Seeking a retreat from the city, architect Rafe Churchill and designer Heide Hendricks’s clients, a couple with two children, purchased a parcel of land with open fields and broad views in the northwestern corner of Connecticut on the Massachusetts border. Their vision of rural life included a net zero farmhouse and barns—structures that generate as much energy as they consume—along with a four-season garden with permaculture projects, composting beds, an orchard, and a managed forest.
They also had a specific look in mind: the couple arrived at the first design meeting with Robert McCloskey’s classic children’s book One Morning in Maine and pointed to the illustrations of a sensible, simple farmhouse as exactly what they envisioned. Passionate about and committed to sustainable living, they also asked that their farmhouse include state-of-the-art green technology. “This house has a well-insulated exterior shell, a geothermal system, solar power, rainwater collection, a freshwater pool, and permaculture farming,” Churchill says. “We’ve seen many attempts at this program before, but the schemes often end up getting caught up in the technology, resulting in a modern farmhouse. We were determined to build a traditional farmhouse.”
“The approach for the interiors was on the spare and utilitarian,” Hendricks says. “Our several visits to Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, influenced our thinking. We had to accomplish a mood with very little decoration, so everything we brought in was completely necessary.”275