With retirement and grandchildren on the horizon, a Manhattanite couple reached out to GRT Architects to design their new home in Upstate New York’s Dutchess County. Since the clients were on the fence about leaving New York City, the architects started by building a small studio that sensitively frames views of the 24-acre site’s pastoral landscape. Simply dubbed the Dutchess County Studio, the 800-square-foot dwelling provides an elegant getaway in nature and reduces its carbon footprint with a fossil-fuel-free heating and cooling system that relies on radiant energy

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A home with a black brick facade, light-colored wood door and red flowers in the front yard.

Located by a lake with zero neighbors in sight, the Dutchess County Studio was developed as part of GRT Architects’ site-sensitive master plan that includes schematic signs for a three-bedroom house, a workshop, a swimming pool, fire pit and dock along with a new shared driveway, septic system, well and electrical service. Knowing that the clients once lived in a Frank Lloyd Wright-planned Usonia community, the architects also drew from Wright’s nature-centric design philosophy to place each building “where it would have a view but not be the view.”

A stone walkway leading to the home.

To recede the studio into the landscape, the architects clad the building in textured black brick and, to lend a sense of warmth to the exterior, topped the roof with natural cedar shakes with copper trim. The 800-square-foot open plan studio comprises three equally sized volumes arranged in a pinwheel formation and placed to follow the topography. Built-in volumes help maximize interior space while subtly delineating the three different rooms — cooking, living and sleeping — each of which is oriented to different landscape views. The living room includes a Murphy bed to accommodate guests. 

A landscape at dusk, showing a curving lane by a small lakeside home lit up from within.

Related: Cold Spring Residence, a family’s low-impact weekend retreat

Happy with the successful design and build of the studio, the clients have given the architects the green light to move on with other elements of the master plan, with planning for the home underway.

+ GRT Architects

Images by Ithai Schori