Elemental House
Mad River Valley, VT

Awarded 2021 Honor Award by the American Institute of Architects Vermont Chapter.

Awarded 2020 Society for Registered Architects NY (SARA NY) award.

Awarded 2020 Architecture Construction + Design Award on behalf of Rethinking the Future.

On a rural hillside property encircled by fern-carpeted woods with breathtaking Green Mountain views, owners of the Elemental House envisioned a home enveloped by nature where they could relax with family and friends– a place uncomplicated, elegant, and beautiful, but rugged enough to withstand kids’ play and exploration.

The house design and landscaping would be low-maintenance and unfussy.  Our approach was to employ elemental architectural forms amid a lightly edited landscape.  Two gabled volumes clad in charred and stained, almost-black siding wedge into the slope while a third volume nestles uphill to form an L-shaped plan linked by a glassy entry node.  We located the house at woods’ edge where the varied terrain, long views and dense woods could all be appreciated, and fully integrated into the design.

The house is both introverted and extraverted.  It blends with the landscape to create a subdued, low-profiled entry and bedroom suite near the woods, but then boldly opens up on the downhill side to let in views and light at three levels.

Inspired by the variability of the land and forest, we used shifting geometry to give the house a dynamic, natural feel. There is also a bit of mystery: by composing spaces with offset geometries to give hints of what’s beyond, the house doesn’t present itself all at once but is discovered through a series of vignettes and glimpses which open up to framed views.  Spaces are practical and functional while also composed to create rich visual interest and unique, dramatic perspectives from each room.

Taking cues from “random patterns” and movement in the landscape, the palette throughout is textural and tonal highlighting the natural beauty and irregular imperfections of wood, handmade tile, blackened steel, concrete, and stone.  Offset steel stairs connecting three levels are the interior centerpiece whose rod balusters similarly play on the beauty of imperfection—the irregular rail spacing evokes serene, gentle movement.

 © 2024 - Elizabeth Herrmann. All Rights Reserved.