Open Elegance in Rogers Park
Thoughtful design principles harness
create space without sprawl
Story by Mara Severin • Photography by Chugach Peaks Photography
Rogers Park, one of Anchorage's most established neighborhoods, has an authentic and old-fashioned feeling. A cozy pocket of well-tended and traditional homes, it is pleasantly bustling with walkers, bikers and gardeners. So entering the home of Amy Hunt and Robert Bezek is a little bit like being let in on a secret. One is unprepared for the hushed feeling of privacy and serenity – of airiness and space.
Robert F Bezek
Alaska Premier Closets, LLC
Greg Straud, Anchorage Custom Powder Coating and H and H Finishing
Moore Heating & Air Conditioning
Alaska Architectural Lighting
Johnny Grey/Kevin Hackett
Marble, Alaska Marble & Granite; Concrete, Milestone Concrete & Design Kitchen
Cork, Classic Floors
Allen & Petersen
Major Material Suppliers
Spenard Builders Supply; Uresco; Stusser Electric Company
Master Bathroom Cabinetry
Keith Simmons, Nowka's Custom Carpentry
Polished Concrete Floors
Restoration Plus / Concrete Polishing & Artistic Staining of Alaska
Stainless Steel Handrails
Handrail Design, Inc.
"You have to be inside the house to understand it," says Amy.
Emphasizing the verticality
Though the home's footprint is modest, a dramatic feeling of air, light and space takes you by surprise, almost makes you catch your breath, when you walk in.
A huge expanse of windows along the back of the house reveals a spacious and tranquil Asian garden in a dramatic, almost cinematic way. Sleek hardwood floors and richly toned wood fixtures reflect the sun and give the home an ephemeral glow.
A 35-foot gabled peak towers above, startlingly high. Further emphasizing the verticality of the house is the elevator shaft that rises up through its middle. Its entire height can be viewed throughout the house. A cleverly placed glass panel inlaid into the second floor keeps it visually contiguous.
"Spatial volume provides psychological relief in the winter," explains Robert, who is the home's architect and its resident.
Rainy days, cranes and 1,508 galvanized bolts
While the house may feel airy and light, the two trusses that create the effect are anything but.
Finding someone to manufacture the trusses (which, by the way, boast 1,508 bolts) was difficult. "You can't buy them at Wal-Mart," says Robert with a laugh. A friend at Robinson Millwork had long been trying to get the couple to purchase Windsor windows for their home. Ultimately, he said: "You buy my windows and I'll build your trusses." They did the work at the workshop on King Street. "We had to put up a tent to keep the rain off," he says. "It was a rainy year. A very rainy year." The trusses were then trailered to the site in two pieces. The top plates joined the two halves in the backyard, and then a 50-foot crane was used to install them. "It was quite a trick," recalls Robert.
Seeing the forest for the trees
"The lighting changes all day long with the sun," says Robert, providing unexpected effects in and on the house. Crystals of an ornate chandelier capture the sun coming through high windows in the dining room, he says, making "stars" appear on the ceiling. "That was a happening," he says. "There was no way I could have planned that."
And while the play of light and the angles of the house are complex, Robert insists that the fundamentals of the house are quite simple. "Essentially the house is two boxes," he says. "That's all it is – two gables, one perpendicular to the other. And so in working with the functional design," he adds, "I recognized the simplicity and developed the structure based on the two forms." Amy jumps in: "With a lot of psychological consideration for the lot, the trees and the outdoors," she says. "All of those things that I call 'chi.' He really wanted to have a relationship with the trees and the outdoors."
Robert's relationship with the trees is clearly very personal. From anywhere in the house, he can point out a tree on the lot as if pointing out an old friend. A mature blue spruce is perfectly framed in the windows of the landing of the stairs – a sight even more enchanting when it's laced with Christmas lights. Four more steps up bring you within view of a trio of birch trees. "Some of these sights are by accident, and some are by design," he says.
Intimate entertaining and family festivities
An area of the house that is anything but an accident, and most emphatically by design, is the kitchen – by a renowned international kitchen designer. "It's a signature kitchen," says Robert. "The style of the kitchen really is Johnny Grey. It's a strong expression." The egg-shaped island, the curved cabinetry, and the intricate and layered use of rare and beautiful woods – ribbon maple, walnut, olive burl, waterfall bubinga – are Johnny Grey trademarks.
Robert credits Kevin Hackett, the kitchen's architect, for much of the beauty of the kitchen. "He is really a design talent," he says. "Kevin had the sculptural touch."
Framing in the kitchen is a dramatic glass bar made from recycled glass. "A significant achievement in casting molten material all at once," remarks Robert. The effect is of sea glass with dramatic undulations creating comfortable nooks for three bar chairs along one side. With a spot for the cook on the other side, it's the perfect configuration for an intimate dinner for four.
The dining room is slightly set apart, and slightly more formal, yet extremely inviting. Minimal and elegant, the eclectic highlight is an ornately carved reproduction of a Chippendale chair (which boasts the unique provenance of having once been owned by Sydney Lawrence's art teacher). It lends a fun sense of ceremony to the room. "It's the chair of honor," explains Amy. "This is where you sit if it's your birthday or if you're an honored guest. The grandkids all love it."
Along the back wall of the room is a bay window which was originally designed as a place to put centerpieces (including an elaborate Christmas village complete with train) but also serves as a cozy place to indulge in some people-watching. "It's the Norman Rockwell part of the house," says Amy with a laugh.
The delight is in the details
Clearly, it's a house with a strong philosophical bent. But it's the lovely and loving details that make it a home and not an idea. Like the graceful painting of cranes that grace cabinet doors in the kitchen. Or the rose quartz, turquoise and lapis stones that Robert had laid into the polished concrete as a surprise for Amy. Or the cunning birdhouse built into the peak of an outside gable (the birdhouse found residents right away – a pair of smart swallows).
Amy sums it up succinctly: "It's a joy and a piece of art, and I thank my husband all the time."