Into the Great Wide Open
story by Kathleen James • photos by Carolyn Bates
Vermont Magazine - January, 2008
When John and Mary Gill decided to build a vacation home on an eight-acre piece of land in Stowe, “they wanted to celebrate the hillside location,” says architect Milford Cushman. “The site has a huge horizontal horizon, but also a tremendous sense of height—way down the valley, and far up overhead.”
It should come as no surprise, then, that the finished home includes a great room with a soaring cathedral ceiling and a wall of windows with a stunning vertical view. It also included a first-floor deck that runs the length of the house, interrupted only by the great room, offering indoor-outdoor living on a grand horizontal scale. On the west end, a covered deck wraps around the corner of a spacious bedroom suite. Near the center, a sunny open deck crosses in front of the kitchen. And at the east end, an octagonal screened porch with a pine ceiling offers 180-degree views and a gorgeous stone fireplace.
“There’s no doubt, the screened porch is our favorite room,” says Mary Klein-Gill, an educational consultant. “It’s fantastic in summer and fall.” She and John live in Devon, a western suburb of Philadelphia, where he is CEO of a biotech firm.
The screened porch connects to the kitchen and dining area, which includes another fireplace—on the indoor side of the same masonry stack—and a cozy eating nook built of bright Douglas fir, with windows on three sides. The great room has a third stone fireplace, flooring of reclaimed antique pine (used throughout the home), and massive native-hemlock beams. “The great room and its views are pretty dramatic, “says builder Steve Sisler of Sisler Builders in Waterbury Center. “Kudos go to the owners on this. They did a lot of research and worked closely with the architect to get that room right.”
The first floor also includes a bedroom suite that will be the master someday, when John and Mary retire, as they are considering, to their Vermont vacation home. “They were thinking ahead,” says Cushman, “to a time when they might want to live entirely on the first level.”
Cushman describes the home as a “classic Adirondack revival.” Sisler calls it a “refined lodge.” For the Gills, the home represents the same combination that drew them to Stowe in the first place. “We love to be outdoors, we love the mountains, and we wanted our home to reflect that. At the same time, it’s fairly sophisticated—but without the glitz.”