Gym at Home: 1900 Beacon Military Academy Gymnasium-Turned-House in Beacon, Dutchess County, NY
An artistic couple transforms a onetime gymnasium into a streamlined home
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Dark rafters add drama in an all-white space dominated by boxy shapes. The staircase at center leads up to Westwater’s loft office and the couple’s movie room; the hidden one on the left goes down to the basement floor. The boxed-in bathroom (at left) helps separate the studio in the rear from the living room
During the three-year renovation, which took place in stages, the couple set up their bedroom and a make-do kitchen in different corners. The end result is a home that’s also “very flexible,” Westwater says, with a living-dining-kitchen area occupying much of the ground floor and Westwater’s studio in the rear. They refinished the old pine floor (“still showing remnants of factory action in the back,” he points out) and retained the original doors and windows, now restored and fortified with custom storms. The sleek, open kitchen was a collaboration with EKB Kitchen and Baths (now in New Windsor). “We said what we wanted, and they made it work,” says Westwater. A stainless-steel countertop from Green Courage in New Paltz defines the kitchen area in one corner. Other recycled or eco-friendly choices include some bargains, like the $3,000 Gaggenau oven they bought for $150 from Green Demolitions. Westwater demonstrates the hidden downdraft for the relatively simple Bosch cooktop. “We didn’t go for trendy,” he notes. “We don’t like to show off — ‘Look how mighty our stove is.’ ”
The main living area is visually separated from the studio by a spacious bathroom and a wall concealing a staircase that leads to a loft in the rafters above the studio. Half the loft serves as an office;the other half, once the couple’s bedroom, is a snug spot where they watch movies. (The bed is now tucked behind the staircase, separated from the studio by an arrangement of plants and the dog’s crates. “It looks a bit pokey, but we think it’s cozy,” Sachs says.)
The guest apartment in the refinished basement shares the same clean-lined esthetic as the main living quarters upstairs
Westwater has a second studio in the renovated basement, part of which is now a modern take on a railroad apartment — a long, narrow space with a sitting area, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom leading into each other. A satiny concrete floor, white walls, Ikea cabinetry, and clean-lined design generate the same feeling of simplicity and restraint as does the main living quarters upstairs.
Doors from the basement floor lead out to the small building in the back garden that the couple constructed as a studio for Sachs, who is founder and director of the Therapeutic Landscapes Network. “This is where we lived while part of the renovation was going on,” says Westwater, opening the door onto a tiny room not much bigger than a king-sized bed. “It was us, the bed, three dogs, dog crates, and a Porta-Potty.” The studio’s sliding glass doors overlook Sach’s rain garden, a graveled, shallow oval engineered to collect rainwater that would otherwise erode the bottom of the garden and flood the neighbors. Graceful serviceberry trees thrive there. “We lived here from October to May,” Sachs adds. “It was cozy, looking out at the rain garden. It freaked us out a bit when we moved into the big space.”
After renovating both floors, “the big space” totaled about 5,000 square feet — a considerable amount to heat and cool. Installing an Austrian pellet stove cut heating bills by about a third, Sachs says, and thermal blinds at the windows help with passive heating. “We’re very good about going round and pulling them down or opening them up,” Westwater says. “We resisted the urge to put in central air.” Instead they have two air conditioners, high windows that vent hot air in the summer, and ceiling fans that push it down in winter.
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