Reinventing the Farmhouse
An architect uses the site itself to guide his take on a traditional style.
Synopsis:After clients asked him to design a house in a large meadow outside of Freeport, Maine, architect Rob Whitten presented them with an idea for a farmhouse situated not in the center of the meadow but to the rear, which would give them a full view of the meadow and use the trees on the edge of the meadow as a windbreak. Whitten’s entire design flowed organically from this attention to the site. After determining the location of the house, he imagined an arrival sequence that determined the locations of the driveway, the garage, and the entries. As the arrival sequence continued inside the house, Whitten created the floor plan. With all of that in place, he finished his design with transitional spaces linking the inside with the outside.
Rimmed on the north by a mixed forest, the wide grassy field fell gently to the south, toward the road we’d taken to where we now stood. As a home site, the field in front of us promised the best solar gain you could ask for in this part of Maine, along with ample drainage, protection from north winds, and stunning views. It was a site that couldn’t miss — whether you were a 19th-century farmer or a 21st-century architect.
I happen to be the latter. But when I laid out my plans for the site to Steve and Deb — the potential clients whom I had met that day in the field — I spoke as if I were that farmer. My firm would design their house on the slope toward the north, not the center, of that beautiful meadow. The tall side would face south, and the driveway would snake off into the trees to the northeast, because no self-respecting farmer would cut a road through…