Hither Hills House by Bates Masi Architects is a seaside home that provides owners a weekend respite from the city by optimizing its ties to the land and nature. Located in a postwar planned beach community with small lots plotted irrespective of the steep topography, the property lacked a level ground plane suited to the usual flush relationship between a house and its yard.
By nesting the house’s volumes into the hillside and stepping them into six distinct levels, the spaces contained within seamlessly connect to the landscape.
The bulk of the project’s resources are devoted to earthwork and site infrastructure to support this terraced configuration. A series of locally sourced bluestone retaining walls stitch through the site, stepping back with the natural grade and running parallel with the shoreline. These structural walls negotiate the soft, clayey soils and frame the interior and exterior living spaces.
Traditional public and private floor assignments are inverted, lifting primary living spaces above the neighboring rooflines, and opening the retracting glass wall onto the ocean’s views, breezes, and sunlight. Farthest into the site at the top of the hill lies the swimming pool, set on the sole patch of naturally level ground on par with the house’s upper level. A parallel system of interior and exterior circulation sheltered by cantilevers and roof projections facilitates the “upside-down” configuration while promoting connections to the outdoors.
On closer inspection, a refined palette of materials is articulated to enhance the effects of nature and harmonize with the landscape. Outside, the bluestone walls’ joints run vertically, expressive of their insertion into the earth and supportive structural role.
In counterpoint, naturally-weathered horizontal mahogany decking spans between the stone walls and alternates as a covering for the roofs, walls, floors, and ceilings of the inhabited spaces. Inside, oak louvers on canvas hinges under an oversized skylight sway in the ocean breezes, casting dynamic patterns of light and providing cooling shade much like a tree’s canopy.
An elongated variant of the same louvers forms a chandelier of sorts under lighting at the dining room table. Lightweight curtains lining openings to the outside activate similarly under the effects of natural light and air, rendering the intangible tangible.
By integrating the house with its terrain and animating its details to enhance appreciation of the environment, this carefully positioned and developed design provides a vibrant sensory immersion in nature on a challenging site. For owners and visitors alike a stay in the Hither Hills House is both rejuvenating and enriching.