Project DescriptionMy clients had originally hired me to design their contemporary dream home on a beautiful West Park lot on the Hudson River. We were well underway on the design when the opportunity arose for them to purchase a second lot—the property directly above their current one. This new lot contained the foundation of a spec house, which was situated to look directly down onto my clients’ new home. They purchased the lot and we started design on what would ultimately become their guest house.
There were two challenges to this new project: (1) Designing something contemporary that fit on the existing foundation, since the original spec house was not my clients preferred architectural style and (2) my clients required the house to be oriented in a different direction so that it didn’t look directly down onto their main property...while still keeping the Hudson River views intact. These two challenges became the premise for the final design. In addition, since the lower living level was to be partially underground, it became imperative that it not feel like a basement.
I designed the guest house with an atrium in mind, connecting the upper and lower levels, allowing light into both floors while at the same time, keeping them separate. The inspiration for the upper level of this 2,600 sf house was of a tree house. It’s open and casual, with a high ceiling and large windows, making one feel like they are both indoors and out. It’s modern, but decidedly warm. The lower level is a cozy space housing a home office and TV viewing area, which can also be used as a dance studio for one of the owners.
Energy efficiency and sustainability were standards in the design. The home has spray foam insulation along with a combination of insulated Marvin Integrity double and triple pane windows, and an insulated radiant floor slab in the lower level. There is a solar hot-water system that also powers the radiant floor along with a high efficiency furnace for heating. The roof is a *“cool” roof so it absorbs very little heat which helps in keeping
the house cool. Toilets are dual flush and all appliances are Energy Star. Floor finishes are cork, recycled porcelain tile and fossilized bamboo wide plank boards by Cali-bamboo.
The staircase, with its open risers and reclaimed wood timber treads, is a favorite of the owners. The stainless steel cable railing winds its way up the stairs, along the edge of the atrium and connects visually to a cable rail outside along adjacent exterior balcony. The stair act as a beautiful physical connector between the levels.
The general contractor hails from the Hudson Valley, as do all the subcontractors right down to the artisan that handcrafted the concrete hearth for the fireorb. The clients took a huge interest in both the design and construction of the home. From doing research on everything from windows to finishes, they were able to put their own special touches on the house. They collected rocks from the property and used them for pavers and retaining walls. What they didn’t get from the site came from Hudson Valley quarries. Almost all of the furniture they have collected was procured from antique stores in the Hudson Valley or was passed down from family in Westchester and Rockland Counties. In fact, one of the owners is currently having some original Hudson River School paintings that are in the family, restored and conserved. The house is filled with mementos from their travels all over the world. All of these touches make it home.
The next project for the homeowners will be their main house, which we are currently working on. It will incorporate the latest in high-end design, high efficiency equipment and sustainable products.