Cruising down a dirt road through a residential development 10 miles south of Burlington,
Vermont, architect Lee Grutchfield quietly
points out what we do not see: the house. As the
car approaches the driveway, all that’s visible is
a low roofline and a sweeping view across Lake
Champlain to the rugged Adirondacks.
“The owners had clear goals,” says Grutchfield. “They wanted
a home made of natural materials that was carefully integrated into
the landscape. They wanted open rooms and big vistas, a sense of
place and space. And they wanted a home that evoked joy and spiritual sustenance.”
Grutchfield, an associate at Truex Cullins & Partners Architects in Burlington, designed the house in 2006 with firm principal
Rolf Kielman. Their first challenge, Grutchfield says, was to properly position the home in a way that respected the land, yet took
advantage of the stunning views. Most of the 5-acre lot is a steep
hillside that tumbles toward the shoreline of the long, narrow lake.
With the help of Vermont landscape architect H. Keith Wagner,
the team decided to dig out a west-facing site tucked behind a tall
berm just below the top of the hill. As a result, the house seems
more of the hill than on it. The all-natural exterior — white-cedar
shingles, copper for the roof, a sandstone chimney, and red-cedar
clapboards that will weather gracefully over time — pays homage
to the pastoral setting.