This Old House Transforms a Dated, One-Story Ranch

Sweeping ocean views led the team to build upwards – taking a low-lying ranch to a two-story Dutch Colonial-style home that takes full advantage of the water vistas. 

Shayla and Scott Adams were thrilled when they heard the news that their extensive remodel project in Westerly, Rhode Island was going to be immortalized on the 41st season of This Old House. The couple had already purchased a 1949 ranch home about a mile from the ocean in Westerly, Rhode Island. The setup of the home wasn’t quite right for them and their two kids, but the location was a perfect fit and they saw so much potential.

Enter Tom, Norm, Kevin and the gang, who worked with contractor Jeff Sweenor, of Sweenor Builders, to achieve an amazing transformation that would make the home an ideal haven for this family of four.

The plan was to transform this low-profile ranch-style home into a towering gabled-roof Dutch Colonial. It’s a transformation that makes sense stylistically, considering ranch-style homes were born on the West Coast, while Dutch Colonial architecture was made popular in America by German and Dutch immigrants in the 18th century and this style of home is still found primarily in northeastern states. The very name “Rhode Island,” which means “Red Rock,” is credited to a Dutch trader. When the project was complete, there were no signs of the existing ranch, and the new home looks like it’s been proudly standing in place since the signing of the declaration.

The existing house was built in 1949, and the same family lived in it until it was purchased by Scott and Shayla. In this remodel, the foundation and basement were all that remained. Even the main floor walls were razed to make room for taller walls that would provide more headroom on the main floor. A little extra ceiling height allowed for tall sliding patio doors and larger windows to allow natural light to bathe the areas where this family spends most of their time. The second floor added another 1,225 square feet and an opportunity to take full advantage of the ocean views that were missed in the first build.

At the start of the project, the Adamses did not fully realize how magnificent the views were that they had access to. While the crew was working on the second floor, Shayla and Scott visited the job site and climbed up to investigate. What they saw was a stunning, sweeping view of the ocean. It was at this point that they decided to add more windows to the second floor to bring in natural light and water vistas.

Scott says, “They were actually framing the exterior walls, I asked Jeff, our contractor, is there any way we can expand this window package up here? It was definitely the right call to make.”

The couple chose Marvin to supply the windows and doors for their Westerly house.

“With the help of our contractor, we went to a Marvin Showroom and had a great tour. They broke down the product and gave us some options of material choices. We were really impressed with the quality of the product and the feel of the hardware,” says Scott.

In addition to adding windows on the second floor, they created two large, 13-foot openings that lead out onto outdoor living spaces. They filled the openings with two four-panel sliding doors that capture light all day long and create seamless transitions between indoors and out.

The Adamses chose Marvin Elevate windows, which are wood to the interior and fiberglass to the exterior, a durable, low-maintenance material that can easily withstand the harshest weather the northwest can dish out. They complemented these with Marvin Signature Ultimate Sliding French Doors, which feature an extruded aluminum exterior finish. The wood interiors were painted white at the factory and have a consistent, matching finish despite being from different product collections.

Because of the home’s proximity to the ocean, all 37 windows and doors needed to withstand gale-force winds and flying debris generated by hurricanes, so they all were fitted with impact resistant glass.

The exterior transformation was incredible. The gambrel roof line, flared eaves, cedar shingle siding, and window divided lite patterns all come together seamlessly to create the Dutch Colonial look the couple was after.

“Moving in was amazing,” Shayla says. “Being in such a big open space with so much light coming in. It was great.”

And the new homeowners can’t get enough of the scenery.  “The ocean-side views are better than expected.” Scott says, “We don’t close the blinds. It’s nice being able to wake up in the morning and see some pretty incredible views here.”

The whole project took about seven months to complete and was captured on 12 episodes of This Old House. Scott and Shayla couldn’t be happier and look forward to raising their daughters Marlin and Emily in their beautiful new home and in the same ocean-side community where they spent many summer days on the beach when they themselves were kids.

Photos by Anthony Tieuli.

Sneak Peek: Designer Amber Lewis’s Belgian Farmhouse

A designer previews her family’s dream retreat.

It’s been more than two years since California designer Amber Lewis, of Amber Interiors, began dreaming of her Belgian farmhouse where her family could retreat and gather for calm moments amidst their busy lives.

In love with the site their family’s home has been positioned on for years, Amber set out to reimagine the home through extensive remodeling and building out to create more space. Her priority? Natural light, and plenty of it. Paying attention to the positioning of the sun and framing views of the beautiful greenery surrounding the home, Amber positioned her Ultimate line windows and doors to not only enhance the design of the home but to harness the natural light she says is essential to her well-being.

The perpetual detail-obsessed designer, Amber is putting final touches on her masterpiece, but she shared a preview of the nearly finished home where her family is grateful to be spending a lot of time these days. Stay tuned for the full reveal of Amber’s space.

A bank of picture windows line a main corridor in Amber’s home, providing 24/7 views and light from the courtyard beyond.

The heart of the home, this cozy living room mixes light and nature views with natural wood and warm texture for the ultimate relaxation space.

A custom built-in bench creates a dining nook with views for days.

It’s hard to choose what stands out most in Amber’s dream kitchen – the green nature views or the beautiful tile, marble and brass accents.

In the coming weeks, we’ll share a full home tour along with an interview with the designer and what inspired, challenged and fulfilled her about bringing this home to life.

Amazing Exterior Home Transformations Start with Windows and Doors

Two sisters are helping homeowners transform their current house into the home of their dreams with digital exterior makeovers.

Sisters Allison Vaccaro and Cassie McDowell leveraged their lifelong passion for design by starting brick&batten, an exterior design firm that helps homeowners see the “after” of their project “before” the transformation takes place using digital technology and a knack for creating instant curb appeal. Everyone loves a good “before-and-after” home transformation, and these two are masters of the home makeover.

It works like this: customers send in a photo of their existing house or a copy of the blueprint for their future home. Next, they fill out a survey which pulls together and clarifies the preferences and aspirations of their upcoming project. Based on the survey, the designers at brick&batten create a realistic Photoshop rendering of the façade in all its reimagined glory. They also include a detailed shopping list of the building materials needed to execute the plan, including windows and doors.

“At brick&batten, we believe everyone deserves a beautiful home,” McDowell says. “Our exterior virtual design package can help people visualize the look they’ve been dreaming about before they take the plunge.”

“Our brick&batten clients are looking for cost effective solutions that increase curb appeal,” Vaccaro says. “Improving windows and doors can have a huge positive impact and can be a great way to maximize return on investment.”

In addition to enhancing the aesthetics, windows and doors can improve the way homeowners interact with their home. Creating larger window openings floods interior spaces with healthy light and improves the connection to the outdoors. Adding transoms and sidelights around the front door establishes a warm and welcoming entryway experience.

When choosing new windows, even a seemingly small architectural element like a divided light pattern can have a significant effect on the overall character of a home’s façade.

“Your architectural style will usually determine which grille pattern to use,” McDowell says. “For example: on a traditional Colonial it’s common to see a Double hung window with a busier grille pattern that has nine panes on both the upper and lower sash. Windows on a craftsman or bungalow may have a grille pattern on the top sash while the bottom sash is clear. Many mid-century modern homes have huge glass windows with very little in terms of divided lights. When in doubt, go simple.”

Sometimes, simply changing the color of windows and doors can have an enormous overall effect. In the past, homeowners often had two color choices—white or beige—but that’s certainly not the case now. The Marvin Ultimate line of windows and doors has 19 low maintenance exterior colors to choose from and has custom color options to match any design plan. And, any given door or window doesn’t even need to be the same color. Mixing and matching finishes has become a popular design trend.

The size, shape, color, and how a window interacts with the other design elements of a home are all important factors, but choosing the form of a window cannot be made without considering how it functions.

“When we include a window in our designs, we think about how it’s going to work for the client,” Vaccaro says. “If capturing a breeze is important, casement windows may be the best choice. If a window opens onto a patio or walkway where someone might bump into it, then a glider might make more sense. The fact that it’s easy to clean both sides of the glass on a double hung window could be a deciding feature when choosing windows for a two- or three-story home.”

Whenever possible Vaccaro, McDowell and the other designers at brick&batten prefer to spec Marvin products.

“Marvin’s window selection is unmatched,” McDowell says. “You can essentially create any type of window, for any purpose, in any environment, not to mention the options for interior and exterior finishes, the material the window is made from, and the different hardware and glass choices, all at different price points. The options are limitless!”

Photos courtesy brick&batten.

A Guide to Window Rigid Head Flashing

Learn why rigid head flashing is important and how to install it correctly with these pro tips.

What is rigid head flashing?

Rigid head flashing (RHF) works in conjunction with window flashing, weather resistant barrier (WRB) and the cladding to keep water from finding its way inside a building. RHF is made of steel, aluminum or PVC and is installed on the top, exterior side of a window. RHF is sometimes mistakenly called drip cap, drip edge, cap flashing or z-flashing.

One thing that distinguishes RHF from other flashing is that RHF protrudes past the plane of the window, which helps shed water out away from the face of the glass and window components. Rigid head flashing is available in many different colors at building supply stores or can be made on site with a brake from coil stock.

Read on for tips on how to install rigid head flashing along with some bonus pro tips you won’t find in typical installation manuals.

Seal underneath

Apply sealant between the wall and the back of a head flash. Use an exterior grade sealant that won’t shrink and stays flexible.

Pro tip: The horizontal part of the flashing should slope slightly down away from the wall to allow water to easily shed off it.

Tuck flashing under the WRB

A rigid head flash should be installed underneath the weather resistant barrier (WRB). Seal the rigid head flashing to the sheathing with a self-adhering flashing tape before folding the WRB down over the head flash.

Pro tip:  Seal the corners of the WRB with tape, but don’t fasten the WRB to the whole length of the head flash. Instead, apply several small sections of tape, just enough to keep the WRB in place. This process of “skip taping” will create an outlet for any water that may have penetrated the building envelope above the window.

Fold the ends up or down

Pro tip: Instead of cutting a head flashing the same length as the top of the window, run it long and either bend it down over the edge of the window or bend it up and create an end dam. Folding the end of the RHF down will help prevent water from finding its way under the flashing. Folding the RHF up will help prevent water from getting behind the cladding where the flashing and cladding meet.

If neither the window nor siding manufacture suggests one of these methods, then just pick the method you’re most comfortable with. Folding an RHF up and creating an end dam will only work when the cladding is not installed tight onto the top of the window (see below).

Leave a gap

Most siding and window manufacturers require a gap of 1/4-in. to 3/8-in. between the head flashing and the bottom edge of the siding directly above it. This gap prevents wicking up into the cut edge of the siding and creates an outlet for water that may have found its way behind the cladding or WRB somewhere above the window.

Pro Tip: Install a self-adhering flashing tape over the RHF that is a similar color as the head flashing because it may be visible in the gap between the head flashing and the siding. Flashing tape colors are typically limited to black, white, gray and silver, but a white tape will stand out more than a black tape if the windows, trim and siding are all dark colors.  

Don’t flash trim with head flashing

If the window is surrounded by trim, it’s not only important to install RHF between the top of the window and the trim, it’s important to flash the top of the horizontal head trim as well.

Pro tip: Head flashing designed for windows is often 1-1/4-in. wide. It will work fine if used on horizontal trim boards, its’ just wider than it needs to be. There’s no reason to have flashing protrude out farther than the face of the trim like head flashing protrudes out over a window; in fact, it looks better if it doesn’t. If your trim is ¾-in. thick, buy or make a z-flashing 3/4-in. wide.

Match the window color

Pro tip: Head flashing is less noticeable and looks better if it matches the color of the window instead of matching the color of the trim or siding.

Don’t skip it

Not all window manufacturer’s installation instructions will call for the addition of rigid head flashing but building codes in most municipalities require it. Even windows with a built-in flashing or an integral nailing fin benefit from RHF.  

Pro tip: As always, when in doubt, ask your local building official.

Read more about the top ten most common window installation mistakes.

Sidelights: a Home Improvement Option Worth Considering

Adding sidelights to a door is a great way to lighten up a drab entry space, improve a home’s air quality, and create a stronger connection with the outdoors.

You may not have given them much thought until now, but sidelights can be a budget-friendly, high-impact home improvement option. Here is a helpful guide with some great information on sidelights, their benefits, how much they cost, and why they might be the perfect upgrade for your next build or remodel project.

What is a sidelight

Sidelights are narrow vertical windows located on one or both sides of a door. They can be installed as individual units into individual rough openings but are most often built into the same frame assembly as the door itself. Traditional sidelights are stationary and don’t open or close, but some modern doors offer sidelights that are fully operational. It’s common for sidelights to be installed along with transom windows, which are long, narrow horizontal windows located above a door. Sidelights can be found on interior and exterior doors and are usually available in ½, ¾ and full-length options.

Improved proportions

A standard size door can appear disproportionately small on a home with a vast facade, wide pillars or large windows. Adding sidelights to a door will increase its overall presence and can pull it into proportion with other substantial architectural elements nearby.

More natural light

Increasing the amount of natural light is the most compelling benefit of adding sidelights to a door. Natural light adds warmth and beauty to a room and can create a sense of openness. This is especially important in an entryway, which is a natural gathering place. Adding more light in an entry also makes it easier to track down shoes, coats, purses, etc. without having to turn on an overhead light.

Better views

Sidelights installed alongside a front door can announce arriving guests and help you keep an eye out for that delivery driver you’ve been waiting for. But sidelights are not just an option for front doors. They can also be built into patio doors, which is a great way to take full advantage of that stunning backyard landscaping you’ve worked so hard on.

Fresh air

In the past, screen doors were the only way to enjoy a healthy dose of fresh air through a door opening. But a screen door is not a great option if you own a beautiful handcrafted or historic front door that you don’t want to cover up. Operating sidelights are a brilliant fresh air solution because they are typically too small for a would-be intruder to pass through, which means you can keep the door closed and locked yet still enjoy all the benefits of fresh air.

Privacy solutions

The one potential shortcoming of a sidelight window is that you may not want folks outside looking inside your home. Some owners of sidelight windows choose to treat them with frosted or stained glass, sheer curtains, or other decorative options. Not only do these privacy solutions still allow light indoors, they also provide interesting design opportunities that can enhance your home’s look.

Replacing an existing door

Replacing an existing stand-alone door with a combination door/sidelight unit can be accomplished, but the rough opening would have to be increased, so there needs to be enough wall space on either side of the existing door to accommodate the width of the new sidelights. Increasing a rough opening is not a difficult project for a capable contractor, however there are certain circumstances which could drive up the costs. Moving electrical wires, heating ducts or other mechanical components hiding inside the wall would require the need to hire additional tradespeople. And cutting back and reconfiguring brick or stone can also be an expensive process.  

Adding sidelights to an existing door

If you want to keep your current front door but still want the benefits of sidelights, it is possible to add sidelights to an existing door by creating separate rough openings alongside it. Trim pieces can be purchased or created to cover up the framing structure between the door and windows to make it all look like one connected assembly. This process requires the skills of a seasoned carpenter.

Repairing existing sidelights

It is often possible to replace just the glazing (glass) on a sidelight window without having to replace the entire door/window assembly. Replacing rotten brickmould and other individual wooden components on a sidelight or door may be an option as well.

How much do sidelights cost?

There are thousands of sidelight sizes and styling combinations, so it’s impossible to state precisely the cost of the products you may be considering, but here is an example scenario on a relatively standard entry door:

  • Door without sidelight: $1,000
  • Door with one sidelight: $1,700
  • Door with two sidelights: $2,400

How to Measure Your Windows and Doors for Replacement

All you need to start the process of getting a quote for your window and door replacement process is a tape measure, a helper and our handy tracking form.

Do you need a prybar to open your windows? Is your door threshold wobbly and rotten? Does the wind blow your curtains around even when your windows are closed? If you can relate to any of these scenarios, it may be time for new windows and doors.

In the past, buying new windows and doors meant you might have set up meetings with a few different sales reps and invite them into your home to measure and discuss design options and pricing. These days, though, a digital meeting might be a better option to discuss the window replacement process. But where does this leave you when you still need to know the measurements of your windows and doors to get a realistic quote? You can do your own measuring, and it’s really quite simple. Here’s how:

Enlist a helper

Measuring windows and doors can be a one-person job, but it will go a lot faster with a helper. Have your helper record the measurements as you go in this convenient printable form. To avoid a mistake, after you read the measurements, have them read the numbers back as you double check the dimensions. It’s also handy to have a helper hold one side of the tape measure when measuring larger windows and doors.

Measure the width

From the inside of your home, use a tape measure, and measure the distance from the inner edge of one side jamb to the other. The side jamb is the vertical piece of trim on each side of the window or door. If your window is finished with drywall instead of jambs, simply measure the distance between the drywall on each side. Round up to the nearest inch and record your measurement.

Measure the height

Measure the distance between the sill of the window and the head jamb. The sill is the lowest horizontal piece of trim. On a door, measure the distance between the threshold and the head jamb. If your window is finished with drywall at the top instead of a head jamb, simply measure up to the drywall. Round up to the nearest inch and record your measurement.

Don’t worry

What if your measurements are not perfect? Don’t worry, if you do decide to choose Marvin for your home improvement project, a friendly and knowledgeable window and door expert will confirm all measurements before ordering your new Marvin windows and doors.

Don’t have a Marvin dealer yet?

Visit our find a dealer tool or call 1-888-537-7828 to find a Marvin dealer near you.

Classic Farmhouse Meets Cozy Cottage

Two familiar styles come together in one family-friendly home with a focus on natural light and cozy spaces.

Shelter. Family. Comfort. When imagining a farmhouse or cottage, these are the words that come to mind. This is why teams at Cottages & Bungalows and American Farmhouse Style magazine came together to imagine, plan and blend the best of both styles into one dream cottage farmhouse located in idyllic Springfield, New Hampshire.

“The simple fact that we wanted to include two different aesthetics made the home’s design and build process challenging, but we’re of the opinion that both the farmhouse and cottage styles embody that welcoming, homey feel for the homeowners,” said Victoria Van Vlear, American Farmhouse magazine’s style editor.

It took a year of prep, brainstorming, mood boards, floor plans and color swatches – and a top-notch partnership with builder Yankee Barn Homes to bring it to life.

The definition of “cottage style” varies, but many countries and regions describe a cottage as a place to get away like a cabin or retreat located in the countryside, the forest, or near water. Somewhere you can kick your feet back and be immersed in the slower pace of nature.

This home, nestled within a tranquil wooded lot, matches that description well. While typically small one-story structures, cottages often feature a vaulted ceiling with exposed posts and beams that reveal their timber-framed bones.

Farmhouse-style homes continue to be a popular choice. Like cottage-style homes, the definition of farmhouse style can vary. But most farmhouse-inspired homes are known for their white exteriors, metal roofs, and sturdy porches. Double hung windows and cupolas (small dome or rectangular structures on top of a roof – historically used as lookouts or bell towers and in modern day for ventilation or to add light) are also a principle design element. The creative use of cupolas with small windows on all sides brings natural light from above.

Farmhouse- and cottage-style homes share similar traits that complement each other. Both types of homes are typically simple, unadorned structures, and keeping the garage detached helps emphasize this characteristic. Inside the home, wide plank flooring and open kitchen shelving are also common features.

A great room/dining room with stacked, expansive Marvin Signature Ultimate line windows is flooded with natural light and provides a front row seat to the change in seasons.

“I have to admit, the great room is my favorite,” said Jeffrey Rosen, creative director and co-owner of Yankee Barn Homes. “It’s a two-story volume. There’s light from the three walls of glass windows and doors, and warmth from the stone fireplaces that anchor both ends of the room. It’s truly the soul of the house.”

Achieving this sense of warmth, home and distinct farmhouse and cottage style was the task of a team of experts both magazines brought together to inform the overall look, including a team of interior designers to design the individual rooms, like Amy Mitchell of Home Glow Designs, Heather Alton of New England Design Elements, and Joanne Palmisano of Joanne Palmisano Interiors.

Proper planning is key with every project but becomes especially important when working with two distinct style inspirations, so it was essential to get all the details right before the construction process started.

“We spend a great deal of time in the planning stage. With our design department’s current technology, we can fine-tune any changes prior to actual production. We also provide a virtual walk-through of the home so that the client can get a clearer and more definite feel for it. We can even go so far as to produce miniature scale models that a customer can hold in their hand!” said Jeffrey.

After the design is finalized, much of the home’s production takes place in the controlled environment at the Yankee Barn Homes facilities. “The posts, beams, and panels are all created at our factory,” he said. “Even the Marvin windows are preinstalled before the panels are shipped to the job site. Our homes are constructed replicating a traditional barn raising. It’s a unique process. A typical Yankee Barn Homes shell package, once completed at our facilities, can be delivered and assembled on site within 5-10 workdays.”

This home was part of the Yankee Barn Homes model home program, and because there were no specific homeowner requirements that needed to be met, many of the design features were chosen based on current trends like the desire for more natural light and a stronger connection with the outdoors.

“There is currently a huge demand for more glass and blurred lines between interior and exterior spaces,” said Jeffrey. “We continually expand the boundaries between a home’s interior and the surrounding exterior by incorporating more and more windows and glass doors. Fortunately, window technology has kept up to speed with this desire. Insulation and light protection qualities are inherent in today’s Marvin products, allowing us to install as much glass as a homeowner could ever want.”

In addition to an abundance of light and a strong connection to the outdoors, Yankee Barn Homes wanted to create an overall sense of well-being and mental and physical retreat.

“There are several key areas for relaxation in this home,” Victoria says. “There are a few cozy reading nooks with plenty of windows, and the great room has a large fireplace, which makes the living and dining spaces very comfy. All the architectural and design touches that give the home that personalized feel contribute to the overall vibe of health and happiness.”

“We really tried to fill the rooms with the right scale furniture and choose accents and décor that had a lot of heft and visual presence,” said Jickie Torres, editor at Cottages & Bungalows magazine. “But at the end of the day, that gorgeous view was an element we wanted to celebrate and highlight, not downplay. So Marvin’s beautifully made windows really were the glue that bound the indoors to the out.”

Considering a Staircase Makeover? Add Windows.

Statement staircases can bring energizing light and impressive views to some of the highest-traffic areas of a home, and these are 9 of our favorite stunners.

From railings to risers and even window pairings, there are unlimited options when it comes to the style of your stairway. Want a one-of-a-kind focal point for your home? Windows let in natural light for better safety and visibility, and illuminate multiple levels and spaces within a home to turn your staircase into a total showstopper. We’ve curated nine unique staircases with equally unique windows to inspire the staircase makeover of your dreams.

A Cinderella moment with a view. This winding staircase, with the spotlight on a beautiful round window halfway down, makes for a grand entrance and the organic shape of the window complements the curve of the stairway.

With this stunning set of windows, it’s almost as if you can walk right out on to the water in this beach house. Speaking of water, in areas where harsh coastal conditions are a consideration, IZ-rated glass options and durable exterior finishes can offer peace of mind.

Young ones (and the young at heart) will love a low window in a staircase where they can perch to watch the world go by. Our pre-finished white interior windows are factory-painted to match white trim, which means your windows come painted and ready to install without an extra thought.

Emily Henderson created a fun little window nook in the stairway to the kids’ room in her mountain home. The kids can cozy up with a good book or simply gaze out the window and daydream. At night they can look out at the stars before turning in.

When the light shines in through this staircase, the column of windows casts beautiful shadows, like artwork on the wall of this modern space. The unique stacked design with inoperable picture windows extends the line of sight from the door at the bottom of the stairs nearly up to the ceiling.

This bank of windows helps bring the outdoors in with views of the home’s tree-filled yard. If you can’t be outside, it’s a nice way to feel like you are part of nature. Sets of picture windows mulled together give the illusion of a full wall of glass.

An eye-catching mural done in the style of Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai—best known for an iconic print of an enormous blue wave off the coast of Japan—adorns the staircase in Vern Yip’s Rosemary Beach home. Three windows bring light and views into what would otherwise be a dark space.

This ornate stairway features a gothic-style arched window with decorative glass. Whether you’re restoring historic windows to their original style or adding windows to new construction, the ability to match architectural details is important. The International Well Building Institute recommends installing windows in stairwells to make taking the stairs more appealing, encouraging positive practices for the health of those who use the buildings.

We love the contrast of the designer black windows, white risers, natural wood stairs and black railing in this transitional home. Plus, the wall of windows brings in light to put the staircase center stage.

Sarah Sherman Samuel’s Nature-Inspired Modern Home Office

Interior designer builds a home office around natural light and mood-boosting nature views.

For designer Sarah Sherman Samuel, staying inspired in a home office space means incorporating her two must-haves for creative bliss: plenty of natural light and a blank slate space where the color, materials, patterns, and finishes she works with can get all her attention.

Used to living and designing in sunny California, natural light (and lots of it) is integral to her professional process. When Samuel and her family relocated to Michigan and moved into a home in a beautiful nature ravine, she knew she wanted to build a space that would capture as much light as possible while celebrating the wooded backdrop. She ditched traffic-filled commutes and gave “working from home” a new meaning when she built a modern, streamlined office structure just steps from her newly renovated home.  

Nestled in a hillside overlooking her tree-lined site, Samuel’s workspace is long and skinny, modeled after a house with a single-gable roof. The exterior is painted Caviar Black to match her family home, giving the impression of a closed-off bunker until you round the side and see a wall of expansive Marvin Modern sliding doors and a 12-foot direct-glaze window framing the ravine below.

“I’ve always wanted to build a ‘modern shed’ for an office, and when I saw the new Marvin Modern line, it all clicked. I designed the structure around its multi-slide door that goes from floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall,” Samuel said. “There is nothing superfluous in the design, just like the structure itself. The clean lines go hand-in-hand with the black metal roof that almost seamlessly transitions to the siding.”

In keeping with Samuel’s modern aesthetic, her home office boasts clean lines and a minimal color palette of black and white, letting natural materials, rich textures, natural light, and nature views take center stage. Since she spends a lot of time at her computer designing and envisioning spaces, Samuel enlisted her father to create what she calls the “infinity pool of desks” – a 12-foot custom desk built into the windowsill of her Modern direct glaze window. The desk helps save space and gives her a much needed opportunity to bask in the light and gaze into the forest to clear her mind.

“Even when you’re sitting at the computer you feel immersed in nature,” Samuel said. “You only need to glance up to give your eyes a beautiful break from the screen. Focusing on something 20 feet or more away periodically while working at a monitor helps to avoid eye strain. It makes it easy to follow the 20-20-20 rule (which states that for every 20 minutes at the computer, you should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds).”

As a designer, Samuel has a knack for choosing art and creating beautiful moments in a space. In her home office, she did this with the windows – strategically placing solid walls where the views were not so desirable (her driveway) and placing windows and doors so when she’s in her office she sees nothing but forest views and the wooded ravine below.

“When taking a picture, you narrow in on the subject and crop out anything you don’t want to see. For example, showing the perfectly styled corner of your house, but cropping out the toy explosion produced by your toddler just off to the left,” Samuel said. “Windows are like photo cropping in real life.”

From the materials you choose to design with, the shape of a structure, and the creative ways you organize the space within it, Samuel believes that a person’s surroundings deeply affect how they feel. In a space designed around light and views, with creative and custom touches to accommodate her busy design business, Samuel has created an inspirational sanctuary (and she doesn’t need to go far to find it).

“Natural light gives me life and is my number one necessity for productivity. My brain often works overtime and needs a palate cleanser. I’m never not working or thinking, ideating or designing in my head, which can sometimes lead to burnout,” Samuel said. “Being able to take a moment to look outside and immerse myself in nature helps my mind to rest and sparks more inspiration.”

Photos by Sang An; Domino Magazine

Before and After: Emily Henderson’s Mountain Home Transformation

Beloved designer Emily Henderson’s escape in the mountains features soaring A-frame windows and tranquil nature views.

To say Emily Henderson transformed her mountain home would be an understatement. She took a dark, dated space and turned it into a light-filled, contemporary haven with stunning nature views that help her family disconnect from busy city life and recharge their batteries.

“I’m trying to raise two normal (and even kind) children so it’s crucial that we get out of the city, away from the chaos and just connect to each other and with nature. The second I get to this house I can feel my body and soul relax and am filled with joy.”

Henderson brought in Scandinavian minimalist touches, added playful elements and got creative with windows where originally there were none. And to up the family’s relaxation game, she prioritized the kind of cozy nooks we can’t get enough of right now.

Check out these before and after transformations for a small peek into her mountain retreat.

The Family Room


The family room underwent one of the largest transformations and is now one of the most-used spaces in the home. The fireplace in the corner of the room was relocated, a staircase was removed (a redesign of the room above made it no longer necessary), and large scenic doors were installed for easy access to the outside.

“The scenic door from our family room to the back deck makes the house feel 10 times bigger (and our kids can’t stop getting a kick out of the fact that they are both inside and outside at the same time),” Henderson said.


The Living Room


In the living room, Henderson transformed the face of the fireplace without losing its natural charm and character. Throughout the home, carpeting was removed and now warm hardwood floors and rugs take their place.

Next to the fireplace, a feature wall of dated and energy inefficient original A-frame windows were replaced with a custom solution that allowed the shape and style to remain, letting light in through brand new Ultimate line windows with a natural white oak framing. Because the window was integral to the home’s structure, Henderson worked closely with her Marvin architectural rep to ensure the new solution was engineered to stand the test of time, save energy and support the home while letting in all of the beautiful natural light.

“The natural light in here is insanely beautiful, moves around the house all day and generally makes my heart fill with happiness,” Henderson said. “The windows are the feature, with the natural light being the real star.”


The Loft


This loft area was transformed into an office space where Henderson can get her natural light fix during the day from floor-to-ceiling windows. The A-frame windows are a focal point both for the loft and the living room below. Balancing cozy with bright, this unique space is a nook all its own, with gorgeous refinished wood ceilings that now meet the floor for a seamless look.


The Kitchen


Originally there was a wall shutting off the living room from the kitchen and the kitchen itself had just one tiny window. Henderson opted to tear down the wall to create open sightlines from the A-frame window all the way to the dining nook.

A large-scale glider window was added for easy operation and plenty of light over the stove, and a custom white oak patio door allows access to the outdoors from the heart of the home.


Other spaces we love:

The Master Bedroom

In the previous layout of the home, no master bedroom existed. Henderson got smart about the floor plan, borrowing space from one of four family living areas to create a brand new master suite with windows where there once were none.

“Our master bedroom is up high and had really pretty forest views, but no windows to let us enjoy it.” Henderson said. “The function and layout of the room changed once the windows were installed because they became the focus; we oriented the room to face them.”

The Kids’ Room

The kids’ room had no windows at all and, as Henderson pointed out, “Kids need natural light!” A tricky roofline meant they needed to get creative, so by staggering the windows at various heights and sizes, they were able to get four added to the room.

Now, not only do the kids get several windows in their playful room, but they get their very own cute nook in which to daydream whenever they’d like.

The Downstairs Guest Room + Bathroom

The downstairs guest room provides easy access to the outdoors with custom swinging French doors that let light stream in through large glass panels. Light-blocking shades, copious greenery and a relaxing private bathroom complete this calming oasis for guests.

Learn more about Emily’s mountain home renovation and hear from the designer herself on why she chose Marvin for her home in our Instagram highlight.