Design Insights: Hudson Valley House

High in the Catskill Mountains of Hudson Valley, NY a small 1960s ranch-style house sat on 80 acres of land. After years of frustration due to the steep hill and treacherous driveway, the family hired MMA to design their bold vision: a legacy property where multiple generations could gather, stay and enjoy family time together.

MMA initiated a master planning process that would create a property for casual gathering for the family.  The first phase includes the main house for larger gatherings and later phases include an art barn for making and tiny off-grid sleeping cabins distributed throughout the 80 acres for guests.

The site proved to be challenging, as the entire steep slope is solid shale rock.  A new building location with new foundations would have required much blasting with dynamite.  Because the existing ranch house was of little value, we decided to remove it and use the existing footprint for the new house.  

Using the footprint of the existing ranch house, we built a compact south-facing lower level. The upper main-level story is rotated 45 degrees so it faces the incredible distant view of the Catskill Mountains. Designed as the family’s main gathering space, the upper level is extended in size beyond the original foundation limits. The overlap created from the upper level rotation creates a covered outdoor patio space below complete with lighting, lounge, fireplace and grilling.

The value system of this project is based on democratic distribution of private spaces. There is no master suite, but rather 5 equally-sized bedrooms with shared accessible bathrooms. Higher focus was placed on the public spaces where the family would be spending most of their time together.

Positioned at the top of a steep slope, the Hudson Valley Home withstands high winds, lighting strikes and harsh winter conditions. MMA carefully designed the envelope and selected the material palette to create a fully-protected and comfortable interior environment, including steel frame construction, concrete panels, metal roof, and triple-pane European windows and doors. Deep roof overhangs protect the entry and the south-facing facade from hot summer sun and wind-driven precipitation. A large screen porch extends the interior living space to the southeast with a cantilevered structure that floats over the meadow.

MMA partnered with Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design to create an accessible and beautiful entry landscape and driveway turnaround that also addresses the site drainage challenges. Special attention was given to moving water away from the house quickly while stabilizing the steep slopes with native plantings and erosion control measures.

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