Determined to find an escape with a view, New York-born artist Francesca DiMattio, 34, and her husband, Montana-raised artist Garth Weiser, 36, settled in 2011 on 17 acres in Hillsdale, just a few miles west of the Massachusetts border. ‘We’d never been here before,’ says DiMattio. ‘But the second we arrived, we knew this was it.’
With stunning, elevated vistas, their sloping plot of land, once part of a tree farm, came with a ranch house and a barn. The plan was always to demolish the barn, but not before DiMattio could get a feel for the site, where she envisioned building her studio. Weiser opted to start fresh in a nearby patch of pine forest, much of which was cleared to leave only a protective fringe of trees. His studio, completed before DiMattio’s, has tall windows that are pushed to the corners, making the space feel larger while optimising the views.
‘The key thing for me was function,’ says DiMattio as she heads from Weiser’s studio to her own. Following a path marked by a new concrete wall, she passes another new building – a kind of pool house-cum-future living quarters on which interior work will soon get underway – and then a gravel courtyard studded with biomorphic planters: slabby, footed vessels she whipped up out of a mix of cement, peat moss and Pearlite.
She slips into the studio through one of the side-by-side garage doors that open onto the courtyard. The doors were among her highest priorities. ‘I want to be able to have everything open, and to allow paintings and sculptures to go out easily,’ she says. ‘I worked outside all summer, which felt amazing.’
The formal front entry to the studio takes a visitor from the industrial-feeling doorstep through an intimate corridor that concludes with the dramatic reveal of DiMattio’s workspace. On one side is a wet room and on the other is the main space that looks out to the landscape. ‘In theory, this is the sculpture room and that’s the painting room, but I’d glaze in there, too,’ she says, standing in the smaller space and pointing to the drain in the floor. ‘This is just the messier room.’
The couple worked with architect Sotirios Kotoulas. ‘It was great to have a sounding board for design,’ says DiMattio, adding that she and Weiser took to visiting buildings with tape measures to determine the ideal height of their studio ceilings (16ft). ‘I wasn’t great in the beginning,’ she admits. ‘I had strong feelings, but I’m not a from-nothing person! Even with a painting, I’ve got to get it going, and then I start making decisions, but initially, I almost need anything toreact to.’
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