Artreehoose / Della Valle Bernheimer

© Richard Barnes

Architects: Della Valle Bernheimer
Location: Lake Candlewood, New Fairfield, CT,
Partner in Charge: Andrew Bernheimer
Project Manager: Erik Helgen
Project Team: Jared Della Valle, Brian Butterfield, Adam Ruedig, Suzanne Stefan
Contractor: Hammersmith Inc.
Project Area: 5,400 sq ft
Project Year: 2007-2008
Photographs: Richard Barnes

Wedged into a tight lot along Lake Candlewood in New Fairfield, Connecticut, this new home’s form and structure was derived from observations of trees and an adaptation of local building techniques. The project began with studies of leaf canopies, accumulated ring structures, and the dappled light that filters through groups of trees. Multiple study models in several media (concrete, acrylic, wood, plaster), investigated how light flows through perforations in these various materials. We used these models to observe, secondarily, how certain materials would be suited to creating a stable, discrete, but minimal structure. During the formative process we were interested in designing a house that seemed in large part to float and protect, much like the tree canopies on the site shelter the ground beneath them.

ground floor plan
second floor plan

The final design, a house of 5,400 square feet, involved an intense collaboration with Guy Nordenson and Associates, Structural Engineers. Together we developed a unique structural system of long-span ¾” x 16” x 27’ plywood joists which work in tandem with a series of Verendiel trusses that rest on solid billets of . The joists, made from scarf-jointed Douglas fir, assembled into 4’ wide panels using stiffening pipes to join and stabilize the plywood before being lifted into place. The slim columns on which the truss structure and this joist system rest support the cantilevered volumes which are clad in red cedar. This cedar is deployed on the exterior in two different techniques: First, it is installed with a vertical board and batten technique to exaggerate the appearance that the house was assembled as a series of stacked pieces, like the rings of a tree. On obverse faces the wood is installed in a jointless tongue and groove fashion.

© Richard Barnes

Organized around the central double-height volume spanned by the special long-span wood joists, the ground floor is primarily wrapped in monumental sliding glass panels, opening up the house and connecting the inside, quite literally, to the outside. The mobility of these panels exaggerates the weight of the two cantilevered volumes above.

© Richard Barnes

Upstairs, two cantilevers contain the bedrooms. These spaces jut out over the lake like the prow of a boat and protrude into the surrounding trees themselves. Carefully located skylights illuminate the great room and each of the upstairs spaces, as if light were coming through gaps in tree branches.

Products in this project

Bathroom Equipment: RIFRA, GFSSI

  • Bathroom plumbing fittings by RIFRA
  • Bathroom plumbing fixtures by GFSSI

Construction materials, Semi-finished materials: BioBased Systems, LLC

  • Insulation by BioBased Systems, LLC

Floor: Ann Sacks, Stone Source

  • Flooring by Ann Sacks
  • Flooring by Stone Source

Heating and Ventilation: WIRSBO, Viessmann

  • HVAC equipment by WIRSBO
  • HVAC equipment by Viessmann

Joinery: Fleetwood Windows & Doors , Rajack, FSB

  • Windows by Fleetwood Windows & Doors
  • Hardware by Rajack
  • Hardware by FSB

Kitchen Equipment: Dornbracht, Schiffini, Gaggenau, Dacor, Sub Zero, Bosch

  • Kitchen plumbing fixtures by Dornbracht
  • Kitchen cabinets by Schiffini
  • Cooktop by Gaggenau
  • Oven or range by Dacor
  • Refrigerator by Sub Zero
  • Kitchen plumbing fittings by Schiffini
  • Countertops by Schiffini
  • Dishwasher by Bosch

Lighting, Heating, Home/building automation: Bega, NOLUX

  • Lighting fixtures by Bega
  • Lighting fixtures by NOLUX

Walls: Benjamin Moore

  • Paints/stains/wall finishes by Benjamin Moore
Cite: "Artreehoose / Della Valle Bernheimer" 23 Aug 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 25 May 2015. <>