This courtyard house on the edge of the Berkshires offers both grand vistas and plenty of privacy, thanks to its custom rain screen.
What drew Seth Grosshandler and Kim Wainwright to their 20-acre property in rural Hillsdale, New York, were the extraordinary unobstructed views of the Berkshires to the east and the Catskills to the west. The challenge on the completely exposed hilltop site was protecting their planned 2,800-square-foot, two-bedroom courtyard house from the occasionally brutal weather. In response, architect Lea Cloud, of New York City’s CR Studio, created a “superinsulated building envelope” intended “to feel light and airy,” Cloud says. So instead of the clapboard siding or shingles common in the region, the architects devised a rain screen of Atlantic white cedar that floats four-and-a-half inches off the structure. The clever cover allows the house to breathe, drains away moisture, and conceals the “cheap and hideous foam” covering the house’s multilayered insulation sandwich with light-handed elegance.
Since Grosshandler and Wainwright wanted as many windows as possible, the architects next extended the slatted screen over the glazing in certain places to form a textured pattern that makes the outward vistas more complex and enables a rich play of sunlight within the house. And to create an enclosed pool and vegetable garden, Cloud morphed the screen into an intermittently porous fence that permits views of the Berkshires from selected points in the pool while keeping out garden-munching deer. The architects’ simple, surprisingly variable idea transforms what might have been a quotidian country home into a visually rhythmic exercise in immateriality.