Long before the crew broke ground on her house in Afton, Minnesota, Amy Matthews was already thinking about the views. “I could tell you what you would see from any window,” she recalls. The former television host and licensed contractor has remodeled dozens of houses in her career. But this 4,090-square-foot “modern barnhouse,” a TOH 2021 Idea House, was Amy’s first opportunity to start from the ground up. Working with architects Colin Oglesbay and Aaron McCauley-Aburto (D/O Architects), she developed a plan that merges her Scandinavian heritage with her love of modern design. The result is a simple but striking building that blurs the line between indoors and out, making the most of the 1,500 acres of conservation land that surround it.
Siding: Real Cedar; Exterior Stain: Cabot; Windows and French doors: Sierra Pacific Windows; Roof: Bridger Steel; Roof underlayment: GAF; Specialty nails: Maze Nails; Landscaping: Likes Landscapes; Hardscapes: Polycor; Lawn Equipment: Kubota; special thanks to Niebur Tractor & Equipment, Inc.
Capturing the light
Even though the house is sited in a valley that is shaded for parts of the day, its tall, narrow form makes the interior bright. Expansive windows and skylights usher in the natural light: “The sun just pours in,” says Amy, who positioned the home with the sun’s path in mind, visiting the site often during the planning stages to time the sun and take photos.
Snug, Minnesota-worthy building envelope
Minnesota’s long, snowy winters also factored into Amy’s decisions. To maximize the building envelope’s energy efficiency, the home was framed with structural insulated panels (SIPS), which combine engineered strength, uninterrupted insulation, and exceptional air tightness. Working with SIPs requires finalizing other building choices in advance, notes builder Chad Maack (Hartman Homes), who oversaw construction. “We struggled a little bit at the front end getting windows selected,” he says. “But once all that was pinned down, the process went really well.” The building shell went up in about five weeks, as compared to the months that might be required for conventional stick framing.
Inside, the main floor plan is geared toward entertaining. “It’s totally open,” says Amy. “It’s really built for communing with family and friends.”
The 4,090-square-foot Modern Barnhouse’s long, linear shape brings every indoor space close to nature. Downstairs, the open kitchen and living area are designed for hospitality; a central “monolith” holds a wine bar and pantry. The dining room and sunroom project out on either side. Upstairs, a central hall connects two bedrooms, a workout room, an office, a laundry room, and a bath. Across the glassed-in bridge connector is the owner’s suite above the garage.
Women in the Trades workshop
Outbuildings on the property harken back to its days as a working farm. Some of this will be preserved, including a 20x40’ shed that has been rebuilt as a workshop for training women in the building trades as part of Amy’s charitable organization, And Now She Rises. “I wanted the property to be a place that my son and I could retreat to,” says Amy. “But I also wanted it to be a place where I could open the doors for people to come and have an experience on the land.”
Siding: Real Cedar; Exterior Stain: Cabot; Windows and French doors: Sierra Pacific Windows; Roof: Bridger Steel; Roof underlayment: GAF; Skylights: VELUX; Landscaping: Likes Landscapes; Landscape Lighting: House of Antique Hardware; Hardscapes: Polycor; Lawn Equipment: Kubota; special thanks to Niebur Tractor & Equipment, Inc.
Click here to see every space of the TOH 2021 Modern Barnhouse!