A Vermont Home with Eastern Influence
February 23, 2022
A former home in Hong Kong inspires a new chapter in Vermont.
Text by Alyssa Bird Photography by Rob Karosis
When the owners of this seventy-eight-acre Norwich, Vermont, property decided to move their three children back to the States after a nineteen-year stint in Hong Kong, they knew they would need to make some major changes to the site’s existing structure if it was to become their dream house. The couple had purchased the 1970s-built residence in 2008 as a home base when visiting family (the husband is from Norwich, and his parents still live in the area). It served them well as a vacation home, but when the time came to make it a permanent address nine years later, it just wasn’t cutting it.
“The original shingled home was charming, but it didn’t take advantage of the expansive views of the Green Mountains or allow for indoor-outdoor living,” says the homeowner.
Taking into consideration the clients’ desire for a more contemporary aesthetic, an open floor plan, outdoor entertaining areas, and lots of windows, architect Byron Haynes conceived a new 5,000-square-foot five-bedroom residence using the footprint of the previous house. “We initially thought about reworking the existing structure, but the only thing we were able to save was the foundation,” explains Haynes.
In doing so, the architect inherited the previous home’s half-step strategy, resulting in a residence with five different half levels as opposed to just two or three full stories. “The house is situated on a hill, so this gradual site grading allows for a smooth transition from house to terraces to pool,” says Haynes, who put a decidedly contemporary twist on the traditional Vermont vernacular.
Four outdoor gathering areas, including a screened porch, help “blur the transition between inside and out,” notes Haynes. “Each one has its own identity and view, whether it’s of the mountains, forest, or garden.” But perhaps the most impressive outdoor space is the new pool area and its adjacent pool room, located downstairs from the main living space and complete with massive sliding-glass walls, a kitchenette, a bath, and an outdoor shower.
“Instead of having a separate pool house that’s rarely used, we have a four-season space that’s open during the summer and closed during the winter, when it becomes a cozy television room,” says the homeowner, who worked with decorator Denise Welch-May to furnish the house.
“This client loves beautiful materials, pattern, and color,” explains Welch-May. “The desire for an indoor-outdoor feel drove the design, as well as the couple’s love of Asia.” In fact, that love is expressed both inside and out through the use of bright red as the main accent color.
“The red exterior trim is something we wanted from the start,” says the homeowner. “It’s not only a popular color in Asia, but it’s a nice reference to the rust-red trim on the original house.” According to Welch-May, the interior palette “tips its hat” to the trim, which can be seen from inside as well.
The trim also factored into the landscape design. “Our goal was to integrate the house and landscape through color,” says landscape architect Janet Cavanagh, who collaborated with Sue Howard of Pyrus Horticultural on plant selection. “It was a challenge to determine which flowers would match the intensity of the strong red as well as withstand the site’s harsh sun exposure, rock outcrops, and steep grade.” They landed on a palette of gold, red, orange, purple, and blue, planting a limited variety of perennials en masse to stand up to the grand scale of the vast mountain vistas.
And the clients couldn’t be happier with the bold colors at every turn. “Living abroad influenced our design preferences, and many of these colors appeared in our Hong Kong apartment,” says the homeowner. “It feels like we have carried our love of Asia home to Vermont.”
Architecture: Byron Haynes, Haynes & Garthwaite Architects
Interior design: Denise Welch-May, dpf Design
Builder: Nick Estes, Estes & Gallup
Landscape design: Janet Cavanagh, Janet Cavanagh Landscape Architect
Landscape contractor: Kevin Brown, EC Browns’ Nursery