ON ASHLEY AND John Beller’s Cave City property known as Brood Farm, there are goats with names like Moxie and Poptart, a handful of forested pigs and at least a hundred hens that lay blue-green eggs. There are pumpkins when it’s pumpkin season, strawberries in the summer, mustard greens in the fall—all naturally certified grown. There are rolling hills and a gravel road that winds through the woods, climbing its way toward a rise in the pasture where a farmhouse sits, two A-frame quarters separated by a breezeway of sorts: a dogtrot.
Had you arrived on this property a few years back, you still would’ve found goats and chickens and the family who keeps them—Ashley, who works the farm full time, her husband, John, who works off-farm, and their three tween-to-teenage kids—but you would’ve found them in a two-bedroom trailer. They’d moved out to the property, 80 acres culled from John’s family’s 380-acre plot, once they’d realized that they loved goats and that those goats didn’t love their 1-acre backyard homestead. The Bellers decided they not only needed to experience the land before they built on it—after all, a farmhouse is just an extension of the land surrounding it—they needed to understand their land. And they needed an architect who understood it, too.
Luckily, they had one of those in mind: Amanda Sturgell of Polk Stanley Wilcox, whom they’d worked with on a commercial project in town. They knew she and her team (Amanda worked with PSW principal Craig Curzon on the project, as well as PSW interior designer Laura Hendrix) had design chops, and the Bellers knew they liked the firm’s aesthetic: modern, utilitarian, minimal. But once Amanda was on the property, they knew she really got it.
“That’s always my first step: to see the site and to walk it, to understand the topography and also the views. I never try to design a house from the inside out; you really have to understand what the context is first,” Amanda says. “I remember we drove up to the property, and the road kind of winds through some hills and over a creek bed, and we pull up, and they say, We think we want it there,” she continues, recalling that day a few years back. “And it was at the top of a hill with this beautiful western tree line, and it’s just like Wow, yeah, this is the spot. It was perfect.”
Amanda’s architecture wheels started churning. Would they be interested in a passive solar design—one that’s sited in a way that harnesses the heat of the sun in the winter and deflects it in the summer? Indeed, they were super into sustainable practices. What about a dogtrot—really trying to tie into those vernacular rural forms? Absolutely—just make it modern, and white. We could position the house so that you can see the sunset from the dining porch and see the goats from the south porch? It wasn’t just Amanda the architect informing these plans. It was Amanda the architect, who also happened to grow up in a farmhouse—an Arkansas farmhouse that stood at the top of a hill, looking out over pasturelands below.
With the site chosen and the inspiration decided upon, plans quickly came together. The dogtrot would separate two parts of the house—a living section and a sleeping section—just as a dogtrot would have done in its frontier heyday. The two sections of the house would be towering A-frames with walls of glass on the eastern front to flood the spaces with daylight. On the living side, the A-frame would be almost barnlike: one big room that combined living, dining and kitchen functions. The sleeping side of the house would be more contained and resourceful, though the master bedroom’s windows would mimic those in the living space, soaring to a height of nearly 20 feet. The dogtrot would be the hardworking heart of a hardworking home—utilitarian and clutter-free—and not a single square foot of space would be wasted anywhere.
This was a farmhouse, after all.
“When we first started talking, they were talking about how inspired they were by tiny houses—like, Is there something we can take from this in terms of just being smart about where things go?” Amanda says. “Twenty years ago, people were like, Here’s the formal living room that we don’t sit in, here’s the formal dining room that we never eat in, and it equates to all this useless, wasted space. Ashley was adamant that she wanted to use all her house, so there became no need to cordon off this space with a wall here, that space behind a wall over there.”
It may not be tiny, but it sure is smart, from the tucked-in built-ins and nooks to the way the light warms the concrete floors, creating ambient heat. “If you look back into our history, even a hundred years ago, vernacular architecture was already doing sustainable practice,” Amanda says. “I think people think it’s a new thing—it’s not, really. It’s just that we’re depending less on machines and trying to go back to it.”
And back on Brood Farm, the baby goats are likely playing in their pen, just steps off the back porch. Ashley’s maybe making the goat-milk soap she sells at the market or teaching a class on caramel-making in the kitchen. The kids are probably curled up on the fireside porch swing, the dogs are likely trotting through the dogtrot.
It’s just another day on the farm, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Architects: Amanda Sturgell and Craig Curzon of Polk Stanley Wilcox
Interior designer: Laura Hendrix of Polk Stanley Wilcox
Contractor: Paul Hoggard
Want to pick up some in-season produce, or just pet a goat? Check out broodfarm.com for info on how to visit the farm, or to shop their online store.