‘The FernHouse’

April 3, 2011 — 9 Comments

This is a glimpse into the life of architect Robert ‘Bob’ Swinburne – sorta. I don’t  know Robert personally and since we have only recently begun to trade some emails, I know I am guilty of presenting a partial glimpse. It’s not worth explaining how I came to know about Bob and his life but I covet it … but from a safe distance mind you – nothing to worry about, but it has long been a dream of mine to own some land in a rural environment and live on it.

Basically, Bob Swinburne is a Vermont Architect who on the surface is living a life I don’t know or understand but wish I could.


Back in the year 2000, Bob and his wife bought 50 acres of land in Rural Vermont with a small house (900 square feet), a kitchenette, and wood stove for heat. Bob is a sole-practioner architect who sets his own hours and can work from home when he wants. Don’t get me wrong, making a living with this bucolic lifestyle is hard work and it is easy to romanticize it into something more than what it may be. Although … when I asked him about running a project of his on my site he offered up how he was spending his Saturday –

Today, as part of my fascinating life, I have a small fire going and I’m out in the snow flurries making maple syrup – fun, other than the huge splinter I just got putting wood on the fire.

Yeah Bob, just rub it in…. If you want to know more about Bob’s story, he wrote a post here that explains his work/ live situation far better than I ever could. Be careful though, you might want to move up to rural Vermont.


This is a small project that Bob Swinburne did for himself on his property without drawings. A screw gun, some 2×4’s and a good design created what Bob calls ‘The FernHouse’. Named for the ground ferns it hovers over during the summer months, it is at it’s essence a napping porch (something else that sounds good to me on most days.) I am drawn to small projects like this – something stripped down to it’s barest essentials – at it’s best for it’s lack of adornment and excess while performing it’s intended purpose.





Yes – I’ll take one please. Particularly if it comes with 50 acres of remote Vermont countryside. Make sure you go by Bob’s website and look at some of the other buildings he has done – including the barn on his property.





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  • Duquellatile

    I meet the most interesting people through you. I still fantasize that everything will come into alignment and that you will design our cluster of buildings and that all the tweeps will contribute towards it being a reality. It will be one hell of a work party in the woods with much time for just being together in a beautiful setting.

  • Dutchie

    This is a great project, I love it!

  • Reminds me of our woods in the central Oregon Coast range and how much I want to live there full time. We have plan for what we will call our “Summer House” up high on one of our hillsides that won’t have power to it. Because of its elevation it will catch the late afternoon light before sun disappears behind our western hillside. No sunrises or sunsets as we are deep into the coast range.

    • That sounds pretty good to me as well – is there snow and bitter winters there? (of course there are…)

      • Actually, being so close to the coast (12 miles as the crow flies) our climate is very mild. Occasional bit of snow & frosty nights, never above 80 in the summer with pleasantly cool evenings ….but a bunch of rain – it is considered Oregon’s only rain forest. ;_) Nothing a wood stove can’t fix!

  • Thanks Bob!
    Today I am sitting at home with a bad cold watching it snow and feeling not very bucolic.

    • Maybe that’s karma letting you know that despite the outpouring of people telling you that your great that … meh, not so much.

      (or it could be that you have a cold because you were outside in the snow making syrup – totally your call)

  • Alistair

    Another excellent post and the FernHouse is such a beautiful little building. It’s made me think just how I’ve changed from University days when my aim was always to work on the Starchitect type projects and now, where the projects that give most satisfaction are the small ones with old buildings. As the great man said ‘God is in the detail’; perhaps a little easier to achieve with multi-million pound / dollar budgets, not so easy with smaller projects – excellent job Robert.

  • This is amazing. I want one too.