The term “housewright” originated in the 16th century to describe an artisan who constructs masterly houses by hand. While many contemporary home builders value speed above all else when it comes to construction, for one local company, housewrighting is the only way to work.
Home Enrichment Company, based in Hopewell Junction, was founded in 1987 when self-taught carpenter Josh Rich advertised in the local Pennysaver. Today, the firm has an unparalleled reputation, employing six carpenters, plus Josh’s wife Aimee as manager.
Traditional apprenticeship is the company’s foundation. “Josh sought out the finest candidates and dedicated himself to their training,” says Aimee. “He’s trained each of the team, and now they train new employees as well. An employee who’s willing and able to do this is a rare find, but we’ve been very lucky.”
For master carpenter Gregg Wilsea, who’s been with Home Enrichment since 1991, the feeling is mutual. “We’re lucky to get the chance to do these jobs,” he says. “I still get up every morning eager to go to work—six or seven days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with a new idea about some detail I’m working on.”
For each restoration, repair, or building project, Home Enrichment gets to know every stick of timber and block of stone involved. “Our team members are fanatics, precise to a fault,” says Aimee. “They spend a lot of time reviewing each detail. It’s an art form, and the guys are 100 percent dedicated. They put their hearts into it, and all of them are capable of building a complete house by hand.”
In fact, the team created the Riches’ own family home by disassembling an 1800s Greek Revival farmhouse. During its restoration, they sandblasted each beam, whittled each board to a precise fit, and added savvy tweaks like energy-efficient insulation and appliances, handmade cabinetry and flooring, uplighting, and a new, period-style barn/office for Home Enrichment’s operations.
Because everything is done by hand, Home Enrichment projects typically involve an architect and a one-to-two-year commitment. Josh is proud of the amount of time his team puts into each project. “I’ll never give up on quality,” he says. “We won’t sell our souls for faster, lower-quality work.”
Home Enrichment’s latest project was the $2.5 million restoration and interior updating of a 13,000-square-foot Tuxedo Park home built in 1908 by Lieutenant Governor Lewis Stuyvesant Chanler. “Working on a project of that magnitude presents many challenges,” says journeyman carpenter Steve Schnaper, the project’s manager. “Decades of experience prepared us for the pratfalls and unforeseen challenges that often crop up with older homes. The historical nature of that home required research and diligence in keeping to the original intentions of the architecture—and we love that stuff.”
Merrill Mahan, co-owner of the Tuxedo Park property, was so pleased with the 15-month renovation that she threw a thank-you party for the team. “They did a spectacular job, and we’re enormously grateful,” she says. “Everyone was so professional, and our three-year-old twins fell in love with ‘Steve the builder.’”
Empathy is as vital to Home Enrichment’s process as the intricacies of wood and stone.
“Construction is an emotional roller coaster, and a year or two is a long time, waiting to see the finished effect while you’re looking at rough-ins and mechanicals,” says Aimee. “But we’re a good family. We talk and laugh a lot, and we draw the client into that circle of caring, concern, and communication.”
Other recent Home Enrichment projects include building an intergenerational lakeshore retreat in Putnam Valley, featuring a hand-cut timberframe, western red cedar screened porch, retractable hurricane screens, and an upper balcony. In renovating an 1800s farmhouse in Millbrook, the team added a garden room and bedrooms, and redid the kitchen and bathrooms.
“Finishing each project is like a wedding day or graduation, or some other big life event—we’re so proud, but we’re going to miss the place,” says Aimee. “We create places that we wish we could just hang out in, enjoy, and admire for a while, but the next one is already calling.”
Ultimately, each project carries a legacy that’s both spiritual and structural. “There’s an emotional connection for us,” Josh says. “But the work we do is about longevity. What we do outlasts who we do it for—it’s there for generations.”