The client had a definite idea about what his new house in the country would
look like. In the spirit of the frugal Vermont farmer, the painter/musician
wanted something that evoked a 19th-century farmhouse, perhaps with
peaked dormers and some gingerbread ornament. He also chose his builder
first and then looked for an architect, interviewing five possible designers.
What should have been a practical decision became an emotional one: Going
with architect Elizabeth Herrmann “felt right,” he says.
For the caring and responsible architect, a small house can take as much
time and effort as a bigger — and better-paying — commission, and
Herrmann’s work increased as she struggled to stay within the budget. At
the end, she had spent two years designing and building this 430-square-
foot house, yet, she says, “everything went well” through the entire process.
Her primary task was to convince her client that his farmhouse vision
would be too costly, and that a no-frills Modern style made the most sense.
When the client agreed, the builder lost interest. Christopher North, the
new contractor, likes contemporary and was intrigued by the challenges of
the wee building. He and his crew at Northern Timbers Construction of East
Middlebury, Vermont, developed a sense of ownership and pride in the
project. While left unstated, it was clear the workers identified with
someone who, like them, was not wealthy.
design decision Modern Solution