In a dense patch of forest 100 or so miles north of New York City, an unusual housing development is taking shape. When it is finished, 26 modern, gabled homes will occupy lots ranging from three to 12 acres. The houses—upscale cottages, really—will be based on one of two similar but distinct designs, each of which can be customized to suit the buyers’ tastes and, to a degree, their budget. A premium has been placed on incorporating local materials as well as promoting furnishings by area craftsmen.
The development, in Kerhonkson, New York, is called Hudson Woods, and it is the brainchild of Drew Lang, a Manhattan-based architect. It evolved, he says, "out of a recognition … that going through the process of hiring an architect, buying a piece of property, and designing a house and so forth, both from a time-commitment standpoint and a financial standpoint, is not for everyone.
"What we’ve ended up with," he adds, "is the realization that coming up with a turn-key, all-inclusive, cost-effective solution for building, selling, and providing a home is quite compelling from our perspective and, we’re finding, from the prospective of the buying public."
The first house to be built—a three-bedroom, 2,800-square-foot structure outfitted with generous amounts of white oak—pulls double duty as a demonstration space for the development’s possibilities, and as a weekend retreat for Lang, his wife, Graciela, and their son Nico. The most striking feature of this barn-like structure is a curtain wall at one end that offers an expansive view from the living room onto a porch and to the old-growth forest beyond.
The shape of the house reflects a deliberate design choice, Lang says.
"There is, on the one hand, the reading of the form of the house as a traditional house and, on the other hand, a different sort of reading, a more modern reading, due to the openness and glassiness," he says. "I think that those things combined define the house, and it’s really what we were after. It was important to me to keep these houses simple and to very clearly have a reference back to the vernacular of the architecture in this area and in this region."
Another way that Lang has sought to ground Hudson Woods in its surroundings is by building relationships with local craftsmen and furniture makers and promoting their work to buyers. As examples, he cited Materia Designs, based in Kerhonkson, which fashioned a circular mirror for the downstairs bathroom, and Michael Robbins, a Hudson Valley furniture designer who made a leather-back chair that sits at a desk in his guest bedroom.
"I think we’ve been quite successful in forming relationships and incorporating them into the project," he says. "The idea as we go along is to introduce these folks to people who may or may nor know about them otherwise, and it’s already happening that some of our buyers are reaching out directly to these craftsmen and commissioning furniture pieces for their homes."
Lang says Hudson Woods is in the throes of "sales and construction," with five additional house currently being built. Depending on lot size, a 2,800-square-foot "base home" at Hudson Woods sells for $665,000 to $715,000, with custom upgrades (a pool, for instance, or an extra bedroom) adding to the bottom line.
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