Native Plants Form a Meadow-Like Habitat for a Rustic New York Home
Maybe Dan Sternberg was half-joking when he said, "I don’t want to own a lawn mower," but landscape architect Jamie Purinton took him seriously. After she heard his wish, she wandered the former horse pasture he had bought in the Hudson Valley and five hours later came back with a fistful of little bluestem grass, penstemons, goldenrods, and asters. From that moment onward, her mantra was: "Let the meadow be the star." Dan signed on without hesitation, as he would to many of her out-there ideas.
The land had been the lure for Dan and his wife, Debbie Cooper, from the moment they spied the For Sale sign while cycling through Millerton, New York, in 2012 and set off to explore the sloped 18-acre property in Spandex. There was much about the region the couple liked, including its agricultural heritage. When they approached local architects Elizabeth Demetriades and Patrick Walker of Demetriades + Walker about building a house on the land, "blending" and "harmonizing" with the rolling landscape were words repeated often.
Clad in stained red cedar with an attached Cor-Ten steel garage, the three-bedroom dwelling, built in 2015, seems to melt into the hillside. Demetriades speaks of "lantern-like windows" capturing "meditative views." She designed glass doors that slide open and disappear into pockets to erase the boundaries between inside and out. In summer, Dan and Debbie—both lawyers, he retired—practically live outdoors.
Once the house was done, Purinton was tasked with returning the land around it to a state of nature. After she identified the native flora, her associate Stacia Montenegro developed a custom seed mix—including prairie dropseed, guara, additional asters, butterfly weed, and bee balm—that could muscle out invasive seedlings. The meadow they created laps at the ankles of the house, with staghorn sumac and other native shrubs planted on the verge of the front door and thyme pathways woven across the property for Dan and Debbie to explore. Purinton also earned their blessing to create a "thyme courtyard" that fills the space between the house and the garage. The decision was unorthodox, but the result is a feast for the senses of sight and scent. "Who else would let me do that?" Purinton asks.