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This Old House Modern Barnhouse combines love of the land with a modern design aesthetic

Designer Amy Matthews drew on the tree-lined property’s farmstead roots to build a home filled with natural light and tree views.

A minimalist stairwell brightened by a skylight

In today’s interior design world, it seems like everything’s a mashup of styles, and the This Old House Modern Barnhouse is a prime example of combining styles to reflect both the homeowner’s personal tastes and the local architectural traditions.

“I love modern architecture, but it's such a trigger word. I think it means something different to every person,” said Amy Matthews, who worked with D/O Architects and Hartman Homes to design the Modern Barnhouse, where she and her family will live. “To me, it was about clean lines, simplicity in design, openness and a connection through the windows and skylights to the outdoors. Because this is such a stunning valley, I wanted to do as much glazing as possible to be able to integrate the outdoors and the inside.”

Modern barnhouse exterior

Matthews used natural materials inside and outside the house to connect with the towering pine and birch trees that surround the house. The exterior cladding is cedar with driftwood grey bleaching stain that will gradually lighten and become silver. Likewise, the metal roof, which harkens back to metal roofs used on barns in the area, is silver.

She used skylights throughout the home to enhance its look, feel and function.

Skylights maximize natural light throughout the house

White oak flooring and white walls reflect abundant light coming in from the skylights and windows. Three VELUX No Leak Solar Powered “Fresh Air” Skylights with solar-powered shades installed in the main bathroom, stairwell and kid’s bedroom on the south side of the roof capture light throughout the day.

“I wanted to use skylights to bring the light inside from those upper angles of the high peaked 15-foot ceilings on the second level,” Matthews said. “The way the skylights work, especially placed on the southern exposure in the house, is that they enable the space to get flooded with light at all times of day.”

Brass candle baskets sunlight plant

Skylights expand views to the treetops

The Modern Barnhouse sits in rolling countryside on a property lined with trees. The lush, private surroundings inspired Matthews to use plenty of windows. Skylights expand the view horizon to the treetops and sky.

“I didn't want to have a high peak and a gorgeous ridge beam and then a flat ceiling,” she said. “Anyone inside the house should be able to capture the sky and the trees in their view, and I knew I wasn't going to get that just from the windows, I needed to have skylights.”

This is especially true in the main bathroom located at the east end of the house in the owner’s suite. It’s a galley-style space with a long double vanity flanked by shelves opposite the shower, bathtub and toilet all in a single, open space. Windows line the back wall, and a fresh-air skylight positioned above the shower provides a sky view from the tub, in addition to sunlight that changes as the sun moves throughout the day.

“I wanted the owner's suite bathroom to feel like a spa getaway, but also like a treehouse,” Matthews said. “Like you are sitting in a lux treehouse taking a bath, and all you have are nature views.”

Bathroom open skylight bathtub vanity mirror

An added benefit of the bathroom skylight is that it opens via remote control to release humid air after showers to keep the space fresh.

Skylights provide energy-efficient passive ventilation

All of the skylights in the home can be opened with a remote control or smartphone app. The benefit of having skylights that open in high ceilings is that they can create natural airflow to cool the home. Known as the chimney effect, this method of passive ventilation takes advantage of hot air naturally rising and gathering at the ceiling. Matthews explains:

“When you have the opportunity to open a skylight, you're able to let that air move and escape and it will naturally actually draw air from other parts of the house up and through it, just like a chimney would,” she said. “A fire in the fireplace pulls the air from your house and sends it up the chimney. Well, a skylight will allow that air to move up and out of the home, which is a great passive way to create air movement.”

The breeze created by the chimney effect in the house, not only feels nice, according to Matthews, but it also helps cool the home during spring and summer.

Skylight open with shades

Skylight shades shape the light to your needs

Matthews doesn’t have window treatments on any of the windows, since the property is very private, but she did include light filtering shades on the skylights. Because skylights are nearly horizontal compared to their vertically installed window cousins, they capture more light throughout the day.

Depending on the location of the sun, shades offer a way to create the best light for each room.

Bathroom skylight shades bathtub vanity mirror

“Sometimes when you have hard light coming into a space, you just want to soften it,” Matthews said. “You don't want to darken it, you don't want to close it off, you still want that openness of the skylight being open, but you just want the sun a little bit diffused.”

Are you inspired by the skylights in the This Old House Modern Barnhouse? Sign up for a chance to win two VELUX No Leak Solar Powered “Fresh Air” Skylights with shades and installation for your home by entering the VELUX Skylight Sweepstakes.

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