Architect Norman Askins designs a Tudor revival home for a modern family


With its asymmetrical storybook appearance, Tudor architecture is one of the most beloved styles throughout history. Prevalent in England during the late 15th and early 16th centuries, the style is characterized by distinctive features that blend medieval and Renaissance elements, such as steeply pitched roofs and gabled ends with intricately carved bargeboards or facias. Windows are another prominent aspect, often with multiple small panes set within leaded frames, while grand entranceways are adorned with ornate doorways.

The Tudor style enjoyed a significant revival in the 1920s. However, its exterior beauty rarely carried to the inside. As for functionality, forget about it. Homes built during this era typically had small, compartmentalized rooms, kitchens were an afterthought, and entertaining at home was rare so family spaces were also small.

“In the 1920s, Tudor was popular all over America, but you were lucky to have a coat or broom closet,” says architect Norman Askins. “There was no back of the house; it would be rare to have a pantry or butler’s pantry, and no storage.”

As an expert in classical architecture, Askins should know. In addition to holding degrees in architecture and architectural history, he has served as architect and architectural historian at The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, redesigned interiors for the Executive Office Wing of the White House, and he worked with the nation’s largest preservation and restoration architecture firm. In 2022, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art.

Askins, along with project architect Geoffrey Yovanovic, is also the architect who designed the house we’re about to see. Built by Patrick Davey of Davey Construction with interiors by Kay Douglass, this is a 4,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath Tudor-style family home that seamlessly blends the best classical design with modern living. “The home is in an old neighborhood with wonderful houses all around it, so we had a responsibility to do something strong and correct,” Askins says.

For the architects, the goal was to preserve the charm and character of Tudor architecture while fusing historical elegance with modern functionality. Because there’s no classic layout for the interiors of a Tudor home, the possibilities were unlimited. Built for a couple and their two sons, the clients wanted a big kitchen and room to entertain, a big backyard where the boys could play lacrosse, and a large, finished basement where they could entertain themselves and their friends.

“My clients wanted a clean, contemporary aesthetic but didn’t want the same old thing. They wanted something fresh and interesting, bright and fun to live in. They didn’t want it to be intimidating or overwhelming. Even though it has high ceilings and white walls, it’s still a real house for real people. We came up with clever nods to traditional details; they’re subtle, and you’d hardly notice, but they’re there,” Askins says.

The front elevation has two symmetrical sections topped by gables and connected in the middle by an arched front porch in the Tudor style. On the right, a thick limestone foundation supports a bay window. To the left, the primary bedroom wing is inset and topped with a steep roofline and single dormer. Elegant masonry and stonework are hallmarks of the Tudor style, so Askins used traditional clinker bricks, even though they’re incredibly hard to find these days, and Davey chiseled the edges of the slate tiles on the roof to make them look old.

For interior architecture, Askins bucked trends. “I know that everyone is traveling now, and they want their houses to feel like the last boutique hotel they stayed in. What’s worse than that? It’s a fantasy. You want a home that’s cozy and embraces you. You’ll never be happy in a house that doesn’t make you feel good. Stick with classical, and you’ll be happy,” he says.

Through the traditional panel door adorned by studs, the entry is a testament to the builder’s precision and expertise. Two barrel vaults intersecting at right angles form the plaster groin vault ceiling. The result is four curving surfaces that draw the eye up and toward the center. To the left of the entry is a library with fumed oak paneling and a distinctive coffered ceiling that the family uses as a living space. “This room was so easy to furnish because the architecture spoke for itself,” Douglass says.

Here and throughout the home, the designer chose blue tones accented with neutrals and patterns with rounded shapes. “The boldness of color against Norman’s architecture is striking against the wood. We tried to make it seamless; we didn’t want a museum look,” she says.

To the right of the entry is the dining room. There are two nooks here, and Douglass says she knew right away she wanted to build something soft and comfortable so there would be multiple uses for the room. “It’s a great place to sit with a cocktail,” she says.

Beyond the dining room is a hall with a grand stairway to the left that opens into an expansive living room with a bespoke limestone fireplace and bay window overlooking the terrace. “We wanted this room to be comfortable and useable, and for me as a designer, the architecture is incredible with the most beautiful moldings,” Douglass says.

Through two thick arches to the right of the living room is a kitchen with an island and breakfast nook overlooking the summer porch. “The kitchen is so functional because it has so many bells and whistles, like the Sub-Zero drawers on the end of the island,” Douglass says. “But it looks so clean because everything is behind doors.”

The homeowner’s bedroom suite is in the part of the house that is slightly inset from the front facade. Accessed through a set of double doors in the library, a hall leads to the bedroom that faces the terrace, with a bathroom in the middle and his-and-her closets at the front of the house. The designer chose neutral tones for a serene mood. “The green is the star of the show here because it’s fresh, and it’s a bit of a surprise,” she says. The homeowner’s bathroom is right-sized and practical, with beautiful textures. “The bathroom is a great example of how a room doesn’t have to be huge to be successful,” Douglass adds.

At the rear of the house, a four-car garage runs nearly the length of the backyard. Behind the garage is a large sports yard with a firepit at the end. The second floor of the garage is a guesthouse accessed by a back stairway.

On the home’s second floor, each of the boys has an expansive bedroom with an en suite bathroom. There is a shared room separating the two bedrooms. Toward the back of the home is a guest room and office with a full bath separated by a laundry.

For Davey, building the home was an enjoyable challenge. “This is one of my favorite jobs,” he says. “I remember we all met at my office and selected all of the exterior finishes in an hour. We never looked back, and they worked flawlessly. It was a fantastic project because of all the synergy with the whole team. Norman, Kay and the clients worked seamlessly together.”

The project was also a favorite for Douglass. “Norman is an iconic architect. It was a dream come true to work with him,” she says. “Clients get the best product when they trust the team. And they did because they guided us but let us do our thing.”

For Askins, designing a home that will stand the test of time is essential. “My clients are almost empty nesters, and they can stay in the house forever because it feels good for two people,” he says. “The first floor is a one-bedroom house, but it can grow to four bedrooms with a guesthouse over the garage. When your children leave home, walking past empty bedrooms is so depressing. We planned it so you still feel good in the house when there aren’t a lot of people. For grandchildren, it will be the greatest house in the world because it has a lot of mystery to it.

“We had the most fabulous team. Patrick Davey is a dream; he’s so good, and he just gets it. Kay is fantastic; she understands things from the architect’s point of view, which is incredible to have in an interior designer. It was the perfect marriage of talent to give the clients what they really wanted.” *

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