Tour a Contemporary Vermont Home Designed for Family
April 26, 2022
A modern, hard-working addition is the new heart of a multigenerational haven in Vermont.
Text by Marni Elyse Katz Photography by Jim Westphalen
This Pennsylvania family’s love affair with Vermont started nearly thirty years ago, over a pancake breakfast at the Middlebury Inn. “It was the maple syrup that did it,” the homeowner jokes, referencing their eldest son’s decision to play ice hockey for Middlebury College. It was the community, and their other three kids who also attended the school, that kept them coming back.
By the time their second son was accepted by the college, the couple had purchased eight pastoral acres with views of the Green Mountains and the Adirondacks in Cornwall. Over the years, they built a modest barn-like home. Landscape architect H. Keith Wagner set the stage for the structure, designing a series of terraces built of local Panton stone along with mowed paths leading to a picture-perfect pond.
A few years ago, in response to their growing family (there are now fifteen grandchildren), the owners hired Elizabeth Herrmann to design a kitchen/dining addition with bedrooms on the second floor. Concluding that historic forms that mirror the look of the existing buildings would feel stifling given the family’s desire for a big, open space where everyone could cook and eat together, Herrmann fashioned a modern interpretation instead. “A glassy, hardworking building made sense for what they wanted to accomplish,” the architect says.
A nine-and-a-half-foot-wide connector links the minimalist addition to the original barn-style dwelling. Large, pivoting doors allow the family to pass through the connector and travel from the front yard to the back. “They keep both doors open in the summer, so people can go in and out during the day,” Herrmann says. On the connector’s other two walls, twin seven-by-seven-foot openings, one framed in wood, the other in raw steel, encourage easy passage between the barn’s game room and the new family-style kitchen, which comprises the entire ground floor of the addition.
The grandkids line up for breakfast at the kitchen’s sixteen-foot-long island, which is clad in Montclair Danby marble. Book-matched slabs of the same hefty stone climb the wall behind the cooktop to the charred, wire-brushed French-chestnut ceiling, while gray metal base cabinets, a white wall of cabinetry, and the concrete floor recede. “It’s a rugged palette with regional flair,” Herrmann remarks.
A linear gas fireplace cut into a massive chimney dominates the opposite wall. Herrmann’s use of locally sourced stone for the chimney informed the material palette for the exterior. “We anchored the addition with the chimney, then wrapped the foundation with the same local stone, taking it up to the top of the first floor,” the architect explains.
The custom dining table stretching parallel to the island was a must-have setup. “The kids eat while the adults prepare their meal and enjoy wine at the island,” the homeowner says. “They tell us about their day, and we discuss tomorrow’s plans.” Sundown is welcomed with s’mores at the firepit on the shore of the pond.
“The house is all about opening up and spilling out,” Herrmann says. “How they live was the inspiration for the design. It’s their story.”
Addition architecture: Elizabeth Herrmann, Elizabeth Herrmann Architecture + Design
Addition builder: Chris Quinn, Red House Building
Landscape design: H. Keith Wagner, Wagner Hodgson Landscape Architecture