Nick LaVecchia's Eco Home Of The Future - Stab Mag

Nick LaVecchia’s Eco Home Of The Future

Come inside to take a look at 987 sq. feet of bliss.

style // Dec 11, 2020
Words by Zack Raffin
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Nick Lavecchia is quite comfortable trodding the unbeaten path.

Surf world heads to Hawaii? Find him in Maine sitting in -10 degree water like its a tub. Ask him to make a surf film and he’ll choose one of the most wind sensitive and overall fickle regions in the world. Ask him to build a house? Well…

Idyllic is thrown around a lot, but there is not word more fitting to define Nick’s eco conscious Maine home. I mean people literally pull over to the side of the road and knock on the door to ask about the house. After years of spending thousands of dollars a winter on oil (and bundling up in his trusty Slowtide blankets), when the opportunity to build on his wife Molly’s family farm he welcomed it with open arms. Nick’s home has been the subject of many a feature because again, idyllic. Knowing that, we tried to veer towards his experience transitioning into sub 1,000 sq. foot living and what others can learn from his experience.

So your house is 987 sq ft. How big was the house you had before?

We were renting an old carriage house out by the lighthouse here in York that was 150 some odd years old. It was probably 3,000+ sq feet, way bigger than we needed it. I had rented it for 10 years when I moved here from Vermont, it was a total waste of energy as far as efficiency goes. Well built, but old and sucked up a ton of oil for heating. The experience of living there acted as a driving force for when we were building the house and pushed us to be like “How efficient can we get?”

You’ve had the house for 7 years, over the course of that time what have been the main renovations and or additions? 

Hmm, well around the same time we finished the house we put in a little shed for all the outdoors stuff cause we don’t have a basement or an attic, so that was the first little addition. Then we started working on the grounds, my wife is a landscape architect/gardener. Having a blank slate isn’t not always the easiest thing so it took a lot of planning to figure out what we wanted out of the landscape, where we wanted the outdoor shower etc. That stuff took place over the year following the houses completion. Then I put in an outdoor, ground level deck that I had waited on for cost reasons. It’s been a really nice addition because when the weathers warm it’s like having another room outside. 

In the last year I built my little studio at home. I’ve always rented a small studio space for printing and dark room work but have known I’d eventually want to be back on the property. Not having a guest room in the house was motivating as well, so I built small studio building that could double as my work space with a little loft bed in it. I’ve still been tweaking things but it’s pretty much finished, just added the loft ladder actually.

What would be your advice to the person who’s looking to get into this style of living or someone who has a clean slate and wants to take on a similar project? Where did you guys start from?

Firstly it was difficult to plan this out financially. My wife and I are both self employed, I spent months and months going to banks trying to get a loan to build this to no avail. It was definitely a struggle but we did everything we could to stay true to the vision and keep plugging away. We kept reaching out to different designers and architects in our area here in Maine whose style I liked, I had been researching this stuff for years out of interest. Once we knew we could build in the field here we hit the ground running. 

For someone looking to get into it I’d say do your homework and don’t be deterred by banks or other town regulations for trying to do something different. Even our small town here was like “What’re you doing? We don’t understand.” Just keep pushing forward and you can wind up with something you really love that’s truly efficient. You do pay more for materials up front, but it’s immediate savings when you finish. 

That was gonna be my next question. Your home runs entirely on solar, if you had to estimate an average savings per annum what would you say that is? When can someone who wants to build a home like this expect to see a ROI?

I mean with anything you can go crazy and spend money on a ton of frivolous things. In green home building there’s no doubt there’s a point of no return where you can pump more insulation or add this or that but you’re not gonna get any more gain out of it. That’s what I was trying to find in my research, that happy medium. 

Off the top of my head we were spending probably $6,000 in oil alone over five or six months time. To run this house for the year is barely costing me $1,000 a year. The solar panels run the whole house, and no oil! Today we produce more power than we need with the 21 panels on our roof. All that energy turns into credit which goes into a ‘bank’ of sorts, so at night and on cloudy days we can begin to use up that credit. Maine is great in that way because they actually issue those credits while a lot of states don’t. That’s the benefit of still being tied to the grid although t one day we may add some battery backups and be fully off grid.

Honestly not much at all. Pre-build we did a lot of sitting out in the field with tape measurers trying to figure out how it was going to work. The house is only 15 feet wide inside. We’d sit where our living room now is and thought there’s no way we’re going to make this work. The architect that I worked with constantly would tell me to trust in the design and the decision to build something small and efficient because once it was built it would not feel small. Sure enough, once we moved the furniture in and began making the space a space it all came together and it became really clear how much extra space people don’t need. 

Have you begun to pass these philosophies down to Leo? Or do you feel like he’s just soaking them in because this is his childhood.

I mean he definitely asks about it. He n

otices, when he goes to someone else’s house he’ll come back and say, “Our house is so much smaller!” Then we talk about it and he totally understands it, and then is like, “We don’t need all this space.” He lives in a giant field of 15 acres, so he opens the door and just runs. That’s what we try and teach him, We have all the gear to be outside all the time and that experience is more important than where you lay your head at night.

Every house has a sweet spot, if you had to pick a favorite few feet out of your 987 what would it be? 

Probably this little sunny corner where we have this leather chair where I sit and drin coffee in the morning. Even in the middle of winter with a snow storm or Nor’easter or something you can still feel like you’re outside. 

And a stack of Slowtide blankets to accompany it?



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