Set along a time worn logging trail above a swiftly flowing river, the MOUNTAIN:house is built on five acres of densely forested, steeply sloping land, almost completely surrounded by the White Mountains National Forest near to the New Hampshire Presidential Range. The year-round home was constructed for avid mountain enthusiasts, who wished to closely inhabit the lush forest and be intimately connected to the surrounding elements and materials. The forest consequently stimulated a highly customized design language that is at once contemporary and timeless. The original undeveloped site was traced by a long-abandoned logging pull-way along which the house is organized. The two-story internal “breezeway” of local slate, concrete and exposed plywood divides the home in two, separating the main living quarters from the utilitarian studio, workshop and garage. The 24-foot interior traverse provides deep central light, exceptional cross ventilation and ever-present forest or mountain views.
The core thermal mass of the hearth is punctuated by a vertical window that aligns with both the East and West facades, acting as an oversized solar calendar. The entire house is oriented precisely to align with the setting sun of the winter solstice. On this day, and on this day only, a channel of last-light from the setting sun passes through the house from West to East marking the winter solstice with a surreal rectangle of projected light on the snowy white surface of the mountain side behind the home. The living, dining, kitchen space share one high single volume anchored by the tall hearth-wall of slate and corten steel. The hearth holds not only a traditional Rumford-style fireplace, but an interior BBQ and wood storage for the central wood stove. The central hearth compliments the passive heating and radiant in-floor hydronic system throughout. The few trees felled to make way for the house were stripped of bark.
This same perforation motif characterizes the high-backed plywood chairs designed for the dining area – to create a “room of seated guests” within the dramatically tall dining space. Custom steel work by local craftspeople continue this approach, including the custom columns, stairway handrails and loft guardrails, all of “tool blackened” steel. A variety of built-in, integral features – lighting, benches, display, storage and sliding screens – add a level of detail to the house in contrast to the simple expanses of raw plywood, bleached pine boards, and hand-troweled plaster that dominate the interior expression of the simple home. The exterior concrete panels and cedar plywood continue inside dividing the structure to demarcate the relic trajectory that once crossed the site. The exterior cedar cladding of heart wood panels continues into the interior breezeway. Here the loft stair floats mysteriously – seemingly without support – up to a transparent glass bridge over head and a skylight that transverses the entire width of the breezeway bathing the space in the changing light of the day and season. Each tread is supported on concealed steel struts connected back to the structural wall of the house. Throughout the more private rooms the local materials predominate, scaled to add texture and a sensual authenticity, and creating a fluid connection between interior space and this unique forest site.
SITE: Bartlett, New Hampshire
SCOPE: Single Family Home
DATE: Completed 2011
New Hampshire Home Design Awards: Excellence in Architectural Design, 2016
New Hampshire Home Design Awards: Home of the Year, Honorable Mention, 2016
The design is a hybridization of local vernacular and utilitarian building typologies indigenous to the Appalachian Mountain region of Northern New England. A simple no-nonsense palette of materials drawn from woodsheds, barns, and rough-hewn mountain lodges fulfilled the clients’ desire for a material authenticity and simplicity, combined with a direct engagement with the forest. The intimate, 2,000 sf house provides a surprisingly spacious interior, with floor to roof ridge windows that open up into the roof framing, revealing the trees from trunk to canopy – intensifying the grandeur of the surrounding mature mixed deciduous-conifer forest, the locus of the clients’ long-shared passions for skiing, mountaineering and solitude.