Located in a wildflower meadow, the cedar-clad gable-roofed is surrounded by native plantings and a drought-tolerant grass blend.

New England Vacation House / Newport County, R.I.

  • Located in a wildflower meadow, the cedar-clad gable-roofed is surrounded by native plantings and a drought-tolerant grass blend.

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    Located in a wildflower meadow, the cedar-clad gable-roofed is surrounded by native plantings and a drought-tolerant grass blend.

    Greg Premru Photography

    Located in a wildflower meadow, the cedar-clad gable-roofed is surrounded by native plantings and a drought-tolerant grass blend.

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    Minimal trim, simple polished concrete floors, and careful window placement provide a clean look to the interior.

    Greg Premru Photography

    Minimal trim, simple polished concrete floors, and careful window placement provide a clean look to the interior.

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    The childrens sleeping and play area is accessed via ladder.

    Greg Premru Photography

    The children’s sleeping and play area is accessed via ladder.

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    The iconic shape and playful red color of the exterior gables are carried through to the interior kitchen and living room walls.

    Greg Premru Photography

    The iconic shape and playful red color of the exterior gables are carried through to the interior kitchen and living room walls.

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    The owners plan for a future 6.5 kW solar electric system on the large south-facing roof would make the house net-zero energy.

    Greg Premru Photography

    The owners’ plan for a future 6.5 kW solar electric system on the large south-facing roof would make the house net-zero energy.

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    Extra storage is tucked away in built-in bookshelves.

    Greg Premru Photography

    Extra storage is tucked away in built-in bookshelves.

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    The small mud room with a built-in bench helps the family stay organized and keeps the house free of clutter.

    Greg Premru Photography

    The small mud room with a built-in bench helps the family stay organized and keeps the house free of clutter.

 

This vacation residence on the Rhode Island coast packs performance-enhancing features and an inviting contemporary aesthetic into a pared-down package. Architect Stephanie T. Horowitz designed the compact form to provide exceptional energy efficiency, keep costs low, and meet the client’s request for a small environmental footprint.

The smart, streamlined design loads plenty of storage and amenities into the 1,300-square-foot retreat, including two bedrooms plus a sleeping loft; two bathrooms; and an open kitchen, dining, and living area. The interplay of warm, comfortable interiors and high-performance features created a synergy the judges couldn’t resist. “There is a harmony here between design and performance,” they raved.

The jury was equally impressed with the combination of Passive House-inspired strategies that reduced the home’s heating requirements to one-tenth that of a similar new code-built home.

Project planners relied on exceptional insulation (R-44 walls, R-50 foundation, R-60 roof), extreme attention to thermal bridging and air sealing, and ultra-efficient windows. By siting the house for maximum solar gain (while optimizing a north-facing view), Horowitz and her team reduced the heating needs to a single 10-HSPF Mitsubishi air source heat pump.

For healthy indoor air in such a tightly built dwelling, Horowitz included a Zehnder ComfoAir 200 HRV, polished concrete floors, and zero-VOC Poggenpohl kitchen cabinets. Other sustainable products include recycled quartz countertops, a heat-pump water heater, a high-efficiency washer and condensing dryer, and WaterSense-certified plumbing fixtures and toilets.