Some cities have residential architects whose work becomes legend—Addison Mizner in Palm Beach, Philip Trammell Shutze in Atlanta and Rosario Candela in Manhattan are just three who come to mind. Once this iconic status is established, residential real estate brokers are able to brag “This is a Shutze house” or “This building was designed by Candela.” Not only does the association with a famous architect provide a hint of glamour, it usually adds monetary value to the real estate as well.
Maybe it’s time to start talking about “Charles Hilton Houses” in the Greenwich area. A sumptuous new monograph, entitled Classic Greenwich Houses: Charles Hilton Architects, published by The Monacelli Press, chronicles this designer’s body of work in and around Fairfield County. It firmly establishes Hilton as a prominent practitioner of the New Classicism, an architectural movement begun in the late 1960s as a foil to the then-ubiquitous modernism. The book is also a good read and is richly illustrated.
Hilton’s oeuvre includes both from-the-ground-up new houses and additions and renovations to existing ones. So deft is Hilton’s work that it’s hard to tell which is which—indeed the additions are seamless while adding their own hints of the clever and whimsical. He is not interested in copying verbatim famous houses, explaining in his introduction:
Even in our most classical designs we respect the past without replicating the archetypes of historic houses. Our clients deserve more. They live in the present, and they rely on our creativity and ingenuity to design houses that honor tradition but are fully equipped for the present and the future.
As much as I admire the Georgian work that predominates in the book, I have two personal favorites. One is the French Norman Residence that could be the setting of a fairy tale.
In fact the architect states that he and his clients took a “research trip to France” (quelle vie!) and “found that Marie Antoinette’s hamlet at Versailles could serve as a touchstone for our plans.” Hilton’s medieval French post-and-beam façades are accurately and impressively rendered.
It may be decades before Hilton’s houses in and around Greenwich achieve the iconic fame of Mizner, Shutze and Candela. But in the mean time we have a book that is not only filled with compelling ideas
about traditional design, but is pure eye candy as well. It makes for a nice addition to any design library.