WESTPORT, Conn. – Architect Rita Eng was skeptical her Westport client, Rob Jackson, would like her plans for a small beach bungalow he had purchased on Promised Road.
To her surprise, Jackson was immediately sold. And when Superstorm Sandy threw a haymaker at Jackson’s home before it was completely finished, he knew he made the right decision to tear down the existing structure and build a new home with Eng’s blueprint.
“We went up 12 feet above the flood plain, and that saved me,’’ Jackson said. “Many homes in this area are not anywhere near that. A lot of people had their mechanicals ruined. I felt vindicated, the design and the construction had done what it was supposed to do.”
Jackson found the home in the Saugatuck Shores section of Westport in 2008. He decided to buy it in 2009, and with the housing market depressed, purchased it for a Westport bargain price of $310,000. The home was 624 square feet, but the furnace took up space in the kitchen and living room and the structure was just seven feet above the flood plain.
“I had to raise the house five feet just to meet the flood plain regulation, so that's when I started talking about building a new house,’’ Jackson said. “I had always been a traditional home guy. But a new, modern home made a lot of sense.”
Jackson had the existing structure demolished, and Eng presented her plan. Builder Jeff Hart built a new home with 1,300 square feet, more than double the living space of the former structure. It now includes three bedrooms and two baths.
The distinguishing characteristics of the house, however, are a second floor, which is designed to be like a loft, and a roof deck that overlooks the Saugatuck River. Jackson, who had minor construction experience, also helped design the new home. “The second floor has windows on three sides and great views,’’ Jackson said. “The roof deck is amazing. It feels like you’re in the sky. It’s just so beautiful.”
Jackson said Eng worried he might find the home too modern. “I loved it immediately,’’ he said. “It perfectly suited my desires. It was a great match to the site and it fit in well with the neighborhood.”
Sandy struck just days before the home was completed. Jackson was in Utah when the storm hit, and a friend said “water was pouring down the street like it was coming out of a garden hose.” Jackson’s home survived without damage. “My neighbor sent me a picture of seaweed clinging eight inches below my door,’’ he said. “I was incredibly lucky. A lot of homes sustained serious damage.”
Jackson looks back now and realizes the project was necessary, and worthwhile. “I feel blessed that I have such a beautiful house and live in such a fantastic neighborhood so close to the water,’’ he said. “It’s everything I hoped for and more.”