Bento Barn


Matthew & Fran lived on a charming secluded site in a quirky artist’s house of small rooms on multiple levels. After considering various re-configurations and add-ons, it became evident that there was not much to save. The site is perched on an outcrop with one corner plunging down to a lower level much like a mill barn, and that became one of the inspirations for the re-build. There was also the desire to honor the artists in a way, to make it interesting, but functional. So we arrived at a simple footprint with a rich materiality and detail, like opening up a bento box with lots to discover.

We extended the existing foundation to a larger rectangle and added a small living room bump-out. The charcoal-colored cement panel siding is cut and stacked to give the house an indeterminate barn-like scale. The two opposite corners of entry porch and living area are sided in cedar clapboards like a kind of puzzle box. The unadorned standing seam roof and cupola further refer to the mill-barn building type. Inside, the masonry hearth is the focal point of the house, blending several types of stone and incorporating a seat, shelf, bread oven, and wood storage.

The kitchen also has a puzzle box quality about it, with an open ceiling shelf that separates it from the dining area. It is built from beams salvaged from the former house, extending to cap the fridge cabinet. The valance above the wall cabinets is clad in copper. Both the screened porch and interior & exterior stair guards are designed with a simple theme of horizontal boards. Further built-ins are tucked into the hall, foyer, and throughout the house.

The house achieved an Energy Star Tier III rating, requiring less than 40% of the energy usage compared to a typical house, and resulting in a substantial grant from the utility company. The masonry stove provides most of the heat required for the winter, with a small load of wood burning for the entire day.