Love at First Site
It was always a dream of mine to build a house, but it was not my intent to do so now. Sure that building would be too expensive, I went searching for my dream house with a broker. But house hunting in my price-range became a bit repetitive. How many old farm houses "with potential" can one see? Low ceilings, small, dark rooms—everything I didn’t want for my country life. When Alyson Daniels of Kingsley Daniels Real Estate, took me to the lot perched high on a hilltop, it was love at first site (sorry, just couldn’t resist). Who wouldn’t want to live with this panoramic view of the distant foothills of the Poconos, the Berkshires, or the Catskills. Whichever ones they are, they’re awe-inspiring.
My new neighborhood is populated with several same-sex couples as well as same sex singles such as myself (think of a same sex couple after they break-up). And because the location is on a hilltop, my contractor refers to the area as Brokeback Mountain. I would have hired him for that alone.
The house across the road is in its final stages of completion and commands a striking view of the Hudson River. Were there a train running down the middle of the street, I’m sure that that side would be designated the right side of the tracks. The house was designed by a highly respected architect whose name is widely known in academia. Professionalism prohibits me from commenting on it . . . well, maybe later.
Coming up with a floor plan was relatively easy; three-dimensionalizing the plan wasn’t. Orangeries, 19th century industrial factories, the works of Lutyens, mid-century houses—these were just some of the images I gave my architect. Why she couldn’t find the common thread that linked them all together, I don’t know. Could I have been any clearer?
Plan of the Orangerie by Jacques-François Blondel
The Forest Orangerie as it stands now
The Lingotto Fiat Factory. All concrete with steel windows.
This wainscoting inspired my fireplace, which will be the soul of the house.
It took many drafts to realize that you can’t incorporate every idea you’ve ever had into 2400 square feet. Lesson learned, we finally came up with a house that we both liked. It was the next stage that I realized that God is not the only thing in the details ($$$$$). Prefabs were looking better and better!
Front of the model. I wanted the house to be as pavilion-like as possible. See orangerie.
Back of the model.
Money plays a huge role in building a house, but it’s a boring role, one that fills me with such deep anxiety that I’d rather not discuss it. Financing in place (I’ve always wanted to say that), construction began.
Years of experience has taught me that the more complete the drawings, the more smoothly and cost efficiently the job goes. Construction didn’t exactly begin with a napkin sketch, but the set of drawings was and still is far from complete. Now that the foundation is laid, there can be no changing the footprint. That, however, doesn’t prevent me from altering room layouts, lighting, fenestrations, surface finishes, etc. With clients I’m good with decision making, but as a client, I’m my own worst nightmare.
With trepidation, I’ve called designer friends for some informal consultations. Laura Bohn, a designer known for her un-waivering vision, is one friend. A few minutes into that consult, and the boundaries of that relationship were clearly defined. When I approached Kitty Hawks, another close friend and designer, she quickly reminded me that she had retired from her practice. So much for consultations.
My architect Joan Chan thinks that I absolutely must have a front door in the center bump-out (see plan). I think it’s okay to have just the two side doors (see model). Who’s right?