Less Is More: Volansky Studio Designs are Vermont Mountain Modern09/01/2021 05:00PM ● By Bart Beeson
For architect Andrew Volansky of Volansky Architecture and Planning Studio, when it comes to home design, less is more. His firm specializes in using materials such as wood, steel, concrete, and stone and by putting them together in a seamless way that looks easy but takes a lot of forethought and design planning. “The simpler something looks, the more complicated it is to pull off,” he says. “There’s no hiding anything when all the materials come together seamlessly. There’s no trim to cover up where one material stops and the other begins.”
The Art of Architecture
Andrew says that when he was deciding on a career, it came down to a choice between engineering and architecture. He notes that he has an engineer’s mind in that he wants to know how things get built, how the materials come together, and how they interact with each other. But ultimately, he says, it was the creative side of architecture that drew him to it. “There’s an artistic piece of architecture that pushed me away from engineering, where everything seemed to have only one answer, to a place of wanting to explore and use my imagination to look for solutions.”
Vermont Mountain Modern
In the 15 years since Andrew started his Stowe-based firm, he and his staff have developed a signature look they call “Vermont mountain modern.” This look involves working with clean lines and authentic materials and accentuating the natural beauty of those materials. He notes that architecture in Vermont has traditionally relied on built-up window trims, corner boards, Greek return corners on the outside of buildings, and heavily ornate moldings and decoration on the inside and out. While that look appeals to many, Andrew says that those techniques were often used to cover the gap between materials and make unsightly intersections look pretty. Instead, his firm has focused on removing materials like window casings and base trim and letting the flooring and the wall come together in a more natural way. “It’s a movement away from ornamentation, a movement away from heavily detailed, built-up application of materials,” he explains. “It’s really a stripping down of the materials. We focus on the way we put them together to be more authentic and let the materials themselves be beautiful.”
Blurring the Lines Between Inside and Out
Our Vermont mountain modern design work recognizes that one of the main reasons clients come to the state is to enjoy the outdoors. Designs must function as well in the middle of winter as in the summer. “Blurring the lines between inside and out is a real key design element for us,” says Andrew.
They develop outdoor covered areas that take advantage of light in wintertime to heat their buildings passively while also blocking some of the sun's light in the summertime to help keep the interior spaces more comfortable. "Cross ventilation is also a key design element for us," says Andrew. "Moving air through a building helps our clients experience the outside environment while naturally cooling those spaces during the warm summer days and nights."
In addition to architecture, the firm also does interior and landscape design, recently bringing on an interior designer to further develop that aspect of their business.
As with everyone in the design and construction industry, Andrew notes that the pandemic greatly affected their work. He says that people moving to Vermont to work remotely often bring that stressful aspect of their life up with them, whereas they used to come simply to get away and be in a quieter place. He says that’s one factor that has shaped the evolution of their design focus. “Our work is definitely leading in that direction, towards calmer, quieter spaces that allow people to slow down and breathe.”
The past year and a half has seen a huge rise in people looking to build and remodel homes. “The pandemic has led to an explosion of interest and number of clients coming through our doors, which is something I’ve never seen before in 25 years of doing this,” he says. So while it may take a little longer for prospective clients to get a Volansky Studio-designed home, they can be sure that its simple-seeming design may look like less, but it is actually much more.