In Vermont, a Zero-Energy Modern Farmhouse-Style Home

Oct 30, 2019 by

Nestled just outside of Middlebury, Vermont, in the rolling foothills of the Adirondack and Green mountain ranges, this new modern farmhouse is the forever home of two professionals with adult children. The home produces as much energy as it uses, making it a zero energy house.
Silver Maple Construction LLC

Photos by Ryan Bent Photography

Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here: 
A couple and their three dogs
Location: Cornwall, Vermont
Size: 4,060 square feet (377 square meters) including finished lower level and writing studio above garage; four bedrooms, 4½ bathrooms
Designers: Joan Heaton Architects and Raycroft/Meyer Landscape Architecture
Builder: Silver Maple Construction

Architect Joan Heaton took her inspiration from the traditional architecture that dots the rural Vermont landscape. Farmhouse-inspired elements include the simple gabled roof forms, a covered breezeway that serves as an entry and overhangs that create a porch-like feeling along the front of the house. A series of retaining walls and clever siting within sloped ground connect the house to the landscape.

Find a local architect on Houzz

Silver Maple Construction LLC

Siting and Landscape

Heaton oriented the front facade south to face roof-mounted grid-tied solar panels toward the sun. She designated air-to-air heat pumps, which means the house is powered solely by electricity, using no fossil fuels. These are the main power source for the house.

In order to be so energy-efficient, the home had to have an airtight envelope. This was accomplished through double-glazed, Low-E argon-filled windows and four inches of rigid foam exterior insulation in the well-sealed walls. “Using this insulation is like wrapping the house in a big down coat,” Heaton says. The siding is fiber cement.

Siding: Smooth lap cement siding in ColorMax Taupe, Allura

Joan Heaton Architects

Proper siting for the home required extensive grading. “Grading the site was tricky and took about a month,” says Sean Flynn, owner of Silver Maple Construction. The grading needed to create enough of a slope to allow for a walk-out lower level while creating a pleasing topography around the house. The lower level is finished and includes a second living room and a guest suite. Truckloads of fill were taken off this site and used on another project nearby.

The dark siding on the exterior of the lower level is Accoya acetylated wood, which resembles Shou Sugi Ban. This wood is specially treated to resist rot.

Silver Maple Construction LLC

The couple love feeding the birds and gardening, and they have three dogs, all of which also influenced the landscape design by Raycroft/Meyer Landscape Architecture. The dogs have a large fenced-in portion to roam around while a wildflower meadow beyond the lawn adds indigenous color and texture.

They also love to cook, particularly vegan dishes. To keep the dogs from digging up their homegrown ingredients, the designers provided the homeowners with raised Cor-Ten steel beds. And the dark bumped-out windows on the right provide a small indoor greenhouse space in the kitchen.

Browse raised bed planters in the Houzz Shop

Joan Heaton Architects
A bluestone path and pea gravel lead to the main entryway. Its breezeway-inspired design connects the house to the garage, a necessity during Vermont’s winters. The area also contains a second staircase that leads to a workshop above the garage. Double-hung windows, a standing seam metal roof and a mix of clapboard and board-and-batten siding nod to local rural architecture.
Silver Maple Construction LLC
The bluestone path continues past the main entry to a front yard patio off the dining area that enjoys the warm southern light. Heaton had the portion of the foundation that shows here wrapped in dark steel, which matches the window and door frames. She had the MDO around the bumped-out window painted to match.
Silver Maple Construction LLC

The color of this overhang’s steel edge also matches those elements in color. This overhang is called a pent roof. It has a C-channel around the edges, is suspended from turnbuckles and has stained Douglas fir on the underside that matches the Douglas fir on the entry porch and the front door. Its purpose is to keep the snow that slides off the roof and piles up from blocking the sliding doors between the dining area and the patio.

Find a local home builder

Silver Maple Construction LLC
The board-formed concrete retaining walls help connect the house with the sloped site. The walls along the right make the patio feel enclosed and intimate.
Silver Maple Construction LLC

Durable Interior and Universal Design

Inside, durable material choices like porcelain tile planks digitally printed to look like wood will stand up to the couple’s three dogs and snowy boots.

Because the couple will age in place here, they installed an elevator (it’s pictured here to the right of the staircase). Other universal design elements include openings and a lack of thresholds.

Silver Maple Construction LLC

Heaton nestled a cozy reading nook in the landing between the main floor and second floor. This bump-out also created space for a pair of windows that bring light to the stairwell and hallway below.

The couple love to travel, and many of their belongings were picked up around the world, including artwork and rugs.

Silver Maple Construction LLC
A pocket door separates the entryway from the kitchen, dining and living spaces. The kitchen layout has a traditional work triangle placed around a stunning soapstone-topped walnut island.
Silver Maple Construction LLC
Here is a closer look at the custom pocket door. Reeded glass adds modern texture and shares light between the entryway and the kitchen when closed.
Silver Maple Construction LLC

All of the cabinetry and millwork was custom-made by Silver Maple Construction. Walnut wood on the island warms up the space, while soapstone countertops provide a traditional farmhouse touch.

The pair of windows over the kitchen sink compose the bump-out we saw on the front of the house, and the ledge with southern exposure provides space to grow herbs and other edible plants indoors.

Joan Heaton Architects

A quartet of pendants occupy the space above the homeowners’ existing dining table and chairs.

Shop for pendant lights

Silver Maple Construction LLC
The powder room is located off the entry. Walnut continues into this space on the vanity, topped by Fantasy Blue granite and a concrete vessel sink. The shiplap walls add a modern farmhouse touch.
Silver Maple Construction LLC
Off the living room is this screened-in porch — it provides 270-degree views of the bucolic landscape around the house. The stained Douglas fir planks on the vaulted ceiling add warmth. The floors are concrete that’s been ground down to expose the aggregate and then polished. This lends a terrazzo-like look the homeowners’ wanted.
Silver Maple Construction LLC
On the top floor of the home, there are two master bedroom suites and large closets for storage. The suite setup of all of the bedrooms makes it comfortable for everyone when the homeowners’ grown children visit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.