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Your home: great rooms

Surprise inside

Though this Amherst house boasts a fashionably small footprint, at its center lies one grand-scale room.

On the bright side: The great room's tall windows face south, for maximum sunlight and heat. The floor is made of sealed concrete. An open floor plan adds to the feeling of spaciousness. On the bright side: The great room's tall windows face south, for maximum sunlight and heat. The floor is made of sealed concrete. An open floor plan adds to the feeling of spaciousness.
By Aubin Tyler
December 5, 2010

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When the empty lot next to their Amherst home came up for sale a few years back, Frank Hein and Julie Hemment bought it to preserve their open surroundings and dramatic views of the Pelham Hills. Then they had to figure out what to do with the extra property. For the answer, Hemment, who teaches cultural anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, turned to colleague Joseph Krupczynski in the university’s department of architecture and design. Krupczynski came up with a plan for a rental house that would be compact and inexpensive to build, yet visually distinctive. Hein, an engineer and metal fabricator, built the house.

The 1,000-square-foot structure, resembling a corrugated-steel cube bursting out of a slant-roofed blue shed, is a “gesture to the farm and industrial buildings in the area,” explains Krupczynski. Inside, the cube is the home’s main living area – its great room – 225 square feet of soaring vertical space, 15 feet high at its loftiest point, with a wall of birch-trimmed glass facing south for maximum light and warmth. An open floor plan adds to the feeling of spaciousness. To one side of the great room is the kitchen and dining area, with a lower, slanted ceiling. Behind the great room are the two bedrooms and single bath; their ceilings’ slanting pitch gives them the feel of an attic hideaway.

“I was interested in the design problem,” Krupczynski says. “How do you make a small, interesting, and inexpensive house? People hear the word ‘inexpensive’ and think you don’t get the quality. But if you use design well, those things that make a house valuable are still present – more living space, quality of light, beautiful spaces and proportions, even beautiful materials.”

Aubin Tyler is a freelance writer in Amherst. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.