Designing multipurpose guest accommodations, pool house, home office, workout room, and overall retreat was all about creating a serene space. It needed to capture the vastness of its rural setting but also provide a cozy spot that’s comfortable year-round.

Architect Jim Fraerman balanced those needs for prospect and refuge by placing the structure a short distance from the existing house so scenes out every window or door encompass the lush landscape—a rolling field and a forest beyond. The comfort factor comes in the form of geothermal heating for literal warmth along with rooms of human scale that produce a feeling of safe haven, but still open up to each other and the scenery.

“The fundamental goal of the project was to locate the building for that view,” Fraerman says. Five sets of sliding doors connect first-floor living, an office, and a pool bath to an expansive bluestone deck, the pool, and an integrated spa. The best panorama faced due west, however, so serious sun protection was in order. To maintain the agricultural shape of the building, Fraerman designed a shading element that “flows right out of the roofline and completes the house form.” He says the “big move was the sunscreen to shade people and the house.”

The screen is a tightly spaced trellis designed to allow breezes in, but keep low afternoon sun out—making the pool deck a pleasant spot any time of day. In addition to generating a physically appealing space, the sunscreen exaggerates the barnlike form of the building and visually links it to the pool. “The spirit of the thing is that this property was at some point a farm, so the main house is a farmhouse,” Fraerman explains. “This project became an outbuilding that fits the barn to the house idea.”

“The building took the most elemental form of the vernacular barn,” he adds. The simple gabled structure employs clean lines and minimalist detailing to emphasize its agricultural inspiration. A material palette borrowed from the existing farmhouse links the two structures. Local stone caps both ends in an abstract of twin stone chimneys on either end of the main house. Painted white wood siding and a copper roof complete the straightforward finishes. The ground floor glass doors are mirrored by similarly proportioned windows aligned exactly above. These matching windows and doors are set into circulation spines on both levels to encourage natural ventilation and daylighting. The swimming pool runs parallel to the house and is within a few inches of being the same width. “We tried to make it as reductive and simple as possible,” Fraerman says, “and the symmetry helps keep it simple.”

Ground Control

Many green builders and conscientious homeowners are turning to geothermal systems for energy-efficient, simple, and consistent heating and cooling. The concept is straightforward. Geothermal systems use the earth’s insulation to warm or chill the air being blown into a house. Pipes run underground in either a horizontal or vertical loop pattern depending on the site size, ground temperatures, and soil conditions. The pipes connect to a heat exchange unit, which is linked to a heat pump that uses a small amount of electricity to distribute the air through the house. 

Five Advantages of Geothermal HVAC

1. Instead of burning fossil fuels, geothermal utilizes highly stable temperatures from beneath the earth’s surface to heat or cool a house.

2. Electricity is only needed to operate the fans that push air through the house, so energy savings are immediate and significant. 

3. Very little above-ground surface is needed to dig the earth loop, so nearly any size yard can fit a geothermal system. 

4. Geothermal works to heat and cool a house as well as multiple systems like hot water, a pool, or outbuildings. 

5. Federal and local incentives can cover 30 percent to 60 percent of total installation cost while installing geothermal for an entire community thanks to economy of scale and increased competition among manufacturers and installers.