A remote upstate getaway is now de rigueur for the modern Manhattan urbanite, and Hanrahan Meyers architects have crafted a sophisticated sanctuary for one such client. As a place where crowds, noise, and a lack of privacy are all part of the hectic routine of urban life, the nature of the city provides the architect with a formula for its perfect antithesis: solitude, quiet, and privacy. Far removed from Manhattan lofts, The Holley Residence, situated on a picturesque site near Garrison, New York, embodies the modern country retreat.

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Approached from the north, the forms of the Modernist-inspired home rise and fall with the gently rolling wooded site. Made from locally quarried stone, two parallel planes slide past one another to create the major axis of the house. Their materials echo the low, stone walls that meander through the site, whose presence provided the inspiration for this initial gesture. Around these two walls, all interior and exterior spaces are organized into three distinct spaces.

Between them, following the north-south axis established by the driveway, is the main entry and the semi-private guest quarters. A pavilion to the west of the entry contains the public elements of the house: the kitchen, dining, and living areas, while to the east is the master suite — a private pavilion elevated above the otherwise low-slung home. Privacy here is provided by not only by a physical separation from the rest of the house, but also by the surrounding environment. A scenic grove creates a sense of visual privacy while permitting such guilty pleasures as full-height transparent glazing directly adjacent to the bathtub — views rarely afforded to those living in the city.

Throughout the residence, walls and spaces gracefully slip past each other, and without any visual interruption, the distinction between interior and exterior is often blurred. In the kitchen, the stone plane accommodates counters and cabinetry, then penetrates a thin glass wall and continues to the exterior, where it forms the eastern boundary of the courtyard. When that thin glass wall is slid open, the courtyard deck actually becomes a physical extension of the kitchen.

Almost every room in the Holley House has been given direct access to the outside. Exterior enclosures and decking, along with the carefully chosen material palette, reinforces this blurring effect.

Complementary in both texture and colour, and elegant in their simplicity, three materials describe the spaces and boundaries of the house: stone, wood, and glass. Stone walls and fireplaces delineate the pavilions and define spaces within them; sustainably harvested cedar is used to clad and deck these spaces; and glass opens them to nature, welcoming the shifting light throughout all four seasons.

Despite its disjointed cruciform of a plan, when seen from certain perspectives the Holley House is reminiscent of a fractured Farnsworth House, whose floating stairs, glass walls, and abstracted planes have been torn from the Mies van der Rohe masterpiece, rearranged, and repaired with materials scavenged from the landscape.

With its very specifically articulated spaces, thoughtful use of material, and sensitivity to site, The Holley House nods to the history of Modernism while providing its owner with a comfortable, picturesque anti-urban oasis.