Upstate, Redone: Introducing a New Design Column

Many of you are hankering to get a look inside some renovated upstate New York houses, or to see what a modest cabin could be with the help of a professional’s skill. So we bring you Upstate, Redone, in which we profile the work of an architect, carpenter, interior designer, builder, contractor, or homeowner with a keen design sense and a handy bag of tools. If you’d like to share your work with us, just drop us a line.

For our debut column, we’re looking at the work of New Paltz, NY-based Bolder Architecture, a firm that specializes in green building and has handled projects from designs for renovating a 150,000-square-foot Gothic former seminary on the Hudson River to net-zero energy homes.

This is one of the latter: a very humble-looking cottage that the owners — eco-friendly builders called Ritacco’s Retrofits — saw tremendous potential in. It’s in Gardiner, looking out over the Hudson Valley Rail Trail. Obviously, the outside had an extreme makeover, that 60s vinyl siding reborn as cedar. The house was a 1960, 860-square-foot, two-bedroom ranch, ripe for gut renovation.

Here’s how the architect, Dave Toder, describes the “before” state of the place: “The interior was pretty bland and cramped, and cat pee had soaked through the carpet into the sub-flooring.  The basement had faux wood paneling in some rooms but was mostly unfinished, cold and slightly damp.  The sunporch and back deck were severely underbuilt, structurally and aesthetically. The septic system had failed.”

The owners wanted their gut renovation to result in something that produced as much energy as it used (hence the term net-zero) and used all eco-friendly materials that didn’t off-gas. The new house has bamboo floors, formaldehyde-free Forest Stewardship Council-approved maple cabinets and Energy Star appliances. The “green” insulation includes cellulose in walls and ceilings, soy-based spray-foam on the exterior, and recycled polyiso rigid foam boards on the roof.  “The grid-tied PV system is capable of producing 5.16 kW of energy,” says the owner, “which is just about enough to power the entire house.”

 It has 12-inch and 14-inch thick walls in some parts of the basement, which not only makes it super-insulated, it guarantees a clean and dry place. They padded the place with additional insulation everywhere, then added an HVAC system to provide fresh air. They added a south-facing roof on which they put solar panels.

The house is now a 2200 s.f., 3 bedroom, 2 full bath, modern ranch with 10′ 8” cathedral ceilings in the living room, kitchen, and dining room. Says, the owner, “The house does not use any fossil fuels whatsoever, and is all electric, utilizing state-of-the art, air-source heat pumps for both heating, air conditioning, and domestic hot water.” They finished off the basement, too.

Upstate, Redone: Introducing a New Design Column
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