Farmhouse/Barn House

By Dan Gregory, Originally Published in Eye On Design

This modern house by Vinci/Hamp Architects takes cues from a nearby dairy from 1911.

I toured a remarkable house with lessons for anyone interested in home design. Designed by Vinci/Hamp Architects, it’s a recent addition to the historic Crab Tree Farm (a dairy farm) built in 1911. The crisp white


 gabled form deftly echoes the surrounding classic agricultural buildings, as shown above (you can glimpse the standing-seam metal roof of the new house in the distance, between the tile-roofed structures). The original buildings were designed by Solon S. Beman, architect of the company town of Pullman, Illinois. 


Inside the new house the main space is like a hayloft reborn as light-filled gallery: the living room soars the full two stories, with symmetrical stairways leading to the bedrooms. As the photograph shows, the house is organized along a strong central axis that parallels an adjacent hayfield.


Where the front of the house presents more of a privacy screen, with smaller windows, the rear opens up to the field with walls of glass. One important lesson here is in the elegant way the house responds to two very different contexts: one almost urban, the other completely rural. Another lesson is in the use of natural light: clerestories in the shed dormers brighten the main space, and second story bedrooms are treated as large window bays overlooking the landscape.

Details are worked out with great care. For example, a corner becomes an opportunity for space-saving built-ins, like this alcove desk and window seat; a window bench in one of the bedrooms doubles as a storage bin; and a small bathroom tucked under the eaves maximizes space by becoming a “shower room” with a skylight functioning as the window. A bunk room for grandchildren and extra guests stacks Murphy beds from Resource Furniture one over the other — like a sleeping car on Streamliner trains from the 1930s.

And finally, the landscape continues the artful melding of traditional and modern: a European-inspired allee of carefully pruned trees becomes a 
natural/architectural outdoor room. A convex mirror at the closed end — part of the model for the wonderful contemporary “Bean” sculpture that forms the entrance to Chicago’s Millenium Park, adds to the illusion that this is an endlessly expanding forest dreamscape. For more photos click here.

In this remarkable house, structure and setting fuse in practical and poetic ways. (Photos one, three, and four from the top, courtesy Vinci/Hamp Architects.)

For similar designs click Barn-Inspired Plans.

10/10/2013