Susan & Ryan’s Less-Is-More Farmhouse
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Name: Ryan and Susan Hayes
Location: Williston, Vermont
Size: Approximately 1550 sq. feet plus finished basement
Years lived in: less than one
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On a quiet dirt road not far from Burlington, Vermont, Ryan and Susan Hayes have put a spin on farmhouse living. Inspired by Ryan’s own great grandparent’s home, they built a traditional Vermont-style house tweaked with their own modern aesthetic. This included some of the latest technologies in green building.
Balancing modernism and nostalgia is a tricky task. Outside, the house’s shape is iconic, with large wrap-around porch, white clapboard, and metal-clad sloped roof. Inside is a decidedly non-traditional floor plan, with large open living space, and a stainless steel version of a farmhouse sink. The Hayes’ decorating style is simple and clutter-free, which makes the surrounding farmland- framed by ample windows- the star attraction.
As anyone who has built a custom home knows, there are always surprises and obstacles, and the Hayes’ had their fair share along the way. Amongst review board delays and the loss of a contractor, the couple managed to keep to their priorities: carefully utilizing environmentally friendly materials and employing construction strategies that would reduce the home’s energy consumption. The biggest decision they made was to the scale down their initial house plans, shaving off square footage, thereby reducing both its cost and use of materials, both during construction and in the long term. You can read more about their process on their blog Building Green in Vermont.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: Modern farmhouse with a bit of industrial and Scandinavian influences thrown in
Inspiration: Ryan’s grandparents’ farmhouse from the 1800s + the open, clean lines of the homes featured in the Swedish magazine/website Skona Hem (We can’t read a word of it but we sure like the pictures!)
Favorite Element: The way the front rooms are bathed in light every morning as the sun rises in the east. We almost never have to turn lights on in that part of the house. Also, relaxing on our porch and watching hawks make their lazy circles over the valley in the evenings. We feel like this house connects us to nature in a way we’ve never before experienced. Oh, and we think our industrial cage lights are pretty cool, too, even though a lot of visitors to our place don’t really get them…
Biggest Challenge: Keeping the dogs from destroying our hardwood floors in the process…too late…
What Friends Say: Surprised by the open feel of the house because it looks so small from the outside. And that they want to write on the chalkboard wall.
Biggest Embarrassment: Not having finished the trim in the basement…or installing shelving in the closets…or putting in much landscaping…(I guess that’s what having a kid does to weekend house projects.)
Proudest DIY: Stapling up the tubing for our radiant heating system to the underside of each floor–a process which, due to a faulty latch on the scaffolding cart, resulted in it collapsing mid-project leaving Sus (6 months pregnant at the time) hanging from the basement ceiling joists…ahh, good times.
Biggest Indulgence: All of the “green” elements of the house. We prioritized energy efficiency by beefing up the building’s shell: SIP panels, ICF foundation, blown-in cellulose insulation in the attic, standing-seam metal roof, fiberglass windows. We also tried to use products that are easy on the environment (read: low energy load, non-toxic, recyclable, salvaged, locally sourced, etc.) including Paperstone countertops, low-flow toilets, maple flooring from a local mill, stair parts from a farmhouse tear down in upstate, salvaged bathroom sinks (past life=dorm sinks at Middlebury College from the 50’s) CFL lighting, all Energy Star appliances, no-VOC paint. We spent most of our money on creating a tight building envelope and filling it with products and materials that are good for the earth and good for us.
Best Advice: If you’re building, buy as many finishing touches as you can in advance. We filled a storage unit a year before we broke ground with things like light fixtures, furniture, even new glasses and silverware. Had we put off those purchases, we would not have been able to afford them at the end of the (piggy bank shattering) process. Also, a lot of people in Vermont put random stuff in their front yard with a “Free” sign on it. We picked up a variety of things that way….a coffee table, apple crates turned bedside stands. So come drive around Vermont and score some sweet finds!
Dream Sources: Get Back Inc., McMaster-Carr, White Flower Farmhouse, Brimfield Antique, Amherst St. in Montréal
Generous Vermonters throwing out cool stuff
Mason Bros. Salvage
Five Corners Antiques
Conant Metal and Light
(Thanks, Ryan & Susan!)
Images: Ann Manubay, Dabney Frake