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The Upside Down House

The Upside Down House is located in Hillsdale NY, on one of Columbia Counties most desirable roads right on the border of the bucolic Berkshires and close to the city of Hudson. Situated on 3.1 acres the home is nestled into a hillside, with distant views, surrounded by forest and farmland.

3 Bedrooms
2 Baths
In-ground Salt Lap Pool
Out-door Shower

About the House
Originally the house was a two story ranch, built in 1975 with the upstairs used as the living space. The original foot-print was re-used but everything else was completely taken down and changed up, a recycled house. The advantages of using an existing structure, was that the foot-print for the "new" house was already existing, which helped to minimize the impact of new development on the surrounding environment.

The biggest design decision that was made, was to put the living space upstairs and the bedrooms below. We chose to do this because the upstairs offered a more open, light filled space with distant views. 

With the help of architect Adam Rolston from Inc. Architecture & Design we maximized our options by creating a open plan living/kitchen/bathroom upstairs and the 3 bedrooms/bath downstairs. The original basement foundation/garage was modified by saw cutting 8’ x 8’ window openings and a new front entrance in the existing foundation walls. The second floor and roof structure were reframed, which allowed us to increase the floor heights and add a vaulted ceiling in the living/dining/kitchen area. The advantages of having the living space upstairs, is that it creates a feeling of perspective, being high above the ground and an airiness. With expansive windows on all four sides, the quality of light at any given time of day is ever changing.

Invisible Design Decisions
Our primary desire was to bring as much light into the home as possible. But we also wanted to create a efficient building. We achieved this by creating a super insulated building envelope, using a continuous layer of rigid insulation and soy based spray foam in the stud cavities. The Walls are R50 and the Roof is R70. We used triple pane Schuco windows and doors from Germany, all the windows tilt/turn. In the summer when all the windows are open upstairs, because of the height and surrounding forest, it gives the feeling of being in a tree house. We installed a high-efficnecy air-source heat pump for heating and cooling. With the exception of the Bertazzoni gas stove, the entire house is electric. The house is set up to be a net positive dwelling with the addition of a 7kW PV (solar panel) system on the roof.  

Living/Kitchen: For the floor in the living/kitchen area we used wide-plank heart pine from Madera Trade that we whitewashed and sealed. This gave us a nice light floor and complimented the palette we where aiming for. 

The kitchen cabinets and island are made from baltic plywood. The boxes are prefab but all the faces and frames are custom made. We forwent hardware and opted for circular holes to keep it clean. The countertops are Danby marble from Danby Vermont. We liked the slab that we picked out because it was very clear with not much gray markings. We also liked that it was from Vermont. The back splash behind the sink and stove are hex cement tiles from Cle Tile in a gray medley.

We choose the iconic Vola KV1 kitchen facet, originally designed by Arne Jacobsen. For the stove we picked a Bertazzoni 4 burner and the refrigerator is a Fisher Paykel refrigerator. The light fixtures over the island are the Unfold Pendents from Form Us With Love for Muuto.  

In the dining area we choose Aura Lights from Ladies & Gentlemen Studio, whats so nice about them, is at night when on, the metal circle reflects creating a lit up orb.

In the middle of the floor between the kitchen and the living area is a large custom steel grate. Originally this was going to be the stairway opening, we were going to make it large so we could get light into the downstairs hall. But in order not to lose floor space we decide to put in a grate, which is a great place to put plants. 

In the living area we picked a large Tom Dixon Copper Shade Pendant. We have a white wood stove in the living area. 

The upstairs bathroom has a soaking tub and floor tile from Cle Tile,  we choose the a light gray, to add an element of interest, but to still keep it nice and light. The walls are clad in classic subway tile. All bathroom sinks, vanities and toilets are from Duravit. 

Down Stairs
The stair treads are made from a glum beam that was sealed with an epoxy finish. This is a prefab material typically used as structural support beams. There are 3 bedrooms with large closets and a large bathroom with a glass enclosed walk-in steam shower, and a double sink vanity. 

The patio is a poured cement slab, that we polished. It feels great on bare feet. With help from landscape architect, Wenonah Webster we changed the shape of the driveway and landscaped, adding trees and plantings to soften the extreme clearing of pines. She also designed the pool. The pool is a salt lap pool, edged with bluestone. The space round the pool we left as grass, with a privet hedge. There is also a outdoor shower.