For years, people have filled their homes with plants — umbrella plants, African violets, all kinds of plants, big and small.
Homestead in the Hudson River Valley
From afar, you might mistake this home, sitting atop a mountainside overlooking the rolling hills of the Hudson River Valley, for just another barn. This would please Amalgam Studio principal architect Ben Albury and his client very much. That was the goal.
This home has all the character of a barn, without all the impracticalities. Barns are poorly insulated, do not offer great views, and have interior space challenges, for example. “The idea of living in a barn is romantic, idealistic, but totally unrealistic in this day and age of modern convenience. The key was to make a brand new, barn-like structure livable,” Albury said.
Borrowing from historic Northeastern barn archetypes, Albury designed a modern, livable homestead for his client and growing family to enjoy for generations to come.
The main house and detached carriage house are clad from top to bottom in Kebony — plantation-raised softwood treated with nontoxic compounds that make it as strong as hardwood. The product is sustainable, low maintenance, and guaranteed to withstand the elements. The cladding will take on a silver-gray patina over time — giving it that classic barnwood character.
“I think something that evolves and changes with the seasons is really special,” Albury said. “It’s not a static thing.”
The orientation, placement, and arrangement of the first phase of buildings, constructed by Black Oak Builders, deliberately resemble the local farms that cluster primary structures with auxiliary structures. Landscaping around the buildings continues to be a work in progress and a second future phase of a guesthouse/pool house will further enhance the rural courtyard feel of this modern farmstead.
Large exterior decks extend from both sides of the house. Operable, tilt-up Kebony louvers to the south side glass windows and doors shield the interior from the sun when closed, and can be raised hydraulically to serve as awnings over the deck. Opening the 8-foot by 8-foot sliding glass doors on either side of the great room increases the family’s living space in the summer.
The long, rectangular main house is segmented midway with glass entry doors, transoms, and skylights. This unique feature serves to flood the stairways leading to the upper and lower floors with natural light.
To the right of the main entrance is a galleria that leads to a powder room and mudroom, two bedrooms, each with an en suite bathroom, and the master suite To the left of the main entrance is an open-concept kitchen, dining, and lounge area. A double-sided wood-burning fireplace with an expansive granite face, spanning floor to ceiling like a manmade rocky outcrop, separates the great room from a cozy den situated on the other side.
The exposed kiln-dried Douglas fir timber frame and steel supports, erected by New Energy Works, span the height of the gable roofline and give the structure a sense of permanence. The darkened timbers accentuate the house’s linearity and help create a stark contrast against the white oak wall paneling and wide plank oak floors.
Like the exterior, the flooring was chosen for its changeable characteristics. Albury said, “We chose wood floors to be quite thick so over time footfall will wear them away. You know like those old fabulous farmhouses that have the worn out floor boards. He [the client] wanted that.” And if it takes several generations for that to happen, that’s even better. When conceptualizing this project, Albury said, the client talked about it being “multi-generational, not just for his kids but potentially his children’s children. I thought that was wonderful.”
Upstairs there is a multipurpose loft that is open and airy with additional skylights and a clear glass railing overlooking the great room. Every room offers spectacular views of the ever-changing countryside.
“The beauty of it, because there’s so much glass, you sort of feel like you’re completely surrounded by nature all the time … it’s just stunning. Everywhere you look you’re surrounded by trees, flowers, and butterflies. It’s really beautiful,” the homeowner said.
There is another bedroom with an en suite bathroom down in the basement level. Also on the lower level are a study, powder room, passively cooled wine cellar, media room, game room, and utility room.
The architecture functions so well, and the setting is so picturesque, very little else is needed in the way of furnishings. Influenced by a Japanese aesthetic, the homeowners chose Scandinavian furniture for its clean, simple lines and organic nature.
Albury said about this project, “It was a big picture. It was a home, not a house. This wasn’t to be resold in the near future. I respected the client’s long-term view and, luckily, we agreed on all the sustainability features that
I’m passionate about.”