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Magazine - Your Home: Green

Feathering their nest

For Boston newlyweds with a cabin in the Berkshires, it’s all about using – and reusing – what they already have.

<b>THE BIG WOODS</b> The cabin sits on 69 acres, most of it conservation land; an attached garage was converted into a high-ceilinged master bedroom, which a ceiling fan cools in summer.
<b>THE BIG WOODS</b> The cabin sits on 69 acres, most of it conservation land; an attached garage was converted into a high-ceilinged master bedroom, which a ceiling fan cools in summer. Photograph by Eric Roth

SOMETIMES THE GREENEST solution is to leave well enough alone. Such was the case for Liana and Michael Krupp’s cabin in the Berkshires. Instead of tearing down the charming but admittedly rough dwelling and starting from scratch, or even expanding its footprint, the couple decided to re-imagine the space, using what was already there.

Michael, a Boston restaurateur, purchased the 1,100-square-foot cabin on 69 acres in Richmond at the end of 2008 from a Boston Symphony Orchestra flutist who built it in 1984 with his own two hands. Having spent summers and weekends at his family’s vacation home in Lenox, Michael jumped at the chance to establish his own homestead. He proposed to Liana, founder of the style blog New Brahmin, at the pond on the property, ensuring that the spot would hold meaning for her, too.

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For help turning the three-season cabin into a place they would use all year, the couple turned to Joe Stromer, an independent architect who also designed Michael’s latest venture with chef Michael Leviton, the restaurant Area Four in Cambridge.

Over the lifetime of a building, Stromer says, 30 percent of the energy it uses comes from the initial construction. “We didn’t want to contribute to that.” Without touching the cabin’s shell, he created a cozy, livable, wood-paneled home with a guest room, a sleeping nook, a romantic master suite, and plenty of open space and a built-in bar for entertaining.

Although the cabin’s interior was unfinished, the structure was solid. It already had insulation that was above and beyond the standard for a three-season home. The existing windows and skylights were high quality, with thick panes of glass, and they had been optimally configured for passive solar heat. To those features the couple added low-wattage electric baseboard heating. In summer, screen doors, ceiling fans, and shade from the trees help keep the temperature at a comfortable 72 degrees.

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While the original owner was content with sleeping on a futon in the loft, Michael and Liana preferred a more traditional layout. Stromer turned the loft, which overlooks the main living area, into a guest bedroom, sleeping nook, and full bath. What was originally an attached garage became a high-ceilinged master bedroom suite. The master bath has a large oval soaking tub that sits on wood blocks, a modern take on an old-fashioned claw foot.

The lumber left over from demolishing the loft in the garage was used to frame and redesign rooms. “We even used some of it for finishes in the kitchen, because it had such a great patina,” Stromer says. Indeed, considerable effort was made to reuse as many materials as possible throughout the home. All the track and recessed lighting came from Michael’s now-shuttered Fort Point restaurant, Persephone. The bases of the coffee table and dining table are also Persephone castoffs. Michael had them outfitted with tops made from Plyboo, a formaldehyde-free, sustainable bamboo product. The cabin’s cabinetry and flooring are also Plyboo.

The wood the barn is made from has special significance. In October 2010, Liana and Michael were married at the Berkshire Equestrian Center, just a mile and a half down the road from their cabin. The reception was held in a riding ring. On the advice of their caterer and friend, Dan Mathieu of Max Ultimate Food, the couple had sheets of plywood brought in to cover the ground, rather than renting or building a fancy floor. Mathieu had used wood from a similar event to build an addition on his own Berkshire getaway, and Liana and Michael followed suit, using the plywood for their barn.

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“They call it their ‘wedding barn,’ ” says Stromer. Around it, the couple planted more than 30 fruit and birch trees, all gifts from their wedding registry at Windy Hill Farms in Great Barrington.

“I’m a country girl now,” says Liana. “It’s my happy place.”


Marni Elyse Katz blogs about design at www.stylecarrot.com. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.