Story by Jordan Werner Photos by Carolyn Bates
vermont h o me s an d garde n s
As Seen in
A New Approach See what happens when architects design and build a guest suite and studio!
LineSync Architecture’s new building houses a studio and guest suite (right) and blends in perfectly with its surroundings, which include a stone wall that is the last vestige of an old barn that the new structure replaced. Its construction utilizes a unique design component: the entire building is surrounded by a superinsulated wall in order to make it energy efficient. The owners refer to this concept as “outsulation.”
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u li e lineb er ger and Joseph Cincotta are owners and principal architects of LineSync Architecture, a firm that eventually outgrew its original, 12 x 12-foot-square home office. At that time, their idea of an expansion provided opportunity to design a workspace that would let them really “walk the walk” and showcase new ideas. They also wanted a place to share with their family and friends. What resulted is a unique space that fosters creativity for work while providing comfortable quarters for guests. In the planning stages, Julie and Joseph focused on creating a climate of intimate hospitality but one that also afforded some seclusion: a guest suite where visitors could have their own separate “home.” “Our friends and family can just go and be there,” says Julie. “It is a wonderful, commodious way to have
our friends in our lives, but recognize the human need for privacy,” Joseph added. Accommodating friends was the reason to design a guest suite under the LineSync studio, but it wasn’t the only one. Having a lightly occupied space downstairs would create a testing lab where new ideas in accessibility and sustainability could be tried. The suite that eventually resulted is fully compliant with guidelines from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), handy indeed should the owners, guests, or employees ever need such considerations. It was also designed as a model of how sustainability and “green” architecture can be affordable. The original idea was to renovate an historic barn on the property that dated from the 1860s. Following the practice of that time, the buildings are all connected: the “big house” where JoV e r m o n t Ma g a z i n e 6 9
Living spaces are easily accessed and the random patterns Joseph painted on the floors seem to interconnect the rooms and make them seem larger than they really are. Small though it may be, the studio kitchen (page 69, center) provides an efficient workspace that is Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant. One stumbling block for ADA compliance can be configuration of cabinet doors; the problem was bypassed with the use of beaded curtains instead.
seph and Julie live with their family, a “little house,” and, originally, the barn (built on a stone wall) with a series of smaller barns attached to it. Joseph and Julie appreciated the relationship of all the structures, a virtual extension of the connection between home and work. “We thought it would be lovely to keep the barn as our workspace. It was its historic use and [the fact that] we wouldn’t be working in our own house, where it is easy to let work take over the rest of our 70
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lives,” said Julie. Unfortunately, the barn plan quickly went out the window when Joseph discovered an infestation of carpenter ants. “I was raised in New York City, and my first reaction was ‘look at these neat ants!’” he said. Once he realized the damage the ants had done, “neat” was not the word Joseph used. The new plan for the studio and guest suite was to reuse what they could salvage from the barn, which was damaged beyond repair. Once they had a pile of salvageable timbers to use, Joseph and Julie decided that the new plan could allow for more flexibility. “We decided that the space would be better if it didn’t rest on the stone wall,” explained Julie. “The wall acts as a reminder of the barn and its former use, but the bridge we built be-
tween the stone wall and the new space increases my commute,” Joseph added. Joseph believes that green design “has long been rooted in Yankee frugality and common sense.” Through a consistent practice of designing “green under the radar,” his choices in energy efficiency and the use of natural materials make beauty affordable. In both the studio and the guest suite, Joseph focused on how spaces can generate and conserve their own energy. The property is set up for solar panels, but they are noticeably absent. “People want to show off how green they are and install $30,000 solar panels. Most of the time, they’re not necessary,” commented Joseph. “What is necessary is asking: what can we do for conservation? How can continued on page 71 we save what we already have?”
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Here, conservation means using “outsulation”—the entire building is surrounded by a super-insulated wall. “This approach is more affordable, better, and less wasteful. It is nicer not to need much energy in the first place,” says Joseph. The effect is basically a jacket around the building, and the result is that the combined studio and guest space use half of the energy of the “big house.” In the guest suite, beams reclaimed from the barn nicely accent the walls and ceiling, and the floor of the suite is remarkable—it is primarily inexpensive concrete slab and nontoxic black concrete dye. Those characteristics don’t look bland or inexpensive, though. Once the floor was poured and as Julie was getting ready to go away for a weekend, Joseph told her that he would
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★ Beams salvaged from the 1860s-era barn that once stood outside grace the ceiling of the guest suite and add a decorative aspect that adds texture and complements large expanses of white wall space where collectibles and artwork are displayed.
try painting a few different color samples on the floor while she was away. After she left, Joseph started to paint the dye onto the concrete. Once inspired, rather than painting a small test-square of each color, he kept his brush moving and covered the entire floor with sweeping geometric shapes in each color. “I took the samples, a pencil, string, some chalk, and a big risk. I went wild and I wasn’t sure anyone would like it,” said Joseph. What he created is a work of art—stained glass on concrete—that the
whole family loves. Julie had everybody in the office move into the new space while it still had unfinished plywood floors, because Joseph was away for the weekend. “I knew he would never consider it ‘done,’ so we just jumped in,” remarked Julie. A large part of what makes Joseph and Julie a successful team is their balance between pragmatism and art. “We have two different perspectives, but no one of us rules the roost,” Julie continues, “and the studio and guest suite honor how
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november / december 2012
we work together.” Joseph’s art covers the floor of the suite, but it is to Julie’s credit that they are actually working in the space. Their partnership has created a space that shows clients what they can do, but is also enjoyable to live and work in. “This space is comfortable,” says Joseph, “and the whole staff works and hangs out downstairs. It is important to us that anyone who is in there feels like it belongs to them.” Jordan Werner lives and writes in Burlington, VT.
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