Today I am hanging out with Liz and Matt at their newest and absolutely spectacular farmhouse reno project in New Paltz, NY, right here in the center of Hudson Vally.
Reimagining Farmhouse Living in the Hudson Valley with a Modern Luxury Twist – Interview with Liz and Matt Elkin by Dino Alexander – Real Estate and Lifestyle Photography by Maxwell Alexander, Duncan Avenue Studios, New York
This contemporary twist of a classic farmhouse design is actually a combo of a renovation and a brand new construction but I will let them give the details and introduce the project.
Liz: Hi! Thanks for taking such an interest in our project. We are quite proud of it and glad to share about it. We purchased this property after a fire had destroyed the entire farmhouse structure. The only pieces left were the foundation, septic, well, and driveway. We saw that as a rare opportunity to design and build a beautiful new home practically from scratch. The tricky part was figuring out how to create a fresh, new modern farmhouse design within the existing parameters of the existing foundation walls. After measuring and drawing up the ideal floor plan, we brought in Hoover Architecture and Cecelia and Kim helped us bring the dreamhouse floor plan to fruition.
Dino: What would you say is the most interesting thing about this property?
Liz: Incorporating the vaulted ceiling and tray ceiling areas were top priorities and really made the house special. Hoover Architecture understood how important these features were to us and worked hard to make them a reality. While we built the house, we were amazed by how they designed the roof, the lines are truly remarkable!
Dino: This construction project was happening during the challenging pandemic time. With supply shortages, drastic price increases, and other logistical difficulties, what was the most difficult part?
Liz: There were a number of times that we had to pivot from our original plans. I was very careful to keep the important elements intact, while occasionally changing the less important features and never compromising the full vision. Sometimes others thought we were crazy, especially with our own timeline estimations, but we made it happen. Appliance lead times were also very challenging, luckily we were able to adapt and work it all out.
Dino: How were you able to complete a project of this magnitude in such a short time? What was the turnaround?
Liz: We began framing the house in piles of snow in February. It was a winter wonderland! We hired a massive crew of local high school kids to shovel over 2 feet of snow and ice from around the existing foundation so that the framers could start! Our framers were incredible, completely patient with any bumps in the road, focused, and committed. We were able to finish the entire project in the last week of July, making the total build time about 6 months. We were able to build the farmhouse so quickly because of our group of fantastic sub-contractors as well as our own amazing team of contractors who were completely dedicated to the project. Even though the world felt so chaotic and unsure, our team worked steadily and was filled with pride on this project.
Dino: What are you the most excited about when it comes to construction and reno projects?
Liz: I love so many parts of the process. I think the management comes easy to me as a Virgo and a business owner of 12+ years. I spend a lot of my time focused on all of the design elements as they relate to sustainability, budgeting, high-end look/quality, and working with our team to figure out how to make the grand vision into a reality. We often get very creative with building concepts and techniques, in order to get it just right. I love the mutually respectful, collaborative approach.
Dino: Where do you drive inspiration from when designing homes? Was there any specific inspiration about this particular farmhouse?
Liz: I tend to view the great design from a practical place. I love spaces that wow you or your guests but also function in day-to-day practicality. When designing a new floor plan, I spend a lot of time envisioning people moving through the space. I think about them arriving home with mail, groceries, keys, etc. I think about how and where they will host friends for dinner. I also want to make sure there is good access to the outdoors with a deck, patio, or porch, as that is often my favorite place to be at home. I layout furniture plans and site doors and windows to match that. I imagine couples in the primary suite and how they will live together happily (2 sinks and plenty of closet space is always a good start!). I also like to think of simple things that make people love a space. For example, windows and natural light can absolutely transform a room and impress a home buyer at first sight.
Dino: Who does what in your magic-making duo?
Liz: I generally work on the design phase and the day-to-day operations. Matt supports a lot behind the scenes and swoops in when I find myself stuck in a tough spot. He also helps with the small decisions that can really make or break a project, his contributions are invaluable. Even though I am living and breathing the projects every day, Matt is always willing to pore over the details with me and break down some of the crazy microdecisions we have to make sometimes. When we talk about an exciting reno project, our kids often think we are talking about another member of our family. These projects mean a lot to us because we put so much thought and effort into them and we hope that buyers will love our work as much as we do.
Dino: How long did it take you to find and build the team of contractors and trades? What do you find was the most difficult part of building a reliable and talented team?
Liz: We have been doing this type of work since 2016 and this project was our 10th. We have worked with many talented contractors along the way. The team that came together on this project (and the last one) worked so well together because they are all amazing people who have chosen a line of work that they enjoy. Of course, there are always bumps in the road, but people that choose to problem solve as a team and keep stress and negativity out of the process are contagious, creating a great work environment. Working with this team has been an absolute pleasure.
Dino: What’s the next amazing thing we should expect from you? Anything in the works you can talk about?
Liz: Thank you, you are so kind! Yes, in fact, we are building another house right now on Shivertown Road in New Paltz. This one will have a single-family home feel with 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, and everything you could need and want. Like the last one, it will be a completely new build but using an existing footprint. It’s close to New Paltz, yet has some nice privacy set back from the road with a 1-acre parcel. There’s even a seasonal view of the Shawangunk Ridge from the front porch. We aim to have it completed by mid-November.
Also, we have decided to launch a new component to our business. Since there are so many new homeowners in our area and many of the best General Contractors are booked for the coming years, we are now offering G.C. and home design services! So let’s say someone is looking at a house that is not yet their dream house and it needs serious renovation, or a plot of land and doesn’t even know how/where to begin, we can work with them to create an ideal floor plan, and GC the project to completion. This is a no-brainer for us since we have talented, easy to work with sub-contractors, tons of local resources, and plenty of know-how at this point. We are very excited to offer our years of experience and passion for the work to others rather than solely on our own projects. We see the need locally and are ready to help!
Read the full interview in the September issue of Hudson Valley Style Magazine…