Architect Jo Machinist keeps it minimal and lets the view play its part
When Deirdre Quinn and Kevin Bauer, co-founder of the New York fashion house Lafayette 148, set about renovating their weekend home in a small Rockland County hamlet, they had one objective in mind: maximizing the stunning views, inside and out.
When Deirdre Quinn and Kevin Bauer, co-founders
of the New York fashion house Lafayette 148,
set about renovating their weekend home in a small Rockland County hamlet, they had one objective in mind: maximizing the stunning views, inside and out. Perched 550 feet above the Hudson River, the house’s location features expansive water vistas from nearly every spot, overlooking the Tappan Zee Bridge to the north and a wide bend in the river to the south. But the home’s cramped interiors and an overgrown landscape partly obstructed the site’s spectacular scenery. “We bought the place years ago from the original owner,” says Quinn. “I fell in love with the site and the surroundings, but I always knew the house itself would need a complete overhaul someday.”
Quinn and Bauer turned to New York–based architect Jo Machinist to reimagine the house as an ethereal, cliff-top escape from the city, with expansive river views from nearly every room and a large outdoor entertaining space—all in the existing home’s footprint. To accomplish this, Machinist took an “outside in” approach, first reworking the landscape to protect and preserve the views, then tackling how those views are experienced from inside the house.
Overcoming the site’s steep drop-off required an almost gravity-defying engineering feat. “My clients love to celebrate and entertain,” says Machinist. “But the steeply sloped lot offered little opportunity for outdoor living.” So she added infill, enclosed by a 120-foot-long retaining wall that runs parallel to the house and supports two new levels of flat, terraced lawn, a wide staircase, and a vanishing-edge pool. A glass railing tops the wall to keep guests safe without blocking the view. “It’s incredible,” says Quinn. “You feel like you’re walking or swimming right out to the river.” Just off the pool, a deck (complete with an outdoor fireplace and cushy banquette seating) and a cabana outfitted with an open-air kitchen facilitate nearly year-round alfresco parties. “The pool is open from April through October, and we hang out by it even in the winter, thanks to the fireplace and cabana.”
Inside, the majestic vistas become even more dramatic, seen through large single-pane windows and French doors, plus a level of clerestory windows that enclose the entire river-facing side of the house, framing the view in picturesque vignettes. The expanse of east-facing, floor-to-ceiling glass not only provides 180 degrees of sight lines up and down the river, but it bathes the minimally furnished, 12-foot-tall living spaces downstairs and master suite upstairs with sunlight. Beige limestone floors provide a stage for shadows that evolve throughout the day. “You can practically tell the time based on how the light has changed,” says Machinist. The other surfaces—12-inch-thick limestone walls, granite columns, Corian countertops, wood and granite hearths, wood steps with a steel stringer and glass railing, and a plaster chimney—are rendered in a range of grays, whites, and taupes, and equally unadorned. “The effect of the light, neutral palette, and wonderfully bare space is sublime,” adds Machinist. “It was carefully orchestrated to appear effortless, and to redirect the focus to the natural surroundings. It’s a modern house, but the preponderance of natural materials prevents it from feeling severe or austere. It’s a very meditative space.”
The peaceful aura is exactly what Quinn and Bauer cherish about the place. “There is a lone tree that has grown out over the river in search of light and open space,” says Machinist. “It was very important to Deirdre and Kevin to frame the view of the tree from as many rooms as possible.” In some ways, that tree is a symbol for the couple’s relationship to the house, where they escape from the bustle of the city and the fashion industry to achieve a sense of tranquility. “Being here,” Quinn says, “helps me clear my mind and breathe a little easier.”