Belmont, MA, USA – Charles Rose Architects

Project Year :     2004

Photographs :     John Edward Linden Photography


A vinyl-clad Colonial structure used to sit at the site where the Copper House currently stands. After a major addition and renovation project, the “house within a house” caught the attention of the architectural world because of its design – the old house is now inside a cedar box finished with glass and copper.

Charles Rose, the homeowner-slash-architect, describes his work as “very sculptural and cinematic and relies on movement through space and form.” The big-wigs at Warner Bros apparently agree as they chose the home as the setting for Robert Downey Jr.’s movie, The Judge.

The house features added glass and steel stairways, three decks, and a three-story atrium which boasts of six skylights. It seems like no stone was left unturned while working on this large home.

Notes from the Architect:

Charles Rose Architects rarely work on renovations. In this case, the original house was a Colonial box with vinyl siding; it was poorly sited, and a garage cut it off from a spacious yard. Yet it had charm: cozy rooms, a downstairs bedroom suite, and ample usable space. The project called for—in essence—adding a house to the existing house, and the complexity and challenge proved too hard to resist.

Our design created a slot for the addition by demolishing the garage and using surplus driveway space. This move anchored the new house in the landscape while ensuring that it wouldn’t eat up valuable green space, despite its large scale. The most challenging aspect was one of fit: by style and scale. Stylistically, we were marrying a modern glass and copper house to a Colonial. Moreover, integration was daunting: the high-ceilings and open volumes of the planned addition did not align with the Colonial’s tighter and more compressed spaces.

To confront the central challenge—of stitching together old and new—we used strategies that both hid and heightened transitions. Outside, we put a new wrapper on the Colonial: a cedar box. We kept practically everything as it was: window frames became sculptural indentations; old panes were replaced with single sheets of glass. Inside, we put a three-story atrium, topped by six large skylights – where old and new meet. We made this the formal entryway: The front door leads visitors into a small vestibule that opens into the atrium. A steel-and-glass stair climbs from the stone atrium floor to upper level of the addition. A second sculptural stair—a steel-and-glass bridge—crosses the atrium and links the second floors in the addition and the Colonial, heightening the contrast. A curtain wall of glass runs the length of the kitchen and living spaces, bringing the outdoors inside. The plan is open; the ground-floor stair, granite dining room server and bluestone fireplace are designed to delineate room areas.

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Exterior View :

Interior View :

Drawing View :

If you think Copper House is amazing, wait until you read about this Modern Chalet in Madrid.