Our homes should make a statement about who we are and what is important to us. For the construction of this house in Belarus, the owners had two primary priorities: minimize their impact on the environment, but don't sacrifice the comfort or style they were looking for in a home.
Inspiration for the house came from the setting--a mature forested area similar to the woods we find in Canada.
Inside, minimal Scandinavian decor keeps the focus on the exterior views, accent colours bring the outside in, and the use of green energy lessens the home's carbon footprint. These are all lessons that can be applied in home construction anywhere in the world.
From the outside, the house looks unassuming. But the underlying systems that power the house are quite powerful and innovative.
Electricity is generated by solar panels and a geothermal system supplies the heat for the house. Geothermal is a ground source system. Pipes are laid in long loops underground. Water flowing through those pipes is heated by the natural temperature of the earth. Inside the house, a heat pump extracts that heat and a forced air system pushes it throughout the house. The system is very efficient, because it does not rely on electricity or fossil fuels like oil or propane to generate heat (and most systems also supply air conditioning and hot water). A small amount of electricity is all that's needed to power the heat pump. The exterior is clad in insulated panels. These panels help to decrease energy consumption, but also add dimension to the facade through their grid configuration.
The main entrance is sheltered at the side of the home. Tucking the entrance back under the second story ensures there's no disruption to the home's silhouette.
The strong geometry established through the siding panels continues here with the boxy concrete porch, support post, light fixture and walkway.
Wooden slats affixed to the walls set a Scandinavian tone. The siding makes the entrance way stand out from the rest of the house and adds a warm, organic element that echoes the surrounding woods.
Inside, the home embodies quintessential Scandinavian style. White or light tones with limited use of colour, clean design with minimal accessories and warm wood with pops of black are common throughout.
In the living room, white walls and light wood floors create a calm atmosphere while also bouncing light around the interior, minimizing the need for electric lights. A wood stove in the corner supplements the geothermal heat and is also a cozy feature during the dark days of winter.
Geometric tiles in shades of grey behind the stove are a subtle decoration.
The forested surroundings and emphasis on green living are reflected in the grass-green accents, like the rug and pillows. Architect Andre Bezdar explains that the colour makes the interior a reference of the natural environment on the exterior.
The linkage between the indoors and out is most apparent in the sunroom at the rear of the house.
With glass walls on three sides, the porch makes people feel almost like they are outside. Wood furniture, decking and siding emphasize the natural environment. The sunroom is surrounded by a wraparound deck, further bridging the connection to the outdoors.
The unusual light fixture is composed of glowing bars that seem to float above the table. Their modern style references elements seen in the rest of the house.
In the indoor dining room, an unusual square light fixture appears to float--again--above the table. The shiny finish on the table reflects the light's glow. The curvy chairs and flowing curtains help to soften the sharp lines of the light, table and surrounding architecture.
An important consideration in environmentally friendly design is size. A larger house requires more materials and resources to build and maintain. Choosing an open concept plan can make your home to feel spacious, even if the proportions are in fact relatively modest. As well, the set up is ideal for entertaining and modern family life.
In this house, uninterrupted sight lines between the living and dining areas make the main floor feel generous.
In most modern open concept homes, the kitchen is open to the main living areas. However, in this home the architects elected to construct a wall part of the way along one side of the kitchen. The wall provides a bit of privacy, sheltering the mess of pots and pans from the main living and dining areas. However, the kitchen is still open enough that the cook is not completely cut off.
Warm grey cabinets, white counters and stainless steel appliances are timeless choices that are in keeping with the Scandinavian style of the house. The designers eschewed upper cabinets in favour of a clean, open look. A rail running along the wall provides storage and organization.
Accessories like a wood tray and green dish towels are welcome accents.
One end of the kitchen holds a surprise: additional storage and a strong pop of colour. A full wall of cabinets run from the floor to the ceiling, providing abundant storage for everything from food to dishes. The glossy, flat front of the cabinets are coloured a bright yellow-green--an unexpected accent in the monotone house.
The cabinets are set in a strong geometric grid which echoes the pattern of the siding outside. Sturdy bar-shaped pulls in brushed metal are a simple choice that matches the stainless steel appliances. The colour adds a jolt of energy to the kitchen and shows the personality of the homeowners.
In the private spaces of the home--like this bedroom--the calm white palette returns. Light white wood floors, the upholstered bed and the cushioned headboard create a restful atmosphere.
The architects took advantage of the peaked roof, incorporating a vaulted ceiling and skylight in this bedroom. The vault makes for a spacious, dramatic room, while the skylight brings in beautiful natural light.
While often a large painting or other artwork would be hung over the bed, the designers elected to keep the decor very spare. The focus is on the tall headboard and the industrial-style articulating task lamps on either side of the bed. The single piece of art in the room--a large attention-getting portrait--is displayed in a quirky personal way. It is tucked under the eaves, sitting on the floor, propped against the wall.
Even in minimalist design, there is room for an element of romanticism. In the bedroom, this comes from the drapes, which are allowed to pool on the floor and waft in the breeze. The windows, which stretch almost floor to ceiling, overlook the surrounding trees.
A vanity, stool and mirror are set between the windows. Their clean lined, modern style contrasts with the softness of the curtains.
Scandinavian design isn't about just white. This office has a cozy, moody feel, thanks to an accent wall painted a dark grey. Set against the dark wall, the white top and light wood legs of the desk pop.
The same light wood flooring is used throughout the house, creating a cohesive feel between the rooms.
Careful clutter management is essential in the Scandinavian style--a challenge in an office. Large closets corral supplies, while the mirrored doors reflect light around the room.
Light is an important feature in Scandinavian design. As in Canada, winter means limited daylight.
In this bathroom, the architects wanted to bring in as much natural light as possible, so they installed a large skylight. The skylight provides a glimpse of the treetops, while also flooding the room with sun. Glass walls around the shower ensure that the light flows through the whole room.
The lines between the black and white palettes are blurred in the bathroom. The shower walls feature a graphic mini mosaic in black, white and grey tiles. In the rest of the room, the designers chose a grey finish for the walls and white tile for the floor.
The blocky vanity and storage cabinets echo the clean lined, modern furniture seen elsewhere in the house. The cabinets were installed so that they float above the floor. Their suspended position makes the room feel bigger, as your eye spans from wall to wall uninterrupted.
This home shows that you can be both stylish and environmentally conscious. With careful choices, the architect and construction team, in collaboration with the homeowners, achieved that balance between living green and a very livable home.