Lean and Green

A New Paltz Home Built to Order

  |  By   |  Photographs by Deborah DeGraffenreid

The family of two doctors, two children, and two dogs of extremely different sizes—picture a purse puppy and a small pony—didn’t plan to build when they decided to move upstate from Brooklyn. “Our children were getting ready to start junior high, and we figured it was time to get out of the city,” their mother says. “We liked New Paltz. But when we looked for a house to buy, we just couldn’t find one we liked.”

Having lived in many houses, the wife knew what pleased her: modern homes that managed to maintain a sense of warmth, the kinds that populated her favorite shelter magazine. “When I brought home a copy of Dwell magazine four years ago, we fell in love,” she says. Until they could find the right place, they rented.

But instead of a house, they found a piece of land above the Wallkill River. Tucked into the woods, the land offered two views: the river and the Shawangunk Ridge. “We saw this site and that was it,” she says.

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Now for the house. On the way home that same day, she and her husband met with Jan and Greg Buhler of Atlantic Custom Homes in Cold Spring, the area dealer for Lindal Cedar Homes. For almost 70 years, Lindal has created designs for preengineered, on-site-constructed post-and-beam homes. The owners chose a plan from the Turkel Design Lindals for the Dwell Homes Collection.

The 2,300-square-foot floor plan has three bedrooms and a walk-out lower level, with clean lines and bright, open spaces; a sleek, wood-and-glass house with spare, minimalist lines. Atlantic Custom Homes ordered all the materials, from wood and windows to door handles. “It’s a greener way to build,” Jan Buhler says. “Everything is engineered and numbered, then shipped by rail.”

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The Buhlers, architect Joel Turkel, and the couple went through the design process in a series of online meetings. They changed the placement of a wall to maximize access to the screened-in living area. “It’s not just paper plans,” explains Greg Buhler. “It’s a 3-D walk-through. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of the process. It’s very predictable.”

That left the owners free to focus on the personal touches. “I had time because I didn’t have to choose door handles and things like that,” one of the doctors says. “The lighting, the cabinets, the appliances, the built-ins—that was all us. And it was important to us to include the work of local craftsmen.”

For instance, Jeff “Mac” McKelvey at Ulster County Ironworks in New Paltz fashioned an industrial-looking stand for a bathroom sink, some shelves, a cable rail and posts, iron dividers in the concrete floors, and the stair railing. Johnny Poux Design of Kingston created one curved sheet of sapeli wood to create a dining nook modeled after a booth at Water Street Market in New Paltz.

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The owners furnished the space with an eclectic combination of heirloom pieces and furniture they made or bought from Ikea. An antique chair handed down from a grandmother sports bright paint and contemporary fabric, adding a warm touch to the neighboring sleek, contemporary sofa. In the kitchen, a bright pink glass dome lights the work area, while a large, delicate, steel-armed chandelier lights the living area and its ultra modern glass-front fireplace.

While the owners have found a way to combine functional, industrial modernism with a warmth that can only be described as cozy, the house is still a work in progress. They plan to finish landscaping, put in a pool, and hope to eventually install solar panels and make it a zero-energy home. “This is our last home,” the owner says. “I have unsubscribed from all the design magazines.”

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