Project: Knoll Retreat
Architects: Elizabeth Herrmann Architecture + Design
Landscape architects: Wagner Hodgson Landscape Architecture
Construction credits: Northern Timbers Construction, Ripton, VT, general contractor
Location: Ferrisburgh, Vermont, USA
Photo Credits: Jim Westphalen
Text by Elizabeth Herrmann
This 2,300 s.f. house for a family of four rests atop a ledge knoll ringed by trees and overlooking a meadow. During intermittent camping stays on the land, the owners spent several years under the guidance of Wagner Hodgson Landscape Architecture selectively thinning, shaping and subtly uncovering the natural features of their varied and beautiful property. So, when we began to discuss the architecture, they already had a deep understanding of the site. We used this knowledge to guide the house’s design process.
The Knoll Retreat was designed to have a strong presence, but not overwhelm the site. We let the land, views, and trees shape it and create a framework for intertwined interior and exterior rooms. Construction was completed in 2013 with a freestanding garage and decks planned for a later date. Inspiration came from the owners’ Scandinavian roots and graphic sensibilities (one of the owners is a professional photographer). Simple, honest materials, a mix of vernacular and contemporary forms, and contrasting neutrals all provide a backdrop for colorful living, furnishings, fabrics and people.
The Knoll Retreat has a bit of mystery: Its exterior is dark and textured, and with outside corners removed, seems to undulate. Inside, rooms are bright and smooth-surfaced and appear to unfold and slip, giving the illusion of much bigger spaces. Details include a custom-built kitchen with a walk-in pantry to hide clutter and the refrigerator. Upstairs, local ash with a pickled finish covers floors. Downstairs, floors are polished concrete with imbedded radiant tubing. Exterior siding is dark-stained, eastern white cedar milled for a pencil-sized, corner-wrapped shadow line.