Sacred Ground: Barn House Modernized to the Max

From Margaret Everton on June 29, 2010 in Philadelphia

philadelphia sacred remodel

For architect Matt Moger, to use the term “sacred ground” wasn’t unusual. After all, his Berwyn-based architectural design firm has the goal of designing “homes of the land.” Moger looks at the environment and asks, “What can I create from the local setting?”

When he approached the five-acre lot in Kennett Square, there was no doubt. His first thought had to do with sacred ground. The second thought was what the house would look like in order to protect said sacred ground. He designed two structures for his client—both modeled on the barn house, but modernized to the max.

philadelphia living room

Ave and Vickie Topel, the homeowners, came from a large farmhouse. They wanted to find a house that they could spend their retirement years in—something simple, low-maintenance, rustic, and integrated with its surroundings. The barnhouse approach was perfect. It incorporated the rustic themes, and it matched the environment.

The Topels also wanted a timber-frame construction. Their curiosity with timber-frame buildings led them into a learning journey of green living, lower energy bills, and sustainable concepts. By the time that they were done talking, the builders knew that they were going to be building a LEED-certified home. LEED certification is hard work, but Moger was up to the challenge.

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The home bespeaks its sustainable architecture, but it also manifests incredible, simple beauty. The timber-frame great room, about which the Topels are passionate, soars with 20-feet ceilings and huge picture windows. The fireplace is a central feature of the beautiful great room. It is a 36-foot stone structure.

To protect against the elements and climate, the home is equipped with exterior sliding doors that completely cover the windows. This is also to ensure privacy. The barn-door look of these exterior sliding doors adds to the natural farm appeal.

The second part of the house is the smaller barn structure. This is the area in which Moger wanted to showcase the beauty of the home’s surroundings. Thus, he used wall-to-wall windows to open up the space to the landscape. The front door to the structure is a distressed copper-covered structure.

philadelphia sacred bathroom

For the Topels, the experience of entering the world of green and having a LEED-certified home was a huge learning experience. They authored a book with the title, Green Beginnings: The Story of Building Our Green & Sustainable Home. While the couple is “not completely fanatical about going green,” they do have a profound respect for the earth, and they certainly enjoy living on their plot of sacred ground.

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