Step inside a Vermont Natatorium
November 15, 2023
A stunning Vermont natatorium checks all the boxes for solitude and socializing, craftsmanship and creature comforts.
Text by Lisa H. Speidel Photography by Rob Karosis
“It’s an indoor swimming pool on a mountain!” proclaims architect Pi Smith, principal of Smith & Vansant. “And it has the best views on the site.” The cool factor
certainly is not lost on the architects who designed this natatorium in Woodstock, Vermont. Nor should it be.
In short, the project, overseen by Smith and Stephen J. Branchflower, is a feat of design and engineering ingenuity. “We went to the nth degree for everything,” says Branchflower.
Take the design. In deference to the homeowner’s affinity for McKim, Mead & White’s work, the architects imagined a Shingle-style exterior that nestles seamlessly into its natural surroundings but also complements the residence, which sits a couple hundred feet away, down a meandering forty-foot slope marked by stone steps.
Expansive twenty-four-foot-wide-by-eleven-foot-tall steel bifold doors open to reveal an oasis suited to both quiet relaxation and large gatherings of friends and family. “It’s a social space,” says Smith, “but the homeowner also wanted this cozy aspect to it.” The pool, which boasts sweeping views of Mount Ascutney, takes all of this into consideration with a lap lane, kiddie area, spa, and oversized steps for sitting and soaking.
Just beyond the pool is an inviting octagonal inglenook with banquette seating (“one of the more complicated built-ins we’ve done,” notes Branchflower) and a stone fireplace. There’s also a kitchenette complete with a 100-year-old salvaged soapstone sink, a sauna, changing rooms, laundry, and a bathroom swathed in a lush William Morris wallpaper.
In addition to having all of the necessary amenities at arm’s reach, craftsmanship was paramount. Smith and Branchflower devised an arts and crafts-inspired interior that has a beautiful hand-crafted quality. No detail was overlooked—from the Douglas fir backdrop, sweeping trusses and all, to the custom copper circular chandeliers above the pool, to the meadow-inspired mosaics in the inglenook, to the custom-designed layout of the Youghiogheny art-glass tiles, to the copper that graces the kitchen countertops and coffee table.
The efficiency of the 2,250-square-foot building was also critical, given the elements (water and fire) the architects had to contend with. A top-of-the-line HVAC system and a super-efficient building envelope ensure comfortable year-round air and water temps and fog-free windows. All this adds up to a space that’s the high-water mark in a mountaintop sanctuary.