Tour a Vermont Guesthouse Inspired by Bank Barns
December 20, 2023
Designed like a remodeled barn, this Vermont guesthouse offers welcome refuge.
Text by Fred Albert Photography by Read McKendree/JBS
When a Boston couple commissioned David Sargent and Ann Shriver Sargent to create a guesthouse for their 1820s cape in Hartland, Vermont, the design team found their inspiration just outside the front door.
“When you drive down this road, there are three other examples of white capes with giant red barns behind them, so it was very clear to us that this guesthouse had to look like a converted barn,” says Ann, who orchestrated the interiors while husband David handled the architecture.
Modeled on a bank barn, which has entries on two levels, the timber-frame structure is awash in sepia hues, offering a warm respite when temperatures plummet. Pale poplar paneling treated with a translucent whitewash alternates with tinted plaster walls, which Housewright Construction applied in a rough-hewn “brown coat” to suggest the textured finish one might find in a real barn. A tapestry of ruddy reclaimed hemlock animates the floor underfoot, its rough-hewn demeanor tempered by custom hooked rugs that nod to traditional New England handiwork.
Ann offset the monochromatic backdrop with a comfortable mix of antique and new furniture. “We brought color into the house with rugs and draperies, throws and furniture, fabric and pillows,” she says. A cerulean blue sofa animates the living room and is echoed in window treatments and kitchen cabinets, as well as doors bound with hand-forged strap hinges. The artisan’s touch is also evident in the handblown bubble lights cascading from the dining room ceiling and in the bespoke chestnut table below, which expands to seat sixteen.
The living room’s fieldstone fireplace is supported by a reclaimed-brick vault on the bottom level, which doubles as a bar for the neighboring game room. Walls are covered in a canvas mural by Susan Harter depicting the surrounding landscape, which the owners commissioned sixteen years ago for a previous house.
With five bedrooms and six baths, the guesthouse was intended to serve as a welcoming retreat for the owners’ three adult children and their friends. And if mom and dad often find themselves sneaking over to sleep there instead of in the main house, who can blame them?