Japanese Inspired Architecture in Vermont

December 20, 2022

Japan meets New England in this tranquil Vermont home where pine makes a big impact.

Text by Kathryn O’Shea-Evans    Photography by Jim Westphalen

The mountains of Japan are dotted with treasures: serene ryokan (inns) here, steamy onsen (hot springs) there. Vermont may be nearly 7,000 miles away, but it shares a certain magic with the land of the rising sun. Why not combine the best of both worlds? That’s exactly what these California transplants—she’s originally from Vermont, he’s from Hawaii and has Japanese ancestry—asked for when it came to their new primary residence in the verdant
Champlain Valley. “When they came to me, they said, ‘Can you do a Japan-meets-Vermont house?’ ” recalls architect Elizabeth Herrmann. “I don’t think any of us quite knew what that meant.” But the design team nailed it.

“We pulled from Japanese influences, like an affinity for the land and trying to get the house to really fit on site and integrate nicely with the landscape,” Herrmann says. Deep overhangs, hipped roofs, and shou sugi ban—an ancient Japanese charring technique that has a no-maintenance, natural finish—cypress siding add to the effect. “We were careful to preserve as many trees as we could and work with the natural ledge outcroppings,” says builder Chris Quinn of Red House.

Inside, salvaged heart-pine flooring with plentiful patina and locally sourced pine millwork create an enveloping woodsy feel. “Pine is not considered a fancy material, but the flooring was extremely well crafted—and locally harvested,” Quinn says. “We also used a custom pine veneer on the Topakustik ceilings, a sound-absorbing wood out of Switzerland.” The latter helps create a quiet environment in a home with a lot of hard surfaces—and it actually works. “It’s not a gimmick. We’ve used it in a number of projects, and it’s extremely effective,” Quinn notes. “These are people who like to have dinner parties routinely, so it’s important to be cognizant of how the house is going to perform.”

One of the home’s most unforgettable touches is the front door—the definition of making an entrance. Custom fabricated at a local workshop, Stark Mountain Woodworking, it was made from one of the property’s felled spalted-maple trees. Call it a warm welcome…in any country.

Project Team
Architecture and interior design: Elizabeth Herrmann Architecture + Design
Builder: Red House
Landscape design: Rocky Dale Gardens

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