Upstate New York home is a blissful, remote retreat for two architects

Upstate New York home is a blissful, remote retreat for two architects

Designed and built by David Leven and Stella Betts of Leven Betts Studio for their own use, Open House is a compact, precise and blissfully remote retreat

Compact, precise and blissfully remote, the Open House is set amidst a two-acre wooded plot in upstate New York. Designed and built by David Leven and Stella Betts of Leven Betts Studio for their own use, the new house is a modest 1,500 sq ft retreat for a pair of architects who have a long-standing preoccupation with geometric forms.

The firm’s portfolio of private house has allowed this fascination to flourish, while larger projects, like the interior of a computer science building at Cornell University and library refurbishments throughout Brooklyn, demonstrate how simple shapes can be used to organise even the largest spaces. Both architects continue to teach – Betts at Columbia and Leven at the Parsons School of Design – and the Open House serves as both a personal project and a laboratory for their ideas.

open house levenbetts overview

The house is located in Hudson, on a site that has been left as natural as possible; the dazzling white walls create a pure backdrop to the surrounding woodland. Every room is shaped like a right-angled trapezoid, with the resulting floorplan treated like an interlocking puzzle, with the larger end of each wedge facing outwards onto a carefully framed landscape view. Consisting of a kitchen, dining room, living room, bedroom and bathroom, the main floor is arranged so that every room leads directly into the great outdoors; the glazing is comprised solely of opening doors.

Given this is a personal project for a couple of academic architects, there are several pragmatic and experimental touches that might not fly in a private commission. For example, all surfaces – walls, floors and ceiling – are clad in Baltic birch plywood and the rooms are intended to be functionally interchangeable, with fixed plumbing and nothing else to define their use. The first floor – described by the architects as a ‘pop-up space’ – overlooks a roof garden and contains another bedroom and bathroom. As a way of combining experimental approaches to design and living, the Open House offers up a refreshingly pared back way of life. §

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