This Union Vale home is light and bright. Photos by Daniel Contelmo Photography
A lush 10-acre property provided the perfect setting for a Union Vale couple’s dream home—airy and open, yet warm and cozy. Talk about a work of art.
Given that architecture is equal parts engineering and artistry, it stands to reason that parties involved in planning, designing, and building a home really need to click. Architect Dan Contelmo, who started his eponymous Poughkeepsie-based firm over 30 years ago, has more than a little experience with people who seek him out when they realize aren’t getting quite what they need from the process. When that happens—as it did in this case—Contelmo starts over at the beginning, focusing on the clients, the site, and the surrounding community. “We relish searching for the essence of each project,” he says. “That establishes the true starting point for the design.”
Soon Contelmo latched on to the clients’ wish to keep the home on the smaller side. “They didn’t want to overbuild, in terms of scale and budget,” he says. Through that lens, Contelmo assessed the 10-acre property for the just-right site for a 2,500-square-foot house. (About two-thirds of the acreage is comprised of rolling fields, while the remaining third has a 1-acre pond surrounded by trees.) Then he drew inspiration from the gatehouses of local estates, many of which were stone cottages. The result: a unique gothic cottage design, seamlessly blending the best of both styles—with plenty of windows to take advantage of the views and create a feeling of openness.
Inside, the homeowners wanted to channel the distinctive grace and vibe of one of their favorite inspiration sources, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in California. (Visit hollyhockhouse.org for a cool virtual tour.) Built between 1919 and 1921, Hollyhock was the pioneering American architect’s first commission in Los Angeles and a true testament to modernism in the Golden State.
Contelmo paid homage of sorts in concepting the main floor as one open, informal great room that incorporates spaces for cooking, eating, and entertaining. Furthermore, he chose wood paneling for most of the interior, which was whitewashed to create a lighter, brighter feel. The fireplace in the living room can’t help but provide a conversation-fueling focal point. For authenticity’s sake, Contelmo sourced local stone and reclaimed wood for the substantial mantel and surround. Tile laid in a simple but interesting herringbone pattern accents the firebox.
That theme plays through the stunning kitchen, which stars a pro-caliber gas range and copious storage. Three big windows on the far wall let in plenty of light, but Contelmo upped the ante by adding two well-proportioned pendant fixtures over the large island. Built-in lighting in the glass-fronted uppermost cabinets draw the eye upward and add depth.
The primary bedroom and ensuite bath get sunshine year-round, thanks to an abundance of windows. Soaking in the generously proportioned freestanding tub is almost like being outside, yet in blissful seclusion. His-and-hers closets are another luxe touch.
From the Outside in
The exterior is dominated by steeply pitched roofs and clover windows—admittedly a splurge but deemed a worthwhile one—reminiscent of the carpenter gothic style, which was locally predominant. The metal roof reflects the sky and provides welcome contrast to the stone at the base of the main entrance. Graceful arches soften the strong roof line, creating a striking silhouette.
Interestingly, the original design had a wide circle top window over the rear center sliding doors, which was eliminated during the bidding phase. Fast forward to construction and Contelmo wondered aloud if the homeowners wished they could see the pond from the second-floor overlook. The solution: A transom redesigned to be a rectangle window with a shed roof. View restored.
To the right, a swooping fence lengthens the front elevation. Earth-toned siding complements the surrounding landscape, making the house seem perfectly at home in its surroundings. Just like its owners.