Hudson Woods is a development of architect-designed homes that’s attracting the kind of buyer who despises developments. Located a few miles from the hamlet of Kerhonkson, on a remote, rocky, wooded 301 acres, Hudson Woods, when finished, will consist of 26 houses, each on a lot varying from three to 12 acres. Architectural design firm Lang Architecture, based in Manhattan, designed these modest-scaled shedlike structures to snuggle into their sites. In an article in the New York Observer, one of several prominent publications (including Architectural Digest and Dwell) that have profiled the housing project, Drew Lang, the principal of the firm, described Hudson Woods as “an anti-development approach. In essence the aim is to take away as little as possible from nature and build structures into the natural environment.”
“People don’t feel overwhelmed and have a reasonable amount of space to maintain,” Lang said. “At the same time, the spaces are open to the outdoors and feel larger than they are.”
Eighteen months since the houses went on the market, it’s an approach that’s clearly resonating with the New York “commercial creatives”: folks in fashion, photography, advertising, magazines and design seeking a weekend home, whom marketing director Mike Kolodesh identified as the target buyers. Despite an asking price ranging from $795,000 to $915,000, so far 14 houses have sold, and another four are in contract. Buyers can enhance the basic package with a choice of 44 upgrades, including a heated granite pool ($195,000, including a salt chlorination system and terraced landscaping), woodburning stove ($10,000), solar energy system (starts at $32,000), a separate porch ($155,000), architect-designed treehouse ($44,000), orchard ($16,500 for ten trees), a large vegetable garden ($15,500) and greenhouse ($30,000).
Hudson Woods also helps buyers out with the furniture. It has partnered with two dozen artisans, most based in the Hudson Valley or Brooklyn, whose handcrafted furniture – some made from reclaimed wood – glass light fixtures and cabinetry are showcased in the model house and on the developer’s website (https://hudsonwoods.com). Local companies include Sawkille Company and 100 Mile, which both have showrooms in Rhinebeck; Materia Designs, based in Kerhonkson; Fern and Samuel Moyer Furniture, both based in Hudson; and Beacon-based Wickham Solid Wood Studio.
Almanac Weekly‘s Lynn Woods recently asked lead architect Drew Lang some questions about Hudson Woods.
Lynn Woods: Is this your first housing project?
Drew Lang: Yes. We’re an architectural design firm that just happens to be a developer as well. Our past projects were smaller and involved one building. We’ve done design consulting work in the Hudson Valley before. This is a very extensive project involving home construction, substantial infrastructure and sitework.
What brought you to Kerhonkson?
I developed a set of ideas, then set out on a search for property. I found myself coming back time and again to this area. The area is just gorgeous, and the natural beauty of this site is in a remote area approximate to a town. It’s located in the middle of things: You can go down to Accord and Stone Ridge and over to Phoenicia. It’s farther out of the way, but from the Thruway it’s geographically a bit closer to the City than Woodstock.
Why 26 houses?
In order to reach the high level of quality at a good value we needed to be at this scale.
How would you describe the concept?
The integration of architecture and nature. Rather than wholesale removal of the natural elements on the site, we have intentionally retained the forest. We’re working at a scale that doesn’t overwhelm the landscape and using natural materials. Doing it this way costs more and is more difficult, but it’s the only way to do it.
What has been the biggest challenge?
The infrastructure: building the road and running the electric services. We’ve put in a substantial storm drainage system.
The sites vary in configuration and size. Was that part of the plan?
We bought the property already subdivided. That allowed us to hit the ground running. The lines were drawn in a thick forest, and bit by bit we had to clear each site. We didn’t know if we’d hit a rock ledge, and we did, on half of the excavations. There was so much rock we created our own mine. We crush the rock to create the gravel for the road. The quarry pit will become a pond for the owner of that lot.
Are all the houses essentially the same?
It’s the same footprint on every lot, and pretty much the same house, with a flip version of the other. However, they all end up being quite different, because of the site conditions: The views, the way the structure nestles into the land, the gable end of the house that’s solid ends up being different every time; sometimes it’s buried more in the earth and other times revealed.
When did you start construction?
In 2012/13. How we manage the process is incremental. It’s not that we’re doing anything that difficult, but every day it’s doing it a little bit differently. There’s no way to do this without taking great care and doing it slowly. Five houses have been completed, and the rest are in various stages of construction.
How many people do you employ?
We have an average of 20 to 30 people working on the site every day, and all are local. More than 50 people total have been working on the project. Jackson Hahne, who lives in Woodstock, is our on-site project manager.
The landscaping with the stone retaining walls at the model house is very attractive.
Most of those walls and pathways are part of the pool package. As part of the basic package, people get a deck and a transition from the house into the landscape, in some cases using stone from the site. Because the stone is local, it looks natural and is integrated into this place.
Which upgrades are most popular?
Half the buyers are purchasing the pool. The woodstove is also very popular. Our furniture pieces, the kitchen pantry and island, built by local craftsmen, are also very popular.
How did you choose the makers listed on your website and showcased in the model house?
It’s an eclectic mix that works well together. We source as much locally as we can, and found some great artisans in the area.
Where are you from? What influenced you to become an architect?
I’m from New Orleans, which provided a rich backdrop. My grandmother was a very visual person and had artists around her all the time. I went to Yale School of Architecture and was influenced by my teacher, Deborah Berke, who is a very accomplished architect about to become the dean of Yale’s architecture school. Another influence was my teacher Steven Harris. What’s been retained and still endures is the visual vocabulary that was passed on by the Modernists.
How can a Modernist approach history?
We’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. I love historic buildings and am very influenced by them. I’m drawn to the texture, the atmosphere and the sense of history: qualities that I think can be brought to modern architecture.
What is your view of New Urbanism and contemporary buildings that mimic traditional architecture?
No one has the budget to build the way people used to build. Architects in recent decades have stripped back the vocabulary…New Urbanism has fallen on its face. It can’t create history; cities have to evolve over a long period of time. If you create a sense of density and try to recreate history, it smacks of something false and looks like a stage set. Inevitably [the best way to enhance] a city’s fabric is reviving and integrating historic buildings.
Are you exploring other developments in the area?
I was looking at redeveloping a warehouse building in Kingston. But from the standpoint of rental housing, one couldn’t make the numbers work, since the building required a lot of remediation and the sales prices in Kingston are higher than I anticipated. Our next new housing development is located on a 600-acre site of rolling pine forest in Oxford, Mississippi. It’s a lakeside property.
Are you pleased with the reception you’ve gotten for Hudson Woods?
People are really enjoying the houses. The approach we’re taking is not just how it looks and feels, but the story behind what we’re doing, and it’s appreciated. We really try to think through everything and make it fun and easy. So many times buying real estate is painful and awful.
For more information about Hudson Woods, visit www.hudsonwoods.com or call (212) 233-9187.