Design Diary: Home Sweet Garage, A Renovation Challenge
The “new” exterior
Kitchen (Interior photography by Clifford Goldthwaite.)
Another season of short days and longjohns, snow shoveling and shopping is in full swing. I invite you to take a break from the business bustle and holiday hustle and join me on another Design Diary adventure in Upstate New York. This month we visit a former derelict garage, reimagined as a stylish, but compact and highly functional private residence.
The Oxford Dictionary defines a garage as “a building or shed for housing a motor vehicle” and this reincarnated garage does house a bright yellow Fiat 500, in addition to its newer role as a stunning home for Bianca Lanza, and Lola, her lively Boston terrier. Lanza, hailing from New York and Miami, is a retired gallerist, curator, museum consultant, mother and self described “small space” enthusiast. HGTV’s “Small Space, Big Style” recognized Lanza early on as a leader in the design and renovation of small houses.
Smitten with Hudson, Lanza purchased a dilapidated 1,400-square-foot garage, and a handsome 2,800-square-foot house on the front of the property, in 2016. She was immediately drawn to the historic home, already divided into two separate apartments, and she understood the benefits of multiple rental units. The residence was a treasure, but she had a bigger plan in mind for the humble backyard garage.
The front house was originally built in Nantucket in the late 18th century, then relocated to Hudson. A unique chapter in this small city’s rich architectural history, many of Hudson’s finest homes found their way inland from the Atlantic seashore to the banks of the Hudson River as a result of migrating New England whalers. Those early nautical settlers were seeking deep harbors for their ships, in order to avoid the British.
For her ambitious design idea, Lanza didn’t need to go far to find a first-class local architect and contractor. Peggy Anderson Associates, LLC, Design + Construction Management, a Hudson-based expert in restoration and renovation who is equally passionate about contemporary, sustainable design detailing, was a perfect fit. Ackert Architecture, lead by principal Kimberly Ackert, has offices in Hudson and NYC and, in addition to practicing architecture, also designs museum exhibitions. Both brought serious credentials with them — Anderson with her work on the prestigious Fish & Game restaurant, and Ackert with projects from Central Park to Hillsdale.
In the heart of historic Hudson, the exterior of Lanza’s home-sweet-garage had to echo the original building in proportion and style, but the interior could be as extreme as the owner dared. The architect and contractor worked with the city of Hudson’s Historic Preservation Commission guidelines to insure they met the criteria for the outside cladding and height. But the slick, loft-like interior of her new quarters bears little resemblance to the dilapidated structure that was once there. Custom niches and high ceilings, soaring windows and a roaring fireplace complete the aesthetic, plus concrete radiant floors and a split HVAC system for energy efficiency. “Peggy designed a wall of windows around a fireplace, so I could watch the snow and the fire at the same time,” Lanza said. “That’s what I enjoy most about my new house.”
The tiny house trend has evolved into a well-established 21st-century movement, having spawned blogs, books and an endless supply of experts. While we discuss the merits of small space living, and where her next petite project might take her, she heats Rock & Rye and honey, then adds lemon. We settle in front of the fireplace and prepare to watch the snow fall.
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