Inside a Beautiful, Eco-friendly Saskatchewan Farmhouse
With its beautiful views and energy-efficient design, Blue Heron Haus is everything its homeowners wanted.
Crystal Bueckert of Saskatoon’s BLDG Studio is a past WL One to Watch, and the designer/architect behind this Saskatchewan farmhouse. With her background in fine arts and her training in Passive House energy efficiency standards, she brings a unique approach to creating sustainable and stylish housing.
Bueckert worked closely with the homeowners on the design of the beautiful Blue Heron Haus. “This couple are friends of mine, so it was a real pleasure to work on their house with them. It was completely a collaborative approach,” she explains. They worked together through all the stages of planning, and the homeowners have documented the whole process. The main goals on the house were to “find an optimal balance of energy efficiency, maximizing the view, and the aesthetics of a modern design, while also respecting our budget,” say the homeowners on their blog.
The house is based on Passive House, a design standard mainly used in Europe, and it is so energy-efficient that it was recently nominated for a Rob Dumont Energy Award. The Passive House system relies on using the energy of the sun to passively heat the house, without the need for a mechanical system.
“Here in Saskatchewan it’s hard to get away with not using mechanical heating systems at all, because it gets so cold,” says Bueckert. However, the house makes use of extensive south facing glazing and windows, wide overhangs, extreme insulation, and air-tightness to keep the house heated, while augmenting with a solar panel array and in-floor radiation heat. These features keep the heat inside during winter and lower the energy consumption of the property exponentially. “They should eventually be running off of free energy,” the architect explains, which is no small feat in the cold Saskatchewan winters.
Located south of Saskatoon just 50 feet from the banks of the South Saskatchewan river, the views at the Blue Heron Haus are stunning. The house is designed to work with, rather than overshadow, the beauty of the natural landscape that surrounds it. It was inspired by vernacular architecture, with its overstated gable roof on a simple rectangular building. “We wanted something prairie inspired,” says Bueckert.
They opted to keep the form simple and use Swedish-inspired finishes, such as the matte pine-tar siding (“We knew we wanted a black house,” say the homeowners), black metal roof, and cedar deck. “It’s really brought that vernacular form back into modern language,” explains Bueckert. “It works on all different levels.”
As for the interior, they kept it small and simple. “We wanted a quaint, modern farmhouse,” the homeowners say. The majority of the floor plan is taken up by the “great room,” which includes the kitchen, living room and dining room. This open concept floor plan allows for easy entertaining and creates a central area that forms the heart of the home. Quarter sawn white oak millwork is used for the lower cabinetry and the kitchen island, while sprayed white maple on the upper cabinets creates lovely color contrast.
That Scandinavian-style “light natural wood with white accents” is echoed throughout the home. Much of the ceiling in the house is a lye-washed pinewood, while the doors are douglas fir. The use of different types of light-coloured wood throughout the house – with white features such as the refinished antique bathtub and the subway tile in the bathroom – creates continuity and cohesion in the interior design.
Both the interior and exterior of the home were fully customized to the homeowners’ desires, and decided over months of planning. “One of the most incredible things about this project is that the owners did a lot of work on it themselves,” says Bueckert on a closing note. “It’s really personal, and they did everything themselves, so it’s kind of an amazing piece that way.” Those months of planning and hard work paid off, resulting in the remarkable, beautiful, and sustainable Blue Heron Haus.