A Chicken Coop Inspired the Design of This Award-Winning Home

May 4, 2023

Text by Robert Kiener    Photography by Erica Allen

When asked what inspired the award-winning design of this island home in northern Vermont, architect Brian Mac doesn’t hesitate when he answers, “A chicken coop.”

A chicken coop? Really?

After a pause and a wide smile, Mac adds, “Yes…and a barn.”Mac explains that, while the multi-gabled home he designed is coolly contemporary, many of its cues come from the classic gambrel barn and gable-roofed chicken coop that are part of a farm adjacent to the new home’s 12.6-acre lot.

“The area is noted for its pastoral farms, and we wanted to use some elements and details of that agrarian design to help this home pay tribute to, and also fit in with, the neighboring landscape,” says Mac. Therefore, he kept the home just one story high and included features such as black-stained vertical cedar siding, a series of forty-eight identical double-hung, two-over-two windows, a standing-seam roof, and four gables with the same pitches.

“We loved Brian’s design because it was so sympathetic to the neighborhood and our lakeside lot while also giving us the low-maintenance, elegantly simple look we were hoping for,” says the owner who, with her husband, is retiring to what she calls “our forever home.”

The home’s gabled structures, or wings, are connected by a corridor. Three bedrooms and a bunk room are located in the wing facing the lake to take full advantage of water views. (The owners plan to eventually build a three-season guest cottage on the lakefront.) Other wings house the kitchen, living, and dining rooms; the garage; and a mudroom and gym.

Mac’s wife, interior designer Brooke Michelsen, worked closely with the owners to create a minimal yet elegant open-plan design that features locally sourced natural materials such as oak, slate, and bluestone. A striking steel fireplace acts as the home’s centerpiece.

“We chose a largely neutral palette and a clean design so as not to conflict with our pristine setting,” says

That setting is extremely important to the homeowners. “We fell in love with this secluded lakefront lot as soon as we saw it,” says the wife. “And Brian and Brooke and the entire team made it even better, giving us the home of our dreams—one that blends perfectly with the landscape. As our visitors continually tell us: ‘This is paradise.’ And we agree!”

Project Team
Architecture: Birdseye
Interior design: Brooke Michelsen Design
Builder: O’Neill Builders
Landscape design: Wagner Hodgson Landscape Architecture

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