Period Homes - 1 July 2007

Built to Last

Period Homes - 1 January 2007

Pure and Simple

Period Homes - 1 November 2009

Fluid Forms

Period Homes - 1 September 2006

Equestrian Lifestyle

Period Homes - 1 May 2013

Palladio Through the Years

Period Homes - 1 January 2011

A Place in the Sun

Period Homes
 - 1 March 2006


Stable R&R

Period Homes
 - 1 July 2005

Great Expectations

Philadelphia - 1 June 2009

Making New Look Old

Philadelphia Business Journal - 8 June 2007

Finding an Architect

Philadelphia Home & Garden - 1 January 2007

Cool Rooms

Philadelphia Home & Garden 
 - 1 October 2003

Safe Harbor

Philadelphia Home & Garden 
 - 1 June 2006

Come Along To See Their Party Barns

Philadelphia Inquirer - 24 May 2014

A Newfangled, Old-Fashioned Mash Up

Philadelphia Inquirer - 6 July 2013

Decorator unleashes the potential of her own home

Philadelphia Inquirer - 24 July 2011

Born to Love Barns

Philadelphia Inquirer - 24 June 2011

Jawdropper of the Week: Nirvana in Devon for $8M

Philadelphia Magazine - 9 February 2017

The Stunning New Farmhouse on Historic Ardrossan Estate

PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE - 14 June 2017

Back to the barn

Philadelphia Style - 1 November 2007

Archer & Buchanan Student Activities Center Opens

Press Release - 1 October 2012

Christian Activities Building

Press Release - 1 May 2009

Wister Center Wins GOLD

Press Release - 1 November 2010

Archer & Buchanan Names New Senior Associate

Press Release - 1 August 2012

Archer & Buchanan Projects Win National Awards

Press Release - 1 November 2013

Archer & Buchanan Bring on New Principal

Press Release - 1 June 2012

New Life for Water Works Building

Press Release - 1 November 2011

Archer & Buchanan Receives Best of Houzz 2014 Award

Press Release - 4 February 2014

Archer & Buchanan Receives 2014 Palladio Award

Press Release - 10 March 2014

Archer & Buchanan’s Land Preserve Wins Design Award

Press Release - 23 September 2013

Architectural Portfolio "Outstanding Designs"

Press Release - 1 November 2008

Archer & Buchanan Architecture Wins First Outstanding Firm Award

Society of American Registered Architects, Pennsylvania Council honors firm and new project - 30 November 2015

Remaking History

Suburban Life - 1 March 2012

Big Building Projects at Grove City College

The Business Journal - 9 February 2011

The Custom Home - Five Trends to Watch

The Hunt - 1 December 2012

Down on the Farm

The Hunt - 1 April 2008

The Custom Home: Five Trends to Watch

The Hunt Magazine - 1 December 2013

Hillandale Farm Provides an Oasis for Empty Nesters

The Hunt Magazine - 12 August 2016

Lenfest Center Opens at the ChesLen Preserve

The Hunt Magazine - 22 July 2013

Modernizing an 18th Century Farmhouse

The Hunt Magazine - 20 June 2017

A Barn For all Reasons-- Especially Parties

The Hunt Magazine - 4 May 2016

Hillandale Farm Provides an Oasis for Empty Nesters

The Hunt Magazine - 12 August 2016

Giving Antique Objects a Second Chance

The Hunt Magazine - 19 January 2017

The Wister Education Center and Greenhouse

The Journal of Green Building - 1 April 2010

Pet Projects

The Philadelphia Inquirer - 11 December 2015

A 'modest proposal' could save Eastern's log cabin

The Suburban and Wayne Times - 13 March 2008

Stars Align to Spotlight Preserve’s Latest Addition

The Unionville Times - 18 June 2013

Complementing History

Traditional Building Magazine - 23 June 2014

Planting Ideas

Traditional Building
 - 1 October 2010

All-Around Adaption

Untacked Magazine - 4 May 2015

Happy Days

Veranda - 1 January 2013

Loading tweets...