UPSTATE JANE: Building a Modern Dream, One Home at a Time

  |  April 24, 2013

Megan Oldenburger, aka Upstate Jane, is the owner of Dichotomy Interiors, an Interior Design and Style firm based in Woodstock, NY. She writes for Upstater about design, home furnishings, real estate and culture.

After taking a hiatus from posting on Upstater over the last six months to focus on increasing client work with Dichotomy Interiors, I received an invitation to an opening reception for a property I felt was too intriguing to pass by. Although the home may be out of financial reach for many, the property is worth an ooh-and-ahh eye candy read.


The invitation was not only to showcase an amazing architectural home, but the beginning of a series of homes designed by Marica McKeel of Studio MM, pllc and built by Hank Starr, Builder LLC in Kerhonkson. I happened to know the area after spending time at a clients home for the past few months, which happened to be down the corner and around the bend (so to speak).

After the jump, more about Kerhonkson, and the minimal, modern, sleek mountain home built there.

Although the 40 minute drive to Lowes or Target could be too far for some weekenders, Kerhonkson can be a great 2nd home location due to it’s proximity to the city, amazing landscape and privacy. The area itself is a pastoral, bucolic setting with mountains in the distance. Farms with Holsteins and a mix of atrophied bungalows, co-habitate with large newly built homes (some of which were also by builder Hank Starr) dotting the rolling hillsides.


 15 Trout Creek Road, is a minimal, modern and sleek cedar sided home surrounded by tall grand pines soaring to the sky on 7 acres. A jewel box of ochre and fiery cedar amongst the evergreen foliage. Entering the home, you find yourself on a landing with a view of the great room just steps below or a choice of stairs leading up to the main bedrooms. creekhouse_06_7The craftsmanship of the design and building were immediately evident. The floors which all have radiant heat were a beautiful oak, which would make anyone re-think this resilient and hearty wood that so many people akin to the over polyurethaned finish. In McKeel’s design, the oak floors are given a modern touch in a brushed and subtle neutral color that seemed anything BUT retro. The color of the oak inside immediately distinguishes itself from the warm hue of the tongue and groove red cedar on the exterior of the home which with age, could be allowed to weather and join the interior oak in tone- or be kept up to it’s brilliant ochre. creekhouse_15The bathrooms are each dreams, with the centerpiece of the master being a freestanding graceful tub with views of the tops of the pines. A particularly nice feature in the generous master closet was a hidden side by side washer and dryer for easy laundering. Looking down from the master bedroom windows, you see the dramatic drop 100 feet below to the roaring Mombaccus creek, the water so clear I could see the stones in it’s bed.  It was noted that the placement of this home into the steep hillside was to take advantage of the geothermal qualities of the earth. This home is not just form, it also embodies function within it’s layout and also within it’s engineering. creekhouse_19Down on the great room level, the kitchens white cabinetry and Statuarietto marble countertops are a welcome contrast; balancing the wooded view out of the windows and oak at my feet. Top of the line Grohe and Kohler appliances adorn the workspace, and an open dining area was peppered with hors d’oeuvres and sparkling prosecco, which lent a party energy to this celebratory event.  As I soaked in the warmth of the Morso wood burning stove and views out of the living room windows, I experienced the feeling of floating on air in the treetops (this feeling was also enjoyed from the deck easily accessed by floor to ceiling sliders.) creekhouse_22a_0Aside from the two bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs, an additional guest bedroom and bathroom was down a short hall off the great room, tucked away allowing privacy and separation for visitors.

I had a chance to speak with the charming Marica and also get additional information on her grand vision. Below is a brief question and answer with the ambitious yet humble architect.


UJ: Your first home within Waterfall Properties is clearly a success! What were the biggest obstacles you found while working on 15 Trout Creek and how long did this first home take you to complete once ground broke?

MM: Thank you very much! The biggest obstacle was actually finding the perfect property. After we broke ground the construction took about 9 months, a little longer for a couple details to be finalized but overall started in May and finished construction in February.

UJ: Kerhonkson is not still known for being an area many people flock to for weekend homes, what is it that drew you to the land and area for this project?

MM: One reason is exactly that – we think people are looking for a weekend home to get away from the busy and crowded. But more importantly, it also has everything we think one could want for a weekend away. The property is less than a 2 hour drive from Manhattan;  close proximity to various cute towns in the area such as Accord, Stone Ridge and High Falls;  within minutes of many very good local restaurants; and a short drive away from beautiful hiking, climbing, fishing, skiing…and so much more. Plus the property itself is bordered by the Mombaccus Creek, a year round trout stream, and has distant views of the Catskill Mountains to the north and “Gunks” to the south. The dense woods and topography of the land also allow for complete privacy and amazing views. One person who recently saw the house commented, “ Its like you’re in a treehouse looking out through all of those trees.” Its simply a beautiful location.

UJ: What are some of the favorite local restaurants and shops nearby you would recommend for people to stop in, if they took a drive out to visit Kerhonkson?

MM: A few of our favorite spots are the Friends & Family II Hillside Restaurant just up the road on Rt. 209 in Accord, Northern Spy Cafe in High Falls and Aroma Thyme Bistro in Ellenville. All excellent food and exceptional people. But of course there are many other great places around too- the entire Hudson Valley is a fabulous place for food!

UJ: Now that this property is finished and on the market, where are you at in terms of the rest of the properties and how long do you anticipate the next home will be ready?

MM: We already have stakes in the ground for the layout of the next house, and I am in the process of finalizing the designs for the other 3 homes right now.  We plan to start construction on the next as soon as we close on the Creek House. Each home will be unique and designed to respond to each site, but all will be similar in quality and scope, so approximately 9 months after we start construction the next home will be ready.

UJ: What is your big picture vision for Waterfall Properties?

MM: 5 individual homes with wonderful views, plenty of privacy and a focus on the outdoors – weekend sanctuaries for busy people.

UJ: Lastly, as an architect, what would be your biggest piece of advice for other people building a home? (Aside from hiring an architect and a reliable, professional, and competent builder)

MM: Well of course I have to reiterate…. Hire an architect and a reliable, competent builder! Actually, I’ll go back to your first question to better answer this one- there were really no obstacles in the construction of this house because 1) everything was designed before we started construction, and 2) I met with Hank Starr many times prior to starting construction to discuss the design(s) and details.  The relationship you have with your contractor is almost as important as the relationship you have with your architect.

UJ: What do you feel is the best resource for someone to find an architect or professional builder?

MM: This is a tough one, especially in upstate NY. Usually a good source for finding an architect is the local chapter of the AIA, but in New York that still leaves one with seemingly millions of options. I would say word of mouth and local knowledge is the best way to find both your architect and builder. Obviously if you find an architect that you’d like to work with she may have a builder to recommend as well.

To find our builder I asked our realtor and a local banker for some suggestions, researched the work of each and reached out to a couple of them. The quality of the work, type/style of homes they build, and the ease with which you can communicate are 3 of the most important factors in finding a builder to work with (and an architect for that matter.) After spending some time up here I’ve found out many of the houses in the area “worth seeing” from speaking with bartenders over dinner. And he can probably tell you a few architects and builders in the area as well.

For full photos and more information on the home featured in the article, please click here

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