The “terrific light and killer views” sold Julia and Tim Purinton on their mountainside house in Warren, Vermont.
“Designed by a young architect named Tom Cabot, it was a funky split-level built in the 1960s or ’70s,” recalls Julia Purinton, an artist and decorative painter. “The house was organized around a central staircase, with all these different levels. It had great space, but it felt tired.”
Purinton and her husband, who this year became executive director of the Maryland and Washington, D.C., chapter of the Nature Conservancy, bought the 2,500-square-foot wooden house in 2014. They immediately started planning for an additional bathroom, a private master bedroom, and a studio for Julia’s landscape painting and fine-art wall finish company, Medusa Studio.
For help, they turned to Sandy Lawton, whose design-build company, ArroDesign, is in nearby Waitsfield, Vermont. Trained in architecture at the University of Virginia, Lawton is known for his work with fabric-formed concrete. Julia Purinton and Lawton spearheaded the renovation.
Lawton removed the wall between two small-upper level bedrooms to create the studio. Purinton painted the resulting long wall, composed of rough pine boards, a gentle shade of gray. “Originally, there was way too much wood,” she says. “Inside, it was too saturated and dark.”
To make space for a light-filled master bedroom at the top of the house, Lawton raised the roof. A half-flight down is the new bathroom, complete with step-in shower and soaking tub. Elevating the roof also created room for a small deck.
“We didn’t change the footprint,” Lawton says. “We just streamlined the layout.”
The new walls were built from fabric-formed concrete. The material lends itself to extraordinary colors and textures, such as the wave-patterned wall in the shower. “We cast that green shower wall using canvas,” Lawton says. “It was done horizontally, then installed. The color is in the concrete.” A blue-green wall of half-inch-thick corrugated-textured concrete, cast in place, surrounds the new bathtub.
The newly raised roof is topped with solar panels, and the old metal roofing panels were recycled as wall coverings in both bathrooms. In the original bathroom, the metal panels line the wall behind the sink; in the new master bath, they’re on the wall behind the tub. “I love the patina,” Purinton says.
To match the rusty panels on the master bathroom wall, she applied a faux finish to the wall above the tub. Gray Venetian plaster coats the remaining new bathroom walls. In the original bathroom, she painted the ceiling with a metallic finish.
“Julia is so talented,” Lawton says admiringly. “She chose the colors and treated my work with faux finishes that bring it all together.”
Concrete Ideas Concrete is made of broken stone or gravel, sand, cement, and water. For architectural use, the mixture is spread or poured into molds to harden, forming a stone-like mass. The molds are usually built of wood, but innovators like Ronnie Araya of Montreal and Kenzo Unno of Tokyo have been forming concrete with fabric, often stretched over thin wood arches to hold the shape. The fabric molds are far easier to manage than standard molds and allow for greater flexibility in shapes and textures. In the Purintons’ bathroom, the process resulted in a wave-like green wall in the new shower.
“New techniques are being developed to cast concrete in fabric that are far more refined and sculptural than can be achieved in other materials,” says Sandy Lawton of ArroDesign.
“There are no rotting problems as there are with wood,” Lawton says. During the curing process, “water can work its way through the fabric, so that the concrete sets faster. For small projects, like [the Purintons’] shower wall, we can use canvas or linen. Julia and Tim knew that this is a simple way to get beautiful wall treatments.”