The house in Stowe, Vermont is sited at the edge of an elevated meadow embraced by a dense forest and a wide vista to the surrounding mountains. A new road encircles the pond and brings vehicles through the forest to the north side of the house, preserving the open feeling of the meadow surrounding the remaining exposures. As the new road meanders towards the house, the volume of the house is revealed through a series of views, from below, through planned openings between the trees, across the pond and from higher elevations, as the road cuts through the undulating wooded landscape.
An east porch, with its morning light, faces the pond, the dense forest, the vegetable garden and chicken coop with a fenced-in run. A west porch faces the long mountain vistas and endless sky. Large glazed openings permit views through the house and, from within, serve to frame curated views of the landscape including the pond, specific mountains and valleys and the dense forest wall to the north. The house thus acts as a screen mediating between the two primary sides of the site.
The house is tethered to the landscape by a series of sandblasted concrete walls, which also help define exterior spaces. The exterior rain-screen siding, which clads the house, is Alaskan yellow cedar, rendered in grays and browns with an ancient maintenance-free Swedish pine-tar finish that shows natural wood variations with an organic sensibility inspired by the forms and tones present in the surrounding forest.
The ground floor consists of two major spaces – an expansive great room and a family kitchen – connected by a gracious central stair hall. Large sliding glass doors on each side of the hall create a breezeway connecting the east and west porches. The central stair hall is open four stories high, connecting the lower level garage and mudroom, the ground-floor public spaces, the second floor bedrooms, and culminating in a penthouse containing a large South facing clerestory window seen through an ovoid cutout in the ceiling. The second floor hall leads to a small sitting area, with a Dutch freestanding wood-burning oven, and then onto a terrace and extensive green roof beyond. The views from this terrace present, for the first time, the full panoramic expanse of the surrounding landscape.
Radiant floor heating throughout the house, triple-glazed Siberian larch windows and doors, and a Passivhaus-level envelope helps the building to achieve very low energy consumption. A whole-house fan utilizes the cool Vermont air to provide natural ventilation in lieu of air conditioning. A large portion of the roof is planted with a green roof. The owners of the house, who had lived on the property in another house – now demolished – had a chicken coop. A new chicken coop and a vegetable garden were constructed between the upper parking area and the pond. The lovely shape of an egg is ubiquitous where there are chickens, and this appealing shape inspired the curved forms incorporated throughout the house.
The design of this house was inspired by the mandate from the family for a long term home that creates, celebrates and inhabits the inherent unique natural setting. The entry road runs around the pond and through the woods and arrives at a court. This court is bound between the house and chicken coop, which leads to the gently rising stone path to the house. An important objective was to not have a formal entry, but to embrace both the east - the more intimate setting with the pond and forest, and west - with expansive views to the mountains and valleys. The use of a kind of traditional breezeway, in this case internal, connecting the east and west porches reinforces this experience. This idea was the catalyst for celebrating natural light - all major spaces in the house have east, south and west exposures. The daily movement of the sun can be experienced everywhere in the house. The oversized glazed openings provide literal framed views of the landscape as inspired by Libera’s memorable windows in the Villa Malaparte, thus heightening the relationship between architecture and nature. These views have assumed the role of art in the home - no paintings have yet been hung.
The connection between inside and outside is further iterated with materials - exterior granite paving and interior limestone are of similar hues and establish a solidity to the ground floor, white oak ceilings extend from inside to all exterior overhangs allowing continuity of space and light, and all walls in the house are an off-white plaster that helps celebrate the play of natural light warmed by the hues of the floor and ceiling. White oak inserts, natural and smoked, in the great room and the family room help define spaces within the open ground floor plan. The central hall of the house is an important device both functionally and spatially. Any home in Vermont, especially with three children and four dogs, benefits from a mud room. Located on the lower level, the mud room is open to the main hall, which continues up to public space leading to a sitting area with a wood burning stove and access to an exterior terrace. The normal separation between public and private spaces are not present, except in the bedrooms. The stairs connecting these three levels are the same design that, along with the south facing light egg shaped oculus at the top, further clarifies the intent of this vertical spatial experience. The upper level terrace, surrounded by a green roof, is the culmination of experiencing the house and affords open views in all directions.
The use of traditional elements such as a breezeway and a central hall have been reinterpreted to create a rich spatial, light-filled experience inside and out while helping to make active daily use both easy to navigate and inspiring, and in constant communication with the magnificent landscape it occupies.
Guzy Architects has been making good architecture and design for over thirty years. We believe in the essential dialogue between the places we make and how they delight and enrich the lives of people. Guzy Architects explores space and experiences through a disciplined concept-driven process that mines the collective qualities of light, volume, surface, material, procession and ceremony. We are passionate about understanding each site and forging a sense of place. Respect of the land, the influence of our cities and country, and making our environment a better place are primary ideas we hold true. The architecture should be of its time, adaptable to a changing world, and enduring. Our work engages a full spectrum of architecture, landscape, design, furniture, art, and urban and ex-urban design producing unique works with the voices of our skilled collaborators- professional and artisan, architects and designers, and our clients with whom we share the joy of collaboration and creation.