A project popped up on Instagram, catching my attention with its custom timber trusses in a clean and crisp great room. It seemed familiar and I made a call upstairs confirming this was one of our projects, designed by Carol Kurth Architecture + Carol Kurth Interiors, raised in the Hudson Valley. I wanted to know more and was lucky enough to catch Carol Kurth (FAIA, ASID, and LEED AP) and her colleague Christine Lent (AIA) for a chat:
It was easy to hear the smile in Carol and Christine’s voices over the phone. Their energy was palpable and inspiring when talking residential architecture. Turns out like many homes, project planning started a few years back for this ‘mountain lodge’ and evolved over time into a ‘modern lodge’. It never lost the main purpose as: “a weekend retreat for a warm and close extended family who spends lots of time together”.
“Modern is what resonated architecturally, an aesthetic for a modern feel but with a clear nod to timber lodges,” Carol explained. Intended to accommodate multiple generations with a major focus on recreation, particularly to the nearby lake, each main bedroom has a lake view, and the lower level has some outdoor exposure. Two masters on first-floor anchor the core of the home and upper-level bedrooms are accessed via a bridge. We’ve had the opportunity to work with Carol Kurth Architecture on a handful of private homes in the past, most commonly incorporating timber trusses. “Our previous work with New Energy Works led us back as we knew you’d be able to achieve the design integrity and function.”
“For this and our past projects, New Energy Works created custom samples with texture and colors for timbers. We knew we wanted the frame to look continuous, seamless in material, color, dimension from the interior to exterior. We went through a few samples and aimed at Douglas fir.” (Douglas fir is our most popular timber material for a whole variety of reasons: stability, strength, ease of craft, availability, renewability…)
This project called for scissor trusses to grace the great room, transitioning from inside to an exterior porch space. “Everything was considered, from uplighting to running wiring to how to make the trusses appear totally integrated to how the truss ends sat at the wall and on top of stone pillars–there were lots of meetings and communication bot hwit hour office as well as with the General Contractor, Structure Works Construction, to solve challenges,” Carol continued. “Owen [New Energy Works timber frame engineering leader] also came to the office to work with me and Christine to tweak details.”
“It was great to have Owen here,” Christine said.”He worked in 3D alongside us so we could see the intricacy, the details of the width and depth of each member, how it would all connect. Owen was part of our design team for a few meetings. We finessed the scale of the trusses in the space.”
“The trusses are in two-story story cathedral with a bridge running through which puts folks closer to timbers as they walk through. It was vital they aligned and met the aesthetic. Your team climbed around and measured roof lines, the existing framing, everything. We knew you were on it. You really helped us.”
Carol picked up the conversation again saying, “The trusses are seated on flagstone tops on the pillars. It was crucial to have NEW working closely with Structure Works Project Manager, David Penney, for the interaction of steel, bolting, timber, and actual structure. The end result looks clean and simple and minimalist. In reality, a huge collaboration was required. It was an enormous undertaking but well worth it.”
I wanted to talk more about the bridge in the great room. The project has a single, central stairs that acts “as an anchor to each level of house”. Combined with stone and timber that flows throughout the project, the overall effect is “architecturally unified” [my favorite phrase coming out of my conversation with these impressive women]. It turns out the bridge is one of Carol’s favorite design elements. “More gracious than a hallway, the bridge offers an open feel and connection. At a glance, someone will know what’s happening inside and can enjoy views outside. There is plenty of natural light and the bridge allows for a lounge area off to one side that really acts as concierge area with coffee, desk space, video game access. Overall it is separate from the action but remains part of it.” There is the sense this upholds the “Interiors as an inspiration for lifestyle(TM)” ethos at Carol Kurth Interiors.
And outside? The timbers flow out to an exterior trellis that has long spans; not deep, not chunky, no braces, and no caps on top for clean modern connections. “NEW knows what they’re doing and they made all the engineering work to aesthetically meet our vision. While the main event is the great room and exterior flying gables, the trellis and timber entry portico set the stage for the experience inside. They offer a hint to what might be coming as ‘something different, cool, and modern lodge’ right from the beginning.”
“Material selection was a very involved process to achieve the aesthetic,” Christine added. “There’s a good balance and proportion of timber to non.” Also of note is Al D’Elia, AIA and Managing Director in NY for NorthStar Owners Representation. “He served as project manager, guide, and advocate for this home. His input and analysis was instrumental.”
Where do Carol and Christine find creativity and design inspiration? Traveling is their number one answer. For Carol, art is a close second; art fairs and art shows around the nation and beyond. Both enjoy Instagram and as a result of Carol’s recent Icelandic adventure, they follow a few feeds out of Iceland. (The favorite feed: @inluxeiceland) “We look for inspiration everywhere. Nature or the built environment. We’re always looking for the next spark. Often we find it in materials, so we love looking at new products from our vendors as well as sourcing from talented craftspeople and artisans”.
Is there an insider hint to the designs they achieve? “We’re always integrating lighting into what we do…for timber framing the tops of chords of trusses are a focal point and a challenge. We create lots of live mockups and sampling to confirm early design choices.”
It’s always a pleasure to share projects, processes, and perspectives on different projects. Thanks to Carol and Christine for the opportunity to chat, collaborate, and share this Hudson Valley home.
Carol Kurth Architecture + Carol Kurth Interiors was founded in 1995, specializing in the luxury custom residential market in the tri-state area. Located in Bedford, NY in Westchester County, the firm is a tight-knit design family that believes in Architecture as a Backdrop for Living (TM) and Interiors as Inspiration for Lifestyle (TM). Their multidisciplinary design approach is inspired by the creative process, developing unique solutions for their clients.