An Architect Builds a Two-Family Home to Foster Young Farmers in the Hudson Valley

An Architect Builds a Two-Family Home to Foster Young Farmers in the Hudson Valley

By Melissa Dalton
City dwellers with a passion for produce, Eugene Kwak and Claire Ko share their house and 16 acres with the local agricultural community.

When architect Eugene Kwak first suggested to his wife, Claire Ko, that they buy land, build a house, and start a farm, she was not immediately sold. "I raised my eyebrow and said, ‘I’ve never even lived in a suburb. I’ve been a true city girl,’" says Claire, who grew up in Seoul, South Korea, and works as a chief people officer at a cheese company in New York City. 

She adds, "I told him that I think our connection to the farm really begins and ends at the farmer’s market, and he said he disagreed. He believed very strongly that we can take that further." 

Architect Eugene Kwak designed Togather as a 3,000-square-foot, two-family home in the Hudson Valley.

The couple, who’d long lived in Greenwich Village, frequented the Union Square Greenmarket and procured fruits and veggies from a CSA. "We just fell in love with seasonal produce," says Claire. After that first conversation, Eugene, who then worked for a firm specializing in environmentally responsible design and is also an assistant professor at Farmingdale State College on Long Island, started volunteering once a week with the Stone Barns Center and Glynwood, two nonprofits supporting farming, agriculture, and education.

Eugene spent two years getting his hands dirty, learning about regenerative food systems and the New York farming community. "I was out in the field, helping out with weeding and moving rocks, to harvesting and planting," he says. "In the afternoon, I would wash my hands, have lunch, and attend these really informative workshops where they teach anything from composting, to land access, to how to farm as a beginner." 

After a years-long search for viable land, Eugene and his wife, Claire Ko, bought an old dairy farm with good soil that could be rehabbed into an organic fruit and vegetable operation.

Refining and building upon Eugene’s initial idea, the couple finally alighted on the concept of "Togather": a two-family house on a 16-acre lot in the Hudson Valley, just a 70-minute drive from their digs in the city. One side of the house would host young farmers seeking land, and the other would be where Eugene and Claire resided, connecting with nature and providing support where needed.

"The average age of farmers keeps on rising, and that inherited knowledge might be gone at some point," says Eugene. "I thought it was really alarming." He designed and built Togather to help support a younger generation of farmers.

The 3,000-square-foot home was completed in 2019. Eugene gave a push-pull aspect to the facade to control the views, wrapping the lighter wood with black-stained pine. "The black siding really binds the structure together, and having those different volumes within the boundary is really playful," says Eugene. 

Inside, the footprint is divided into a 2,000-square-foot unit for Eugene, Claire, and guests, and a 1,000-square-foot unit for the farm family. Both units have generous deck space and plenty of sight lines to the working farm and bucolic scenery. "Our goal was to provide enough space for both families, and we really brainstormed a lot about sharing the outdoor space together," says Eugene. 

Looking at the rear facade, Eugene and Claire’s home is to the left, and the farming family lives in the unit on the right. The goal for that space was to create a flexible floor plan for a couple or young family, so there are two bedrooms and a bath on the main floor, plus a bonus loft above.

"I wanted to make sure that people can actually see different spaces accentuated by different volumes," says Eugene of the staggered facade.

They now rent out the second home below market rate, which includes a free 30-year land lease to enable farmers to begin their operations without the steep start-up costs associated with acquiring land. The goal was to create a mutually beneficial collaboration, says Claire: "We felt we could really help urbanites and young farmers coexist, and be able to partner and do something together."

Inside Eugene and Claire’s home, an expansive sliding glass door connects their living spaces to the farm, creating a literal farm-to-table experience. 


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The scheme is kept simple, with light wood flooring throughout.  "When you walk in, you feel immediately embraced by the nature outside, but you feel the warmth that the house offers," says Claire.

In the kitchen, black marble tops sharp black cabinetry.

Once construction was nearing completion, Eugene and Claire posted a listing on the Hudson Valley Farmlink Network. "It's very similar to Match.com in the sense that they match farmers to land owners," says Eugene. Through it, they met Melissa Phillips and Jack Whettam, who have since moved into the second home and officially started the Hidden Acre Farm in 2019.

Produce from Hidden Acre Farm, which was recently certified organic.

In an upstairs bedroom, windows capture intentional views of the trees and farm activity. "Someone living in New York City, they have the thirst of wanting to connect with nature—and what better way to connect with nature other than going to a farm and experiencing farming?" says Eugene.  


Hidden Acre Farm sells its produce at a local farmer’s market in Barryville, as well as one the Carroll Garden Market in Brooklyn, which creates something of a full-circle effect for Eugene and Claire, who see the produce they helped facilitate go to city dwellers like themselves. 

"We often share meals together with what they grow on the field," says Eugene. "It's an incredible, incredible experience for us." Adds Claire, "The joy that this property offers to us is really beyond my expectation and beyond my imagination."  

"We wanted to help many people to understand that an option like this [exists], that people could consider it when building a second home, or primary residence, or even a home for retirement," says Claire.

A playful mix of tile and floral wallpaper embellishes the bathroom.

Claire picked out the furnishings for the second unit, making sure none were chemically treated. A spiral staircase leads up to the bonus loft space.

Eugene and Claire stand with Melissa Phillips and Jack Whettam, the founders of Hidden Acre Farm. "We feel really blessed to work with Jack and Melissa, and they have created an amazing operation. They developed this beautiful farm," says Claire. Eugene notes, "They're doing a beyond-organic operation. They have been practicing regenerative farming, so there’s a no-till method, and they use only hand-pulled equipment. Therefore, there are no carbon emissions."

The two families share meals together. 

Related Reading: 

Farm Fresh

An Architect Crafts an Off-Grid Cabin on His Family Farm in Ohio

This UK Farmhouse Is Made of Hemp Grown in the Surrounding Fields

Project Credits:

Architecture: Eugene Kwak

Builder: Thomas Lane Construction Ltd

Civil Engineer: Mercurio-Norton-Tarolli-Marshall (MNTM)

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