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A Rustic Refuge in the Catskills

Rugged and refined elements come together with dramatic effect in this personalized timber frame home in the Catskills.

Written by Charles Bevier
Photos: Gross + Daley
 
Sometimes you just have to get away — even if it’s not very far away. But when you do, having every amenity you could ever want from the comfort of home is the way to go.
 
A recent example was when a New York couple decided to create a 400-acre sanctuary Upstate in the Catskill Mountains to escape their high-pressure law practices in the city. The dream: a roughly 6,000-square-foot, two-story home with a vaulted great room, custom kitchen, four bedrooms, eight full baths, two home offices, a study, a lounge and an 18th century-inspired “keeping room” — not to mention the indoor lap pool and spa.
 
The couple sought to be stewards of the land, hiring Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, a renowned Brooklyn-based landscape architecture firm with more than 60 awards worldwide, to transform their expansive parcel into a wildlife preserve. They rose to the challenge with an exquisite driveway approach that maintained the area’s unspoiled flora and fauna.
 
The couple selected architect Jeff Wilkinson of Newburgh, New York, to design their new home, entrusting him to craft an elegant, sustainable and eco-friendly plan that appears to grow organically from the Catskill Mountains’ majestic landscape.
 
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The process went quickly because it was apparent that the couple had given the design a great deal of thought. “They were total partners, working together to develop an extensive list of what they wanted for each room,” Jeff recalls. “One thing that was clear was how important it was for the home to be within earshot and eyesight of the property’s beautiful brook that’s teeming with trout.”
 
To collaborate on the plans, Woodhouse: The Timber Frame Company, which has its own award-winning in-house design team, was called up for help when crafting the clients’ custom-home needs.
 
Jeff and the home buyers visited the Woodhouse campus to see for themselves how the company uses state-of-the-art CNC machinery to fabricate its elegant timber frames.
 
The Woodhouse design team developed an initial timber frame concept for the couple’s new home, which they named Eaglestone Forest. “We provided feedback on a unique style of brace profile for the frame that would remain beautiful for many years while maintaining the design intent,” says Jeff Kriner, senior home designer for Woodhouse.
 
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The dormer that sits atop the great room received special attention for its technical requirements. “Many conversations were had relative to keeping with the architect’s design intent while working with the window manufacturer to ensure a window could be built for the dormer space,” Jeff Kriner explains. “Both window manufacturer and design intent parameters had to be met exactly.”
 
The homeowners asked Jeff Wilkinson and Woodhouse to adorn their rooftop with an expansive viewing deck reminiscent of an eagle’s eyrie.  Woodhouse worked closely with Wilkinson to devise an access hatch, as well as to ensure the rooftop structure could support the added weight of the platform — even when loaded with snow.
 
Jeff selected Woodhouse’s vertical grain Douglas fir for the timber frame of the home. “It’s mostly second-growth wood. In other words, it’s the primo stuff,” he says. “It’s quite beautiful.”
 
Woodhouse also took special care to specify a state-of-the-art dehumidifying system for the pool and spa area, to perfectly preserve the timber work.
 
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In addition to structural architecture, Jeff Wilkinson also happens to be a trained cabinetmaker who has taught courses on furniture design and millwork at the New York School of Interior Design. He delights in creating true custom cabinetry.
 
“For instance, on this project, the kitchen cabinetry continues the ‘borrowed light’ idea with the use of glass doors on both sides of the upper cabinets. The reeded glass also helps to diffuse the light,” explains Jeff. “Likewise, the three windows with the transom over the center unit in the kitchen is a motif I have been known to use. The use of borrowed light and transoms in the interior helped draw natural light deep into the interior.”
 
From start to finish, the custom timber frame home took nearly 18 months to complete — quite an accomplishment for a project of this scope, and one that Jeff Wilkinson is particularly proud of. More importantly the owners are delighted with the peace, tranquility and natural beauty of their Upstate Shangri-La.
 

Home Details

Square Footage: 6,000
Bedrooms:  4    
Baths: 8
Architect: Jeff Wilkinson

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