MDB was selected to complete the design, specifications and build this unique structure at Beaver Brook , a retreat in rural Sullivan County, NY. We worked closely with the client and our subcontractors to create a building that would serve as a “bunkhouse,” to flexibly accommodate large groups of visitors throughout the year — and do so in a manner that conveys the client’s modern sensibilities and appreciation for honest, robust materials.

The building sits at the top of a steep slope, a challenging building site. The excavator carefully graded the site and erected a retaining wall of large stones found on the hillside. The core of the building is a 19th century timber-frame barn atop a poured concrete foundation and half-basement. We modified the frame to accomodate large windows capturing strategic views of the site and created floor planes designed for living (not animals or hay).

The building materials are a mix of rustic and refined. Regionally-sourced, reclaimed materials —yellow pine beams from Brooklyn warehouses— are now the stair treads, countertops and kitchen cabinetry. Antique barn flooring from Pennsylvania was planed on one side and serves as the second and third floor surfaces. Leaded glass windows were sourced from a defunct Singer Sewing Machine Factory. Local, sustainably harvested new materials were used as well. The interior is clad in white pine shiplap boards from New York sawmills, painted white. To replace damaged rafters from the original frame, a new set was milled from trees cleared during construction.

The building incorporates energy-efficient technologies as well. The timber frame is clad in structural insulated panels (SIPs) that insulate the whole building to R-40. The space is heated by a high-efficiency condensing boiler that warms the radiant floors of the basement and first story, and flat-panel Runtal radiators elsewhere. A Zehnder heat recovery ventilator (HRV) ensures fresh, purified air in the super-tight building envelope while preserving its temperature.

In the house’s exposed frame, various parts of these systems are on display. MDB worked closely with our subcontractors to integrate and celebrate these elements in artful execution. We particularly enjoyed collaborating with our metal fabricator to design the centerpiece: a hanging steel staircase and mezzanine.

The house now comfortably hosts up to 25 people many of whom enjoy the land throughout the year.

Collaborators included Baukraft , American Joinery , and Recycling the Past .