Wright on the River
This new, timber-frame house speaks the language of the owner’s favorite architect. And it is energy efficient.
InStyle, and started the style section of the Village Voice. Larsen was the Saigon bureau chief for Time in 1970–71, the editor of New Times until the magazine folded in 1979, and for five years editor of the Village Voice. Jonathan and Mary started dating in 2000.
Larsen has studied alternative energy since the 1970s; he and Peacock turned to architect Bill Maclay, the Waitsfield architect known for energy-efficient new houses and renovations. His design includes a variety of alternative energy sources while it draws on conventions of Wright’s mid-century Usonian houses. The result is a one-storey, 3,625-squarefoot home overlooking the Mad River at a spot where a timber dam had spanned the water until it was blown out in the historic hurricane of 1927. A large stone abutment that housed the penstock is all that remains.
“Wright’s principles, which root a house so that it is open to the view and engages with the site, launched us into our standard design process,” Maclay says. “Our idea was to locate the house at the site of the dam, utilizing the abut-
ment and creating stairs and a garden. We designed a house that’s one room deep, so that all rooms get the sunlight, the solar gain, and the spectacular views upriver to the south.”
Larsen and Peacock call their threebedroom, two-bath home River House. The structure uses Wright’s vocabulary with low roofs, open living areas, and textural, natural materials. Built with a Douglas fir timber frame and stone harvested on the site, the house has an east– west axis. The front entry on the north side, bermed into the hill, is at the cen-
ter, with the sleeping and living wings radiating to either side at slight angles.
Mason Mike Eramo of Granville harvested and worked the stone that forms the foundation, exterior walls, interior columns, and an enormous fireplace wall. “It took three men four months to gather that stone,” he says. “We hauled 400 truckloads off the mountain. When we found really nice stones, we handled them with care to keep the patina intact.”
One example is the slab of schist (a metamorphic rock with a flat, sheetlike grain) that forms the massive lintel above the fireplace. In the interest of energy conservation, instead of folding doors, Eramo installed pocket doors to close off the firebox. Built by blacksmith James Fecteau of Vermont’s Huntington River Smithy, they not only provide a tighter seal, says Eramo, but also “they’re not awkward and in the way.”
The interior follows Wright’s dictum that bedrooms should be small and public spaces large. Drama and natural beauty are provided by sunlight, stonework, and Douglas fir timbers. New York-area interior designer Lori Weatherly deftly combined some of the couple’s favorite old pieces with new furnishings for a classic, neutral scheme.
“I took the color palette from the setting, which is very rustic and natural,”
Weatherly says. “We did not use Frank Lloyd Wright furniture, but we wanted the interior design to speak the same language as the house.”
Mary Peacock says that Weatherly convinced her to put the dining room at the end of the house, instead of next to the kitchen. “She said, ‘This is the most beautiful room—why not make it the dining room?’” Mary explains. “We are so glad we did!” a FOR SOURCES, see p. 71.
ABOVE Making use of south-facing space below, solar panels are part of the net-zero design. Many more are located in a field out of sight of the house. BELOW The Henrybuilt kitchen is open and serene, thanks to a nearby pantry that eliminates the need for overhead cabinets. Natural wood cabinets and island are topped with black granite. Because the homeowners are tall, counters are 39 inches high, three inches above standard.
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The bunkroom has clerestory windows, which provide privacy with light and allow use of the full height of the room. Stepped bunks, with a queen-size bed at the top, accommodate guests.
ABOVE The guest bathroom on the north side of the house gets natural light from one of three daylight monitors, bringing a heightened sense of space. Earthtone tiles complement Douglas ƬU RIGHT Grace notes include custom drain grates made by Vermont blacksmith James Fecteau. BELOW The driveway approaches from the north; the house is nearly invisible until the drive turns in to a stone forecourt.