In North Branch, New York, an idyllic expanse of farmland proved to be an immediate fit for a couple as they looked to downsize and move into the next phase of their life. Intimately connected to the agrarian surroundings, the dwelling is a space to live simply while focusing on shared creative passions.
The site, a sprawling field backing up to woods on one side, ascends to highlight sweeping views of Bully Hill and distant mountains from the south-facing vantage point. After the steadily uphill approach, the site levels off, creating a natural place for the home to rest. The gentle undulation of the hillside protects the privacy of the residence, largely hiding it from view from the main road below, with only glimpses being revealed from the long and meandering driveway.
The home’s distinctive façade marries black-stained pine siding with Corten steel, a material both Studio MM and the clients were equally enthused about experimenting with for the first time. In 18-inch panels that wrap around the home, careful consideration was given to the alignment of the Corten with existing horizontal datums. By lining up the panels with the home’s perimeter and horizontal window edges, a clean and intentional aesthetic is achieved, while mindfully avoiding the added cost of cutting metal. Through exposure to the elements, the Corten will naturally oxidize, developing an organic rusted patina as it weathers over time.
Perched on the crest of the hill to take advantage of views, the home stretches horizontally to utilize the width of the land. The horizontal massing of the one-story home keeps the scale modest while setting up every room to have views. Passive techniques were incorporated to make the compact home as efficient as possible. Employing sun studies, the optimal overhang size was determined, striking a careful balance between shading the home in summer while still allowing sun to flood the space in winter. The home’s hilltop perch affords a consistent breeze, facilitating crucial cross ventilation in the absence of air conditioning. Air can flow freely from the large sliding doors on the south side through the operable windows on the north side, moderated by the degree the doors are kept open.
The home’s simple programming, pared back to one bedroom and an art studio, emphasizes the couple’s desire to eliminate excess and create a space for them. The studio, a flexible creative space, was prioritized to give the clients a dedicated area to focus on personal hobbies and interests, especially as they enjoy – or look towards – retirement. Whether photography, painting, yarn dyeing, knitting, crafting, or soap making, the couple embraces the studio space as a place for creative focus and enrichment. With the home sitting on active farmland, the clients cherish their connection with the local farming community. A love of cooking makes the kitchen a natural hub of the home – a place to gather with their tight-knit Italian family, make homemade bread and pasta on the marble island, or host neighbors and farmers for casual gatherings.
Respect for the land, and pride in their local community are central to the clients’ use of the space. When not working or creating from the studio, the home is a restorative haven to relax and simply appreciate the land and the view. As the fields change with the seasons from green flowing grass and wildflowers in spring, to golden hay in summer, to a mosaic of fall colors in autumn, the couple can peacefully reflect as they look forward to the next chapter of their lives.