Compact, energy-efficient and built with locally sourced materials, this hillside home takes a low-impact approach to its wetland surroundings in the city of Valparaiso in northern Indiana. Local design firm Bamesberger Architecture completed the home for a client who wanted a relatively small dwelling overlooking a pristine 400,000-square-foot wetland site. Named The Box after its boxy appearance, the home boasts low-energy needs and does not rely on air conditioning, even in the summer

Completed in 2013, The Box spans an area of 960 square feet and consists of a main house, a screened porch and a small storage building. All three structures are slightly offset from one another to offer varied views of the landscape and are connected with two square timber decks. In response to the client’s wishes for a “very affordable” house with wetland views, the architects selected a budget-friendly yet attractive natural materials palette — including blackened steel, stone, concrete and birch plywood — to complement the property’s native trees and grasslands.

close-up of stone wall and a wooden front door

seating area with two chairs and a round black table in front of a large black fireplace

“To set the house into the site, the main living space was built into the hillside,” the architecture firm explained. “Excavated rocks were reused as a base for the steel encased fireplace as well as a stepping stone inside the front door. The front door was built from a walnut tree found dead on the site.”

open-plan living area with light wood dining table and kitchen island below lofted bedroom

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The main dwelling includes an open-plan kitchen, dining area and living area on the ground floor. Above, a small loft offers space for sleeping and a home office. A two-story shower takes advantage of the double-height volume, adding what the architects call “a spatial surprise in the otherwise small space.” To minimize energy needs, The Box is wrapped in high-performance insulation and built into the side of the north-facing hill. Radiant underfloor heating and natural ventilation also help keep the home at comfortable temperatures year-round with minimal utility bills.

+ Bamesberger Architecture

Images via Fred Bamesberger