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The Berkshire Edge: A minimalist condo with maximum light

We often referred to this project as the “house of glass” because there is glass everywhere.

Originally published in The Berkshire Edge on May 10, 2024.

Condominiums are tough. When I was just starting out in the Berkshires, one of my earliest jobs was a condo back when condos were not “a thing” here. Obviously, a lot has changed since then. But what hasn’t changed is the limitations of condominiums, and this one was no exception. It was very chopped up, typical late 1980s design. We couldn’t make any structural changes to the exterior, so we had to utilize the space we already had. That included the screened-in porch, which we brought into the square footage of the house, enclosed it, and it became the main living space. Multiple French doors—French doors everywhere, really–and angled windows (all custom, and cut flush with the roof line) opened the space up tremendously. That was one of the main goals our client had. Even when you are inside the living room, you feel like you are outside because of all the glass and light.

In fact, we often referred to this project as the “house of glass” because there is glass everywhere. The windows, the doors, those are the obvious features. But then there is all the glass detail. Tiny, tiny glass tiles in the kitchen, concave and convex glass tiles in the bathroom, plexiglass stairs and glass risers, frosted glass cabinets; no view inside or out is obstructed. In fact, glass is the true “canvas” for our client’s expansive art collection. So expansive, that we catalogued the art before we began the build and afterwards hired someone specifically to hang the art.

Everything is custom built. Everything. Glass shelves are backlit and filled with sculpture and other art. We made light boxes for specific pieces, and when younger, more curious guests would come (the kind who can really do some damage to glass), we designed wooden panels to cover the light boxes…just in case. Every corner of this house is a curation. A vignette that you discover as you wander through. And, of course, the stairs, which are central to the entire space. We’ve started calling them the “Pam stairs,” as they have turned up in subsequent projects. (I am mildly obsessed with stairs. My team and my kids might argue more than mildly.)
During the build, the grandchildren started arriving, and the space needed to take those curious visitors into consideration. And it needed to be fun! The loft area is one of my favorites. Everything is multi-functional. The L-shaped seating area transforms into a bed and the coffee table surface can be flipped over and used as snack trays. There are drawers built into the steps leading up to the loft that are used for extra storage. The office off the first-floor bedroom—the headboard and adjustable lamps as well as the closet behind it all custom—is still called the “baby’s room” even though the babies are all grown up. With our client’s feedback through every step of this project, we were able to achieve a modern space that would allow for growth—with the art, the grandkids, and the changing needs of our client.
Ironically, the more limitations we have, the easier it is to be creative and to allow for a vision to come into focus. Inspiration comes directly from the needs and desires of the client, and the functionality of the space. That’s why I sit and observe my clients in their home. It’s part of the process because with architecture, the end user is always right!

Pamela Sandler Architect is an award-winning architecture firm based in the idyllic Berkshires of Western Massachusetts.

For thirty years, the firm has been creating residential and commercial spaces in Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut. Projects include new construction, restoration, historic preservation and renovation, each created with an eye towards unique design and joyful space. Pam’s designs have appeared in several publications throughout her multifaceted career, and she was an early champion for the use of green building materials and techniques, helping to found the Berkshire chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.

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