At Home with Adam and Katherine Stauffer

A traditional farmhouse – with a modern spin – provides an elegant, comfortable getaway on a Columbia County hilltop.

A Classic Updated


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The traditional Hudson Valley farmhouse gets a modern spin on a  Columbia County hilltop


by Constance Carlson  •  Photographs by Randall Perry

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When Adam Stauffer bought the 120-acre hilltop site on which his Columbia County farmhouse now stands, it was planted with corn — and the crop was nearing maturity. Only by climbing to the very top of the hill and peeking out from between the cornstalks could he get a glimpse of the land’s potential.


“I raised a camera over my head and took pictures, developed them the next day, and made an offer a week later,” says Stauffer. “I didn’t really know just how great the view was until the corn was cut down right before the closing.”


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And what a view it is: the Catskill Mountains to the west; a private, 25-acre pond to the south; the Berkshire Mountains to the east; and fabulous pastoral views of neighboring farms to the north, along with glimpses of the lights of Albany at night.


For Stauffer, who lived and worked in Manhattan at the time, the expansive views became the focal point for a retreat from crowded city life. The next goal: to find an architect to design a modern version of a classic farmhouse. “I wanted something with an open, loft-like floor plan and simple Shaker styling,” he says. “The building had to be low-profile and seem at home on the hill — something that looked like it had been there forever.”


On a tip, he met New York City architect Karen Jacobson. “Karen has amazing taste and her portfolio was full of beautiful homes that really clicked with me,” says Stauffer, a chief technology officer in the financial services industry. In a more important stroke of good fortune, Stauffer met his future wife, Katherine, about halfway through the project, and completing the house became a team effort.


The design process moved quickly from rough sketches through models and then detailed planning. “There are a lot of decisions to make on a project of this size, and Karen really kept the project focused,” notes Stauffer. At the end, the architect produced several hundred pages of detailed specifications and drawings, and then helped navigate the process of selecting a builder and bidding on materials.


While the plans for the house were underway, Stauffer began work on the reconstruction of a 19th-century Pennsylvania bank barn. It was found, of all places, via the Internet, and was painstakingly dismantled and then reassembled on the site. The 30 by 42–foot, three-story building served as an impromptu headquarters while the house was being built, and now holds a workshop and garage.


Construction of the 3,500 square-foot house began in 2001 and was completed in 2002 — in time for Adam and Katherine’s wedding reception, which was held in the barn. With 14-foot sliding doors showcasing the views, the building provided a fantastic backdrop for the



    From the outside, the farmhouse looks like three connected buildings, each having its own purpose, orientation, and views. Only one is two stories high, and it is set slightly down the hillside to maintain a consistent, low-profile roofline. Simply sided in white clapboard with a traditional standing, seam metal roof, the home’s perimeter is accented by stone and slate walks and terraces. It blends in well with the landscape of cultivated hay fields, acres of wildflowers, and grazing land for horses.


A small covered porch with squared white pillars leads to the front entry. The pair of solid mahogany doors are painted white, with one installed upside down to create a subtle visual twist. The entryway brings together the home’s main elements: plain white walls and trim, unobtrusive fixtures and furniture, and natural materials. The simplicity is deceptive: five slightly varied tones of white were used throughout the interiors to correspond to the moods evoked in the various rooms.


The house feels much larger than its size due to the nontraditional layout, the gentle color palette, and consistency of materials. Eighteen-inch square native blue-gray slate tiles are used as flooring in high-traffic areas, and in slab form on the bathroom counters and tub deck. The kitchen’s black concrete composite countertop is highly compatible with both the flooring and the salvaged blackboard framed in maple above the credenza. Lustrous American cherry wood flooring (found in the living/dining area and in the bedrooms), and custom maple cabinetry and paneling, warm many of the rooms. The home is fresh and serene, yet has its own vibrancy as a special place to entertain.


From the center hall, one can “head west” into the open living space. The room has all the necessary elements for gracious living: loft-like in feeling, it has a cathedral ceiling and a fireplace, and is flanked by windows and built-in cabinets bearing a media center (and a cherished jazz LP collection). Comfy couches in front of the fireplace lend themselves to long evenings of conversation. In the center of the room is the dining area, marked by a 10-foot-long table built from salvaged barn wood. The table sits on an antique Bokhara rug and is surrounded by Shaker ladder-back chairs in maple.


The kitchen area is open to the living space and was carefully designed to allow entertaining without revealing too much clutter. The custom maple cabinetry has a backsplash that hides the countertops from the living and dining areas. “We love to cook, and built a kitchen that works well for us,” says Adam. Guests can have a conversation with the chefs without getting in the way. There are separate areas and sinks for prep, cooking, and cleaning (including a very deep sink with a restaurant-style faucet to keep dirty dishes out of sight).


The setting is very much the focal point throughout the home. On the first floor, virtually every room has windows facing in several directions, and most have a door to the outside. Hilltop breezes cool the house and help keep the mosquito population to a minimum in summer. When opened, three pairs of eight-foot doors and a dozen oversized windows in the living room turn the space into the equivalent of a screened-in porch.


The library features two walls of built-in bookshelves weighed down with volumes, as

well as a built-in desk. And despite the house’s rural location — the driveway wends a good quarter-mile from the road — Stauffer was able to cajole the cable company into wiring the house for high-speed Internet access.


The master bedroom suite, located in a wing of the house, is its own special retreat. From the living area, it is entered via a long, maple-paneled hallway that is decorated with family photographs. The hallway opens on the right to reveal the dressing room, which features custom built-in dressing cabinets (also in maple). Across the hall is the truly sumptuous master bathroom, whose showcase is a large soaking tub set into a slate deck.


At the end of the hallway is the bedroom. A platform bed (with a headboard slip-covered in toffee linen) and maple nightstands provide a sense of calm. A small porch overlooks the pond. It’s a perfect spot for a quiet moment.


Off the home’s main hallway are four additional bedrooms and three additional bathrooms. All are light and airy and filled with flea market and auction finds, antiques, and family heirlooms. Down in the basement, the family keeps an assortment of ice skates for guests to use on the pond when visiting in winter.


“We’ve intentionally kept the farmhouse sparsely furnished to ensure the restorative value that we feel is so important with a weekend home,” says Stauffer. “We’ve traveled many places around the world, but the Hudson Valley continues to draw us back.”

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