Family-Style Farmhouse: Eco-conscious homeowners get the Scandinavian-inspired house of their dreams
By Cooper Gardner
A modern, minimalist take on traditional Bermudian architecture with a European barn-style interior, the team at Cooper Gardener has created a unique, natural-looking home that takes full advantage of the property’s high location overlooking Harrington Sound.
A family home, with eco-conscious owners, HH has been designed with a natural aesthetic in mind in a way that provides seamless indoor-outdoor living, is energy efficient and is easy to maintain, even when hurricanes are on the horizon. The architects were John Gardner and Jonathan Castro, and the interior design was the work of Eimeir Johnston in close collaboration with the owners.
The original building, which hadn’t taken advantage of its natural surroundings, was all but knocked down and rebuilt save for the tank and a two-storey, one bedroom cottage, which now serves as the pool house and was renovated to match the main house. The main house was, therefore, newly built from scratch and reoriented to take in the views as well as potential solar energy creation: “Connection with nature and being able to see the views and the outside was really important from the get-go,” explains Johnston. “We designed long sight lines so, as you enter, you can see through the main doors, the view out to the Sound and just maximising those points was really our thread running through the project.”
From the minute you enter the house, it is apparent how successfully the team managed to achieve this. Many of the windows are tall, wide or both. The doors are glass fronted. There are skylights in the powder room and front porch, and deliberate sight lines to the outside have been created upstairs and down. All around the property, the owners have kept as much of the original planting as possible and have made the most of all available outdoor spaces. A courtyard at the front of the house provides an alternative al fresco entertaining or relaxing area, and at the back of the house is a smaller terrace which protects the inside from the sun and provides another spot for enjoying the phenomenal view.
Facing west over the pool and leading off from the kitchen, is a wide and deep all-season verandah. Complete with wooden ceiling beams, which match the interior aesthetic, a fireplace, and hurricane screens embedded in the beams, the owners can dine or relax out there literally whatever the weather. In one corner, there is a permanent concrete bench softened by cushions and a built-in planter behind it, full of greenery. The bench was deliberately designed to make hurricane preparation more manageable, as were the windows. They dispensed with traditional shutters, using hurricane grade windows instead which, when open, create plenty of natural air flow inside the house.
Inside, the home embraces a monochrome palette and follows the Swedish design concept called the “red thread.” This, explains Johnstone, “follows a theme, a trail of breadcrumbs scattered through a piece of creative work that constantly reminds you what’s important or relevant about a particular piece of work.” The red thread woven throughout HH is, she continues, “its feeling of connection to the natural world, and it’s the use of multiple sight lines through the property that facilitate that feeling.” To enhance the natural connection, the team used what Johnston describes as “very honest materials” throughout, including polished concrete floors, black frames, white walls, light and dark tiling, oak and brass. Particularly striking are the large wooden ceiling beams, which were reclaimed from an old barn in West Virginia. “That was to add character to a new-build property,” she continues. “A lot of the time it can be quite hard to give layers to something that’s new. They’ve had a previous life.”
Because of the sustainability mandate, which endeavours to include functionality and storage into every square foot, the floor plan needed to be as efficient as possible: “Spaces needed to flow from public to private without compromising on the sight lines through the home,” says Johnston. The entry corridor, therefore, which hides storage, a stylish powder room, and a laundry room behind a number of pocket doors leads you through to the very spacious, double-storey, open barn-style living area. The open-plan kitchen is at one end and doors into a den and separate en-suite office are at the other.
Floating stairs lead up to the three bedrooms, and the two children’s rooms are connected to the main bedroom via a bridge. The stairs have a wood finish to them “to soften acoustically under foot as you move upstairs to the more private areas of the house,” says Johnston.
In contrast to the double-story living area, the den has dark walls, designed to hide the television, and a wall-mounted air-conditioning unit has been painted in the same dark colour to successfully hide that, too. The addition of a wood burning fireplace makes it an ideal room for winter hibernating, yet it still enjoys the floor-to-ceiling windows installed throughout the house.
Natural-looking materials have been used for as many of the fixtures and fittings in the house as possible, in particular for the light fixtures. Dramatic lobster pot-style pendant lights hang above the dining room table, brass and wood hanging lights have been used in the kitchen, and subtle white sconces adorn the walls. In the spirit of energy efficiency, the owners installed a number of solar panels on the flatter parts of the roof, and they have the option to install a battery storage system in the future with space deliberately left in the garage for that purpose. Hidden away in the basement, along with copious under-the-stairs storage and a gym, is an equipment room which houses two heat pump water heaters, tankless water pump systems and a circulation system for hot water on demand.
Our judges very much appreciated what they described as the “funky elements” of HH, in particular the “gallery above,” the “phenomenal bathrooms,” “the use of colours,” “the concrete bench,” and generally the “innovative contemporary expression.” The architecture was “highly successful,” they agree and, they add, a “very well done European-style farmhouse”.