A Black Gable Home Opens Wide to the Appalachian Landscape

A Black Gable Home Opens Wide to the Appalachian Landscape

By Luo Jingmei / Photos by Paul Warchol
Desai Chia Architecture draws upon rural architecture to create an austere retreat that frames spectacular vistas.

For many city folks subjected daily to the cacophony of automobile bustle and urban ephemera, a trip to the countryside brings unparalleled relief—especially if it comes with unbeatable views. Hence, it didn’t take long for one New York–based couple to decide where to create their occasional haven and future retirement home.

The triangulated architecture fits into the rugged Appalachian landscape.

Nestled in a forest, the mountainous site in Cornwall, Connecticut, offers dramatic views of the Housatonic River and the surrounding valleys. "The view and how private the location felt were the main reasons why we decided to build a new home in this particular place," say the couple.

The former cabin on the site had a dated, uninspiring exterior.

On the plot sat a dilapidated cabin that had suffered 30 years of piecemeal renovations. "We salvaged the existing concrete foundation to reduce construction waste," say Katherine Chia and Arjun Desai, principals of Desai Chia Architecture, who were tasked with the new build.

The exterior palette and form of the house complements the natural environment.

Upon this base they raised an elegant structure that embodies strong genius loci. The barn-like form draws inspiration from the region’s ubiquitous covered bridges and agricultural structures. "Resembling the ridges and valleys of the nearby mountains, its simple yet iconic form creates a strong silhouette against the landscape," says Desai.

The region’s famous West Cornwall Covered Bridge is one of the many vernacular inspirations for the house’s pitched-roof form.

The home’s programs are neatly arranged beneath the precisely shaped roof. The openings are cleanly defined to frame views like Japanese paintings, and the internal spaces are fluid to cater to easy living and minimize blockage of the scenery as much as possible.

Earth tones adorn the living room, anchored by a Sisal rug from ABC Carpet. A low-slung Dune sofa from Poliform is an invitation to lounge.

Floor-to-ceiling windows create strong connections between the home’s interior and the surrounding landscape. This effect is most expansive in the open-plan living, dining, and kitchen area.

The spacious interiors mean there is no chance of claustrophobia—even when the occupants are stranded indoors during bad weather.

In warmer weather, the occupants enjoy dining and lounging on the stepped terrace, which runs the length of the house, to make the most of the scenery. An existing boulder kept as a key site reference fronts the communal spaces like a sculpture.

"[It] became a muse for the living area’s uphill view. The rock is part of a landscape experience whether you are inside or outside the house," says Chia.

The expansive glazing allows the occupants to appreciate not just the views, but shifting light and shadow play throughout the day.

The rock’s organic form stands out against the architecture’s crisp lines. With such a beautiful artifact visible through the glassed walls, there is no need for other forms of art in the home.

A central fireplace, designed as a minimal, gray block and visible from both sides, subtly separates the living and dining zones.

The interiors enjoy a loftiness provided by the peaked ceiling that traces the roof’s shape. Two floating lamps designed by Isamu Noguchi emphasize this verticality. The glazing brings in an abundance of light. When opened, the house breathes.

On the valley side, the terrace steps down as a series of wide bleachers that double as casual seating for enjoying the scenery. The plan also sets the railings below the main floor, so that the interior offers unobstructed views of the landscape.

"This midsection serves as the incubator for living—a place where the owners and their guests can come together to dine, socialize, and relax," Chia Says. "There are two terraces: one on the uphill side facing the forest, and the other on the downhill side of the ledge facing the views to the Connecticut Valley."

The master bedroom is tucked at one end of the house’s long plan, and it shares valley views with the living room.

The master bedroom and two guest rooms are given privacy at the house’s two extreme ends. Dark shou sugi ban siding clads their elevations, interrupted only by apertures for considered landscaped views.

Aside from the natural light, the master bedroom is illuminated simply with a graphic Mobile Chandelier No.2 from Michael Anastassiades and a Bellhop table lamp from Flos. These accompany a Cove bed from Design Within Reach, a  Harlosh bedside table from Pinch Design, a Colonial armchair from Carl Hansen & Søn, and a rug from Calvin Klein Home.

The material’s heavily charred color and texture harmonizes with the colors of the site. Its bug- and rot-proof properties also ease long-term maintenance.

In contrast, the interior walls are whitewashed. The home’s furniture and fixtures follow a minimal, contemporary language that minimizes distraction from the vistas. Alabaster, cement, earth, and charcoal shades echo those found in nature. 

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A neat, timber-framed niche at the entrance hallway allows occupants to take their shoes off and keep them in the mud room across the hallway before proceeding to the house’s main spaces.

"The finishes and fittings were selected to help create a warm and intimate space that can reinforce one’s connection with nature. The materials are simple—wide-plank oak floors, satin lacquer cabinets, stone tiles—but used in graphic and sculptural ways that accentuate the power of their textures and colors," Chia highlights.

The guest bedroom features a Cove bed from Design Within Reach, a Spade chair by Faye Toogood, a Dune rug from Hem, and a Michael Anastassiades pendant lamp.

Oak flooring spreads through the entire home, offering warmth underfoot and a cozy ambiance. Many timber furniture pieces add to this effect. Examples include the living room’s E15 coffee table and Colonial daybed from Carl Hansen & Søn.

Timber accents in the lofty master bathroom comprise a simple Muji bench and a Hinoki wood soaking tub.

In the master bathroom, a Hinoki wood tub invites contemplative dips. Floating elements in the bathrooms continue the language of lightness and elegance.

In this shower, gentle gray shades and minimal bath fixtures from Kallista add to the home’s contemplative ambience. 

Small, penny-shaped Carrara marble tiles add texture to the master and guest bathrooms, which share a similar template.

The disciplined architectural lines, fluid programming, tactile comfort, and serene shades all contribute to the home’s restful nature. Having spent some time in the original structure, the clients highly appreciate Desai and Chia’s work crafting such a transformative retreat.

At night, carefully orchestrated lighting illuminates the house like a lantern in nature.

The home’s openness enhances intense indoor/outdoor encounters. "The biggest surprise is how beautifully the light moves through the house, especially when the sun is low and the shadows are long," shares the couple. "Moments like this give the house a very dynamic, alive feeling."

Found on-site and retained, a boulder juxtaposes with the building’s crisp lines.


Ledge House Plan


A Ledge House cross section shows how the home is naturally ventilated.

Related Reading:

18 Black Gable Houses With Seriously Witchy Vibes

Project Credits: 

Architect of Record: Katherine Chia FAIA, Desai Chia Architecture / @desaichiaarchitecture

Design Team: Katherine Chia FAIA, Arjun Desai AIA, Troy Lacombe, Brad Isnard

Builder: Classic Renovations LLC 

Civil Engineer: A.H. Howland Associates

Landscape designer: AB Landscaping

Structural Engineer: David Kufferman, P.E.

Kitchen Joinery: Bulthaup

Bathroom Stonework: Peter Brooks Stone Works

Fireplace concrete work: Get Real Surface

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