by Louis Postel for Aspire Magazine
There’s got to be a special law of karma that applies to this house — and guesthouse — in the Hudson Valley.
Seeking the perfect site for a year-round home, architect Jimmy Crisp and his client bushwhacked their way up a steep hillside armed only with thorn-proof leggings and machetes. When they finally arrived at the top huffing and puffing, there it was — a commanding view of meandering streams in a wide valley with its far rim embracing the scene at a level almost directly across.
“We had to carve everything out of the hillside,” said Crisp who heads up one the dominant firms in the area, “starting with the road. As you can see, the materials themselves take little care: the stucco walls have the color impregnated into them, so there’s no repainting. The Marvin windows are all high-efficiency e-glass which prevents the sun from over-heating the place, and they’re also in maintenance-free, aluminum-clad casements. Spray-foam insulation keeps the temperatures even. And the stone walls, of course, require no upkeep.”
One of the key factors in making the planning and construction relatively painless was that Interior Designer Jill Shevlin of Vero Beach, Florida had worked with these homeowners on other projects. A trusting relationship had been established. What’s more Shevlin, Crisp and the homeowners collaborated from the very beginning. “The homeowners had a binder full of ideas they wanted to incorporate into the interior which in turn led to some the architectural decisions which led to more design decisions,” she said.
Crisp wrote the book on porches, literally. On The Porch: Creating You Place to Watch The World Go By (Taunton Press) makes a persuasive argument that these outdoor living rooms not only make a house look beautiful but make it much more beautiful to live in. The only thing missing is Crisp’s southern accent pitched for long afternoons drinking ice tea…on the porch. The Valley View house has three such areas, a guest porch, a main porch and a master terrace held up by the pillars of the master porch.
Another hallmark of a Crisp home is that the footprint is long and narrow, rather than deep. That’s why when you enter the house and proceed through the pocket doors of the vestibule, there’s cathedral-like light spilling into all the spaces along the long hall, with valley views dominating the left side: a home office at the very end, a stairwell and elevator midway and a family room with a mahogany veneered arch. (One might wonder whether the extra-wide arch separating the family room and hall occupies too much real estate, even in this 5,500 square foot home. Not to worry. Tucked inside its mahogany veneer, there’s an enviable wine cooler display and wet bar). Crisp connects these spaces with rhythmic patterns of windows, floor tiles, LED’s in a coffered ceiling, and perhaps most importantly, strategically placed selections from the homeowners’ extensive art collection.
Interior designer Jill Shevlin took over where Crisp left off, making sure the valley remained in focus. “ The layout of the kitchen and master bath represented the biggest design challenges by far,” she said. “We wanted to keep the kitchen modern and clean-lined, incorporating a fully-functional chef’s kitchen that allowed for various views. We had the center table fabricated out of stainless steel and glass. It doubles as a backsplash for the island that houses the sink.” Lacquered teak cabinets, marble countertops of Calcutta gold, and limestone floors add warmth to the stainless steel modernity of her design. Upstairs, the master bath posed a puzzle — double vanities, a fireplace, a free standing tub, a steam and summer shower. “It took quite a while to get all the pieces to fit together,” says Shevlin, “but the end result is pretty amazing.”
If karma calls for low maintenance and easy living , a steam and summer shower are the least a homeowner could expect after bushwhacking up a steep and thorny hillside in search of these exquisite—valley views.