This series is presented by Marvin. We selected this home because its inspired daylighting scheme nurtures connection with the outdoors, and it shares a focus on well-being with Marvin’s new Awaken Skylight and Skycove.
Vermont’s Mad River Valley is quite a ways from Manhattan—and that’s exactly what attracted the owners of this shou sugi ban summer home. Seeking a respite from the stimulation of the city, the couple spent long weekends, then multiple weeks at a time, decompressing among the red barns, covered bridges, and country roads, and eating American flatbread pizza at Lareau Farm. "When we got up there, we just breathed differently," the husband says. "Those trips made us feel like we had inner Vermonters in us."
Eventually, the couple got married, had twin girls, and moved to Austin before the arrival of a baby boy, making trips to the Green Mountain State a challenge. "The circumstances tested our affection for Vermont," the husband says. "We had to decide if it would remain our happy escape." Ultimately, they opted to go all-in.
The couple purchased six acres on a mountain and hired Bristol-based architect Elizabeth Herrmann to design a family getaway. "It was a lovefest from the first conversation," the husband says. Herrmann concurs: "We had similar ways of looking at things. It was as though I was designing a house for myself."
The husband describes their vision as "a modern barn with a lot of negative space, steel, and big windows." He concedes that nobody will mistake the home for a farmhouse, but that the shapes are very familiar to the region. Indeed, Herrmann’s design comprises a trio of gabled volumes. The primary bedroom suite, set perpendicular to the others at the right of the slate-tiled entry, occupies the smallest volume, and the cathedral-ceilinged living room pushes out on the left side of the home’s main, two-story volume.
The couple carefully weighed having enough space for the children and dogs to hop, skip, and jump—and for family and friends to visit comfortably—with not being wasteful. "At every step, we asked ourselves, ‘Do we need it, and will we use it?’" the husband says. While the house clocks in at 5,000 square feet, the front facade is not at all overwhelming, thanks it being tucked into the hillside. This also allowed for a sun-filled lower level with sliders to the grassy backyard.
In creating what she describes as "light, open spaces with easy access to the outdoors and minimal fuss," Herrmann employed pared-down color and material palettes with subtle textures indoors and out. "The house only has four major notes," the husband says, referring to the charred and wire-brushed Japanese cypress exterior siding; black steel windows, rails, stair; white oak cabinetry and doors; and hemlock ceiling slats. "We constantly removed ideas to get as little design as possible."
Still, there are flourishes. In addition to the hemlock-slatted acoustic ceiling, Herrmann designed a two-flight, steel staircase with chunky, white oak treads and rails with a rhythmic, non-repeating pattern of balusters. She likens the dynamic pattern to "the shifting geometry you’d see in a natural environment, like grasses blowing in the breeze." The feature is repeated on the rails of the concrete slab terrace that wraps the living room, as well as on the rail of the second-floor, bedroom suite balcony.
Magnificent mountain views and woodsy scenes are framed by oversize steel windows. "Each room has a unique relationship to the landscape with its own set of views that ensure you never forget where you are," says Herrmann, who strives for multiple perspectives from every room. "The black windows turn the views into framed pieces of art."
In some places, such as the vestibule, windows offer a peek through the house. In others, such as at the foot of the stair, the giant picture window looks to the hillside, offering a moment of stillness. The dining room, perfectly proportioned for seating eight, is essentially a diorama with two walls of floor-to-ceiling glass dramatically oriented to the mountains. And in the kitchen, the gorgeously spare woodwork and metalwork, is "meant to disappear," according to the husband, who adds, "It’s all eyes on the mountain."
After a year of overseeing the process virtually—they only visited twice, once when the foundation was under six feet of snow—the husband notes that it was breathtaking to walk in last summer and see that everything they’d planned had been delivered seamlessly: "It was what we dreamed of, come to life."
Architect: Elizabeth Herrmann / @eh_architect
Builder: Red House Inc. / @redhousebuilding
Structural Engineer: Artisan Engineering
Civil Engineer: McCain Consulting
Cabinetmaker: Pomerantz Cabinetry / @pomerantz_cabinetry
Steel Fabrication: Flywheel Industrial Arts / @flywheelindustrialarts
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