New Frameworks: Building Earth-Friendly Homes While Shaping a Better Future

Construction that heals the environment? It can be done. See how these builders bring a social justice-driven ethos to home building.

When the folks at New Frameworks set out to build or restore a home, they aren’t just thinking about the individual needs of their client — though that is central to their work, of course. They also take the bigger picture into account, particularly their ecological and social impact, which weaves its way into every facet of the business.

Based in Vermont, New Frameworks places an emphasis on using locally sourced, low-impact materials in their projects. These have become trendy buzzwords in construction, but New Frameworks takes them seriously, looking for materials that not only don’t harm the environment, but can, in fact, help restore it — and contribute to the local economy to boot.

“Our real goal is to build regeneratively, meaning that our projects actually grow good things rather than result in bad things,” says co-founder Ace McArleton. “For example, we live in Vermont and are based mostly in Vermont, and it’s a pretty forested region. So for us, wood — when managed sustainably and responsibly — is a resource that we believe can be worked with and harvested in a sustainable way. We work with sawyers and loggers and millers in our region, which also supports our small economy here and economy of place.”

In addition, since wood comes from trees, “it’s carbon sequestering,” explains McArleton. “So the trees utilize carbon dioxide to grow, and therefore fix, carbon in the body of their wood,” and can ultimately help mitigate global warming.

New Frameworks uses natural, sustainable materials from local suppliers to further their mission of natural building and energy efficient construction.

New Frameworks often uses straw as an insulation material in the walls, employs primarily natural paints and plasters, and opts for sand from local quarries. Sometimes they even source sand or clay onsite at the project. Reclaimed materials play a large role as well, and the builders are often able to repurpose discarded items, like timbers from a barn, both in the current project and future ones.

“It’s really wonderful,” says McArleton, “creating relationships with the materials that we work with and feeling passionate about those social relationships that produce them, as well as the farmers and loggers and foresters and people in our area and community, which is the whole experience.”

A natural touch

As an extension of the company’s earth-friendly philosophy, natural motifs often find their ways its designs. “Our lead designer, Ben Graham, loves to do a touch of natural wood elements,” explains McArleton. The builders will incorporate a natural tree fork branch to hold up a beam, for example, or have the clients select a tree from the property to use as a round tree post with “some visual scribe.”

Or, if the client has a more clean, modern aesthetic, the design might incorporate recurring natural patterns, like curves and honeycomb. “We like to find even that little hint of it somewhere in the project,” McArleton says.

The three co-founders of New Frameworks — McArleton, Jacob Deva Racusin, and Ben Graham — apply their ethical building philosophies to their own homes. “Some of us have built our own from-scratch, timber frame, straw bale homes off the grid using solar, etc.,” says McArleton. “And then some of us have chosen to be in more town or urban settings where we have worked with existing buildings. Then we rework with natural solutions, interior finishes, doing retrofit work on existing homes — which is another aspect of our work.”

Graham, for example, bought an old home in downtown Plainfield, VT, then made additions like sheep’s wool wall insulation and a thermally high-performing door that New Frameworks designed and built.

New Frameworks creates green homes and spaces using low-impact, locally sourced, durable, and beautiful natural materials.

The company’s social justice-driven ethos goes well beyond building, and is represented in the very structure of the company. They place an emphasis on mentoring women and trans folks in this male-dominated industry, and are a worker collective. “We just feel so strongly about organizing ourselves internally in a democratic and inclusive way that shares ownership and builds leadership in our organization,” explains McArleton.

So often construction results in an unconscionable amount of waste. But New Frameworks believes that building a home doesn’t have to make a negative impact, and can, in fact, contribute positively to the environment, society, and the local community.


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Take Pet Pampering to the Next Level With These Fabulous Dog Houses

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at

Dog owners are infamous for providing their furry ones with a better lifestyle than their own. For instance, you might recall the time Paris Hilton had a replica of her mansion done for her pet Chihuahua.

We don’t need to go there, but there are definitely plenty of crazy options in the market. Who knows? One of them might catch your fancy.

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Mediterranean Villa








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Is your dog named Quixote? Donatello? If not, you might as well rename them, especially if that means they get to live in this woof-tastic villa. Look at that wooden double door! Seriously, if you can’t win your dog’s affection with this one, then just stop trying.

The Full-Fledged Mansion










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If you’re going to go all out, you might as well just get your dog a straight-up mansion. If you already own a mansion (like Paris), I’d say it’s only fair you share the wealth. (Although your dog probably has its own room in the house. But why not both? #Excess.)

The Victorian Home








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I’m a big fan of Victorian homes, so I’d probably go for this one…for myself? How is that a dog house? I only wish my downtown New Haven apartment looked as picturesque as this puppy’s home. I hope his name is Darcy and that he wants to be my friend.

The Dog Equivalent of the ‘Home Alone’ Mansion










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I’d say this is pretty close to the McCallister home, right? (As far as dog houses go, at least.) I can totally imagine dogs holding town meetings inside this bad boy. If I were a dog myself, I’d probably prefer sleeping in here than inside my owner’s run-down home, because let’s face it: the dog who owns this home is definitely much better off than his owner.

And this was just a quick search! There are legitimate houses for dogs out there—as in, a concrete building with rooms where only your dog(s) reside(s). I know there’s always stuff to fix around the house, but surely your four-legged friend takes priority?

Have some cool dog houses you want to share with us? Tweet them @HousecallBlog!

Gabrielle van Welie is RISMedia’s editorial intern. Email her your real estate news ideas at

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark

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Designer Lookbook: Brooke Wagner Design’s Beachfront Beauty

Located in the beachfront neighborhood Corona del Mar Village in Newport Beach, CA, this contemporary three-story home takes inspiration from its seaside setting with a color palette of soothing neutrals and blues paired with natural finishes.

Designed by Christopher Brandon with Brandon Architects and built by Patterson Custom Homes, the spec home was purchased early in the construction phase. Interior designer Brooke Wagner, of Brooke Wagner Design, was brought in to transform the spec home’s blank canvas into a contemporary beach house by juxtaposing quiet colors with clean lines and raw materials.

Taking a few decorative cues from the homeowner — namely “boho” and “coastal” — Wagner designed a soothing retreat. With a foundation of whites, creams and gray, Wagner created a common thread that ties the different spaces of the home together.

She then warmed up each space by layering eye-catching textiles and decor. Indigo fabrics, geometric patterns, brass finishes, and natural accents create casual and comfortable rooms with a sophisticated touch.

“With the neutral big pieces, you can always switch out pillows and patterns as you get tired of them,” says Wagner. “And you can keep the bones of the home intact and neutral and layer upon them.”

The subtle color scheme allows the homeowner’s embellishments and personal taste shine. “[The owner] travels a lot and has brought home artwork, photography, accessories and mementos from her travels, so we wanted to incorporate that as well,” says Wagner. “And since we installed, she has added to that collection. The home has a bit of a global, layered look.”

A warm and inviting escape

In the bedroom, a show-stopping accent wall is made out of reclaimed wood that has been cut down and arranged in a herringbone pattern. The geometric lines of the wall echo the angles of the vaulted ceiling, as the rustic wood adds a cozy touch to the space.


While shopping at the tile and stone showroom Famosa at South Coast Collection in Costa Mesa, Wagner came across the reclaimed wood and knew she had the perfect application for it. “We were looking for tile and stone, and stumbled upon [the wood] and loved it,” she says. “We based that whole room — the elements, textures, and textiles on that wall. We played off the natural, neutral, and organic feel of the wall.”

With the herringbone wall as Wagner’s decorative launching point, she started introducing large pieces of furniture, like the gray linen upholstered bed. “I wanted it to feel like you were sitting in a cozy sofa or chair,” says Wagner.

A gray and cream geometric Lee Jofa area rug grounds the room, while complementing European oak floors that have been heavily wire-brushed to create a weathered and sandy finish.

Bedding from the nearby Crystal Cove boutique JuxtaPosition includes ethereal washed linens in a charcoal, white and light grey color scheme, along with a Rosemary Hallgarten cashmere throw. “We wanted it to feel warm and inviting,” says Wagner.

For accents pillows, charcoal-and-white Peter Dunham shams are perfectly paired with vintage mudcloth textiles. Also softening the space, white linen draperies are embellished with a fine gray line that mimics the herringbone pattern.

With antique glass and a weathered gray finish, the custom-made nightstands and dressers play off the organic look of the reclaimed accent wall, and are topped with chic Lucite and marble slab lamps. Polished brass hardware accessorizing the furniture adds subtle sophistication, while warming up the gray and white color scheme.

Walls painted in Dunn-Edwards’ gray white “Shady” and a clean, crisp white ceiling in Farrow Ball’s “All White” sets off the reclaimed wood details and allows the decorative elements of the bedroom to shine. Wagner’s organic-inspired materials and quiet color palette work together to create a contemporary coastal home with a collected look.

Take the full home tour:

Get the look at home

Follow Wagner’s lead to adapt this cool, sophisticated, yet comfortable design for your own home.

  • Play up the walls. Textured wallpapers, like grasscloth, are an easy way to add a custom look to a room. “If you can wallpaper a powder room or a master bedroom wall, that is always a great way to add texture and warmth,” says Wagner.
  • Be consistent with color. For a polished and unified look, stick with a common paint color like a light warm gray throughout your home — in the hallways, family room and kitchen. “It makes the house feel cohesive and bigger if you keep the color consistent and light,” says Wagner.
  • Go big with neutrals, adding color and texture accents. Stick to an understated color palette with walls and large pieces of furniture. “And then accent with the patterns and things you can switch out easily when you get sick of them,” advises Wagner. “It is more cost-effective than switching out big pieces like sofas and draperies.”
  • Mix metals. It’s fine to mingle metals in different finishes, like brass and chrome, as it adds visual interest. “You can mix metals, and it looks great,” says Wagner. “Just try to balance proportions — so if you have polished nickel faucets, you can do bronze light fixtures or vice versa.”

See more design inspiration on Zillow Digs.

Photos by Ryan Garvin


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House of the Week: A Lighthouse Inside a House

Be a lighthouse keeper — literally.

When searching for a home, the initial task is to find features you love — hardwood flooring, a fireplace, or an office. For Lawrence Eidson and his wife, it was an unexpected feature of their Isle of Palms, SC home that sealed the deal.

Set between the Atlantic Ocean and marshlands, this 5-bedroom, 6-bath, custom-built masterpiece encases a working lighthouse. Although, instead of guiding sailors to shore, this one lights your way to the kitchen.

“It houses two things,” Eidson states. “Primarily, it’s a pantry. And on top of that is an HVAC [that] lights up!”

Thomas Evans Construction built the home, and Eidson and his wife first saw it when it was nothing but plywood. It wasn’t until many years later that they decided to purchase the 6,010-square-foot residence.

“We looked for 15 years before we picked [a home], and everything just aligned,” Eidson says. “[It] had everything we were looking for.”

Currently on the market for $2.95 million with Ron Davis Realtors, this Southern beauty includes decks on three levels with views that stretch from the ocean all the way downtown.

Brazilian cherry hardwood floors extend throughout the home, while wood detailing accents the walls and even some ceilings. There’s also an elevator, and a three-car garage on the ground level.

Between the family room and great room is a stunning two-story, double-sided stone fireplace. Adjacent to that is the island kitchen with the rope-accented lighthouse. And surrounding the space is a wraparound balcony with windows on all sides — Eidson’s favorite spot in the home.

When you’re not at the beach a half-mile away, you can spend your time soaking in the in-ground pool or relaxing in the spa out back.

While the home is full of unique character and charm, what initially made the couple stop and look at the property all those years ago is what drew them back to purchase it.

“The house just smells of wood,” Eidson says. It’s something he and his wife will both miss after six years of breathing in the pleasant aroma.

According to Eidson, this nautical-themed home is the ultimate beach house with everything you could want. It even comes completely furnished.

Photos courtesy of Phil Shepard Real Estate Photography


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4 Home Improvement Jobs You Should Always Hire Out

Sit back, relax, and let the pros take care of the tough jobs, says Christina El Moussa of HGTV’s ‘Flip or Flop.’

Whether you’re flipping a house or renovating your current home, hiring private contractors is nearly unavoidable. If you’ve seen “Flip or Flop,” you know Tarek and I can’t do everything ourselves. We’ve built relationships with contractors we trust, and they do most of the heavy lifting.

If you’re new to the flipping game, though, chances are you haven’t built these relationships yet. Maybe you think you don’t need to hire anyone else because it’s too expensive, and you want to keep your costs down. You’re not wrong — hiring out can be expensive. It will, however, save you time and many headaches.

When you renovate a house, consider hiring out the four jobs listed below.


If you need a new roof, always hire someone else. Doing it yourself takes a very long time — and losing time is like losing money. When flipping a house, you want to finish it fast so you can sell. Spending unnecessary time on a project like roofing means you’re further away from selling and making a profit.

Plus, if you’ve never installed a roof before, you will almost certainly make a costly mistake. Leave roofing to the professionals. They’ll get it done quickly and let you focus your attention on something more pressing.


Replacing pipes can be a lengthy process, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could make an irreparable error. And while a plumbing mistake may not be immediately visible, it will almost certainly come back to bite you. Why leave it up to chance?

Hire someone who does this stuff for a living. They will do the job correctly, and save you from any hidden expenses that might have occurred had you tried to do it yourself. Cutting corners does not equal cutting costs.

Structural improvements

Houses with open floor plans are very hot right now. As a flipper, you may want to capitalize on this trend because buyers will love it. However, if you are flipping an older house, you’ll most likely need to knock down some walls to achieve an open floor plan.

It probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: You can’t just knock down a wall. Some walls are load-bearing, meaning they play a big part in holding the house up. Knocking down a load-bearing wall will compromise the structural integrity of the house.

Hire a professional to go through the house and tell you what you can (or can’t) remove. Knocking down walls is a lot of fun, but make sure a professional approves it first.

Anything you feel uncomfortable doing

If you feel uncomfortable doing a certain rehab project, hire someone to do it. If you feel unsure but go through with the project anyway, chances are you will do a poor job. When flipping a house, it’s important for everything to go as smoothly as possible.

There will always be hidden costs and projects. Focus on what you can control, and if you feel like someone else would do a better job, consider hiring out.


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