A Mini-Home With Mega-Views

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By Jenny Xie / Published by Dwell
At just 430 square feet, an artist's retreat takes advantage of the surrounding scenery to define interior spaces without confining the homeowner.

At times, the success of a small space project can depend too much on its utilitarian features, resourceful though they might be. When an artist asked architect Elizabeth Herrmann to build a house that was beautiful, compact, and energy-efficient—all on a tight budget—Herrmann took it as an opportunity to elevate the conversation around tiny homes. The result is Micro House, a 430-square-foot dwelling perched on a sloping meadow with views of Vermont’s iconic Camel’s Hump peak. The residence feels spacious despite its modest footprint and offers variety in its arrangement of space and strategic framing of views—achievements that named Micro House the winner of Marvin Windows and Doors’ Architects Challenge in the contemporary category.

A Mini-Home With Mega-Views - Photo 1 of 4 - A cutaway in the structure's cubic shape forms a front porch, where a graphic yellow door welcomes visitors. The roof slopes downwards, holding more intimate spaces at its lower end.  

A cutaway in the structure's cubic shape forms a front porch, where a graphic yellow door welcomes visitors. The roof slopes downwards, holding more intimate spaces at its lower end.  

Though the open floor plan doesn’t have rooms in the traditional sense, Herrmann used deliberate window sizing and placement to punctuate space without sacrificing flow. By framing specific views, she infused each area with a focal point while providing light and ventilation. "I love the range of window sizes that Marvin offers," says Herrmann. "I like to really fine-tune window sizes, so it meant a lot to be able to find exactly the right sized windows for this home."

A Mini-Home With Mega-Views - Photo 2 of 4 - A large picture window allows Camel's Hump to hang above the kitchen/work table like a painting. "One of the reasons I love using Marvin is I get great support here in Vermont," says Herrmann. "Marvin does a great job in helping me through a lot of special details, mixing custom things with off-the-shelf windows; we feel like we can push the boundaries."

A large picture window allows Camel's Hump to hang above the kitchen/work table like a painting. "One of the reasons I love using Marvin is I get great support here in Vermont," says Herrmann. "Marvin does a great job in helping me through a lot of special details, mixing custom things with off-the-shelf windows; we feel like we can push the boundaries."

A Clad Ultimate Casement Picture Window at the heart of the home features a dramatic view of the Camel’s Hump and the Green Mountains. Other vertical casement windows and horizontal awning windows help orient the "rooms" and provide a meditative connection to the site and the overall landscape. Awning windows in the kitchen, for example, usher in views and the mountain breeze while long, narrow windows above the beds impart a sense of the forest’s vast scale.

A Mini-Home With Mega-Views - Photo 3 of 4 - A pine interior subtly frames each window opening to accentuate views without obstructing them. The light material palette in the home contributes to a sense of airiness. Local maple planks on the floor have been cut to shorter lengths and laid perpendicular to the view, giving it a fluid effect. A camouflaged hatch door leads to the basement level, which acts as a storage and laundry area. 

A pine interior subtly frames each window opening to accentuate views without obstructing them. The light material palette in the home contributes to a sense of airiness. Local maple planks on the floor have been cut to shorter lengths and laid perpendicular to the view, giving it a fluid effect. A camouflaged hatch door leads to the basement level, which acts as a storage and laundry area. 

Responding to the severe winters of Vermont, the large picture window is outfitted with Lo-E 272 argon-filled glass with a low U-factor—meaning better insulation and thermal performance. "Energy efficiency plays an important role in a small space, especially with windows as big as the picture window," says Herrmann. "Vermont winters are long and deep, so comfort is a big deal. A big window in a small space that isn’t efficient can make it feel doubly uncomfortable."

A Mini-Home With Mega-Views - Photo 4 of 4 - Built to stay cozy through all kinds of weather, Micro House has a gray-stained, cedar rain screen in addition to Lo-E glass. At a diagonal from the front porch, another subtracted corner makes space for a sleeping loft.

Built to stay cozy through all kinds of weather, Micro House has a gray-stained, cedar rain screen in addition to Lo-E glass. At a diagonal from the front porch, another subtracted corner makes space for a sleeping loft.

"Vermont winters are long and deep, so comfort is a big deal." -Herrmann

Micro House has the flavor of a cabin in the woods, but its contemporary and innovative shape belies the rustic inspiration. Herrmann carved out one corner of the building for a sleeping loft and another for a front porch, and the roof slopes to enclose more private spaces—like the bathroom and sleeping area—at the lower end. With so much care put into defining spaces and creating a fluid experience within the home, it’s no wonder that Herrmann chose a window manufacturer with the same level of virtuosity: "One of the things that impresses me about Marvin is their broad range of capabilities. They can group big windows together. They can build staggeringly huge windows. They have the flexibility that a lot of other companies don’t have to realize these special designs. Basically, if I can come up with it, they’ll make it happen."