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Building homes in forested areas – A chat with Brian Mac from Birdseye

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Forest homes can be some of the most peaceful places to live. Ever wondered what goes into designing one?

A forested home by Birdseye VT


For all our dreaming about remote rural retreats, there’s no getting around the fact that a home in the suburbs or city is convenient: You’re close to shops, schools and other everyday conveniences. But getting out closer to nature is an undeniable attraction for many.

To learn a little about what goes into building a home immersed in nature, we talked to Brian Mac from Vermont firm Birdseye. Being based in heavily-wooded Vermont, Brian understands what goes into building a forest home!


What attracts you to forest homes? Why build in such remote areas?

Designing and building in a forested or wooded area inspires me to create homes which take on a multitude of different architectural languages. To put it another way, building in such immersive or natural places means the homes can start to reflect their surroundings.

This could be considered an ‘organic’ palette which is meant to blend into the landscape. Of course, this idea can be developed with a contemporary language or a more traditional vernacular aesthetic.

An example of a contemporary language could mean a mirror polished stainless steel siding. This is essentially a true reflection of nature.

A more traditional approach would be using wood siding, allowing the rich patina of the wood to naturally age, giving the house an organic feel.

What about the site planning?

Site planning after drafting a house a concept can take many different routes. Placing the house within the forest (Amongst the trees) lends itself to a construction that might call for privacy and solace. Minimal light and heavily wooded surroundings express a feeling of inwardness.

Placing the house on the ‘edge’ of a forested property can reflect a piercing of the landscape, creating a feeling of expansion and reveal. A lot goes into the placement onsite.

What are some of the main issues with a forested home?

Forested homes have a number of challenges. Cold, damp forests are purveyors of mould, and air movement is just one way of mitigating this issue.

Careful clearing of the house site in a forest is also a subtle but tricky endeavour. Creating a hole within an existing forest disrupts the existing natural ‘memory’ of the adjacent trees. They become more vulnerable to wind and movement. A careful survey of the remaining trees, especially at the perimeter, should be conducted for tree health. In a nutshell, you don’t want a tree to fall on your house because you disrupted the forest!

If you want to see more forest homes, check out those out here. If you’d like to a look at some of the work Brian and his team are doing up in Vermont, check out their website here:

First published date: 05 September 2017