A Glass House on the Water
How architects and builders solved the challenge of crafting a structurally sound glass house.
How a design-build couple conquered a challenging site to build a seaside jewel.
Picture a quintessential Massachusetts seaside town. It’s probably salty breezes fluttering through nautical flags. Or waves splashing along a beach or craggy coastline. Sailboats gliding out for a day cruise. Or fishing boats chugging out for their catch.
Now picture trying to build a house near this same town. Not just any house, a 40-foot-tall, three-floor, single-family home, on a narrow strip of land nestled between the north end of Cape Cod Bay and an expansive marsh. If you can picture this build process, you have an idea of the challenges, and opportunities, that PJ and Lizzy Antonik, the husband-and-wife team behind Oak Development & Design, faced with their project.
Getting the site ready for construction was a classic addition by subtraction situation, as the parcel of land came complete with crumbling, far-from-FEMA-compliant buildings.
“First off, the site had a lot of really poorly built buildings that were not good for the environment. And in the flood zone,” said PJ, Oak’s founder and CEO. “There was a ton of stuff there. We took something like 4 dumpsters of stuff off the lot.”
It was a Herculean effort just to complete the teardowns, except in this case Hercules had an excavator.
“Just the cleanup alone was a lot of work,” PJ said with a sigh. “And then taking them down, and getting through Conservation.”
Ah, yes. Conservation. Then, there were the permits.
“We had special permits with the health department, special permits with Building, Planning & Zoning, Conservation, Historic,” PJ said. “And then we had to hit the FEMA flood guidelines, in a wind zone.”
To be able to build on this striking-but-logistically-challenging property there was only one way to go: Up. To raise the house above the FEMA-mandated floodplain, the house couldn’t be built on a traditional foundation, but upon multiple pylons driven 10 feet into the ground. It was from there that the house began to take shape. And from where the Antoniks’ vision of what could be finally came to life.
“The whole back side of the house is this gorgeous, uninterrupted view of the marsh,” said Lizzy, Oak’s lead designer “So, we designed the home in a way that draws you toward the back of the house. “The kitchen faces the marsh, with all windows on that wall. There’s a big sliding door in the living room, and then the same thing as you go up the three floors. As you walk through, you see that it's all windows facing the back.”
The extensive glass wasn’t the only design choice that enhanced the property’s list of you-have-to-see-this features. There was one addition that Lizzy was especially proud of. And when it’s three stories in the air, it’s easy to see why:
“We decided to put a roof deck on this house. It has gorgeous views of both the ocean and the marsh.”
Views, breezes, and an ease to get in touch with nature is a trend the Antoniks see throughout their projects. And windows, like the Marvin Elevate collection that they used in the project, play an outsized role in that pursuit.
“I think windows and doors have become an even more important element in the home as we've gone through the last couple of years,” Lizzy said. “Bringing the outside in and feeling a more elevated quality of life is what I'm seeing as a trend moving forward.”
She continued, “So bigger windows, more windows, bigger doors, that indoor-outdoor living sense. Even here on the East Coast, that has become something that people really desire to do.”
Making sure the design language of the home stayed true to its picturesque seaside surroundings and captivating coastal charm was high on the Antoniks’ list. In a region of the country where homes often proudly display placards of their build dates, with a fair number boasting a year in the 1700s, they were careful to make sure the home respected the historical significance of the area, while not necessarily completely blending in.
“It’s a very historic community and being from the East Coast, there's lots of history here,” Lizzy said. “So, I think wanting to always keep some of that in the aesthetic of our designs is important because you don't want to stick out too much. But we also want to stand out enough that people notice our projects.”