It’s likely a dream of anyone who has toured a glass house by day to spend the night (or several) in one. Thanks to Airbnb, this is a possibility. dtls.ARCHITECTURE‘s modern, magical Hudson Pool House can be booked on the hospitality service, which may come as a surprise to anyone unfamiliar with their roster of architecturally significant homes. But the Hudson Pool House is more than a present-day translation of the values of the Stahl House in Los Angeles, or Pierre Koenig’s Case Study House program from 1960; it’s the home of dtls founder Mark Bearak and his family—which means it’s been designed to be lived in. And that makes all the difference.
“I did the architecture, master planning and orientation,” Bearak tell us, after our stay at the Hudson Pool House, which sits within a picturesque plot a few minutes from the center of Hudson, New York. “My husband, Mike [Moore], he handled all the technology and the pool. It was this collaboration between us. We had originally designed this house for a very small family, but our family has continued to grow and we keep cramming more and more kids into it. It’s become a cozy getaway for us.” Two spacious bedrooms flank one central living space, which includes a well-stocked kitchen and an elegant dining and living room, which are divided by a fireplace.
The home is an undeniable extension of Bearak’s practice, which—when he works with others—is defined by a two-prong approach. “We do 30 to 40 projects per year,” he says. “We offer a dedicated approach to collaboration. This means that all of our projects are a reflection of our clients, their taste and their priorities. We blend that with whatever the space they have is. We have a very light touch.”
“When we designed this house for ourselves, we did not have a client to riff off of. We created a fictitious client to develop a project that had texture, that had meaning,” Bearak says. “We looked at the historic Case Study Movement, which was very popular in California. It was a time when architects were also designing homes for fictitious clients. They’d make up their own program and their own restraints and they used that to develop new methodologies. For our home, we looked at the core tenements of minimalism, efficiency and materials.”
This was no small feat, translating these values into a year-round home in the Hudson Valley. “Glass houses are an exercise in architectural dedication,” he continues. “They are incredibly special to visit, be that the Farnsworth House or the Glass House, but they are all victims of their own simplicity. They weren’t always livable spaces. It’s really tough to think about how you can make a house that’s all glass but still have creature comforts that make up a home.” To achieve this, especially with regard to privacy, Bearak found ways to blend technology into areas without distracting from the concept—this includes automated floor-to-ceiling shades that tuck into an integrated pocket that truly conceals them.
Many other function-first decisions contribute to the Hudson Pool House experience, like the radiant heat flooring or the high-velocity air conditioning system that circulates air through small ducts. It’s truly a glass house for all seasons. Further, so many of the materials—and design items populating the space—are either local or off-the-shelf.
“One of the true pillars of the Case Study Movement, one that we wanted to stay true to, was understanding the importance of local fabricators and local materials and locally available products,” Bearak says. “The furthest thing we had shipped in was the dining room table, which came from North Carolina. It’s important to think about designing within context.”
Regarding the furniture, much of which people will easily identify, Bearak says, “A lot of it is a mixture of vintage pieces, local custom items and off-the-shelf. It all had to fit a certain vibe: minimalist and a bit rough around the edges. The kitchen light fixture was made from parts from the hardware store. It’s complemented by a one-of-a-kind fixture by Lindsey Adelman. All of it adheres to the concept of the house.”
From the surround-sound system to the lighting and shades, the entire home is controlled by a set of iPads, placed around the house. Savant, the smart-home app, links it all together. “My husband has a background in programming and tech,” Bearak says. “He thought it would be a good opportunity to use our house as a testing platform for all the other projects we were doing in the city. Our collaborators from Lutron to Savant were eager to work with us on developing a hybrid house.” They optimized the house in all ways imaginable, down to the fiber optic internet.
The pool is of such importance that it factors into the very name of the house. “We were able to constantly reinforce the connection between the pool and hot tub and the house,” Bearak says. “We wanted to see water from every room.” With all of the doors open, a passage opens up from the pool to the hot tub, both psychically and visually. Further, a fence of stacked stone etches into the ridge and becomes a retaining wall. A vista stretches out before it all.
“We picked this pool house site because of the connection to the land itself,” Bearak says. “We oriented the house to capitalize on the view and sunset, the same way that the Stahl house did.”
The pool house is only part of their vision. “The house that we built is also the brain of the entire property. Everything is positioned along a ridge. That ridge has all of our electrical, gas and generator. By doing that, we can radiate smaller structures from it—up to 200 feet away.” Bearak plans to develop the property to accommodate the growth of his family, with ancillary spaces that work in harmony with the glass house.
Hudson and the surrounding region, which continues to grow in popularity for its farm-to-table food scene and natural beauty, lend further meaning to the home. Bearak’s husband stumbled on this particular plot of land while trying to find a gym when they were visiting friends. The street itself enticed them, as did the culinary and creative options in town, from Lil Deb’s Oasis to The Maker Hotel.
That said, they found a friendly, close-knit community on their road that includes chef Kyle Waltz, who visited us while we were there. Waltz (who personally plucked Norwegian spruce pods for a verdant salad he prepared for us) is available to hire to cater meals for anyone who books the Hudson Pool House. His expertly crafted cuisine utilized all local components and left us charmed.
As for how they ended up listing their home on Airbnb, Bearak says, “After the first year, we realized that it’s a house and a house needs to be lived in. We were only using it two days a month. We realized we could keep better tabs on how the house was running if people were using it.” He affirms that houses need to be enjoyed—and the Airbnb community has been fantastic. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some of the people that have stayed at the Hudson Pool House have since become clients of dtls.
Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s co-founder, tells us that they are “special because we offer a unique and hosted experience. Something that can’t be replicated elsewhere. The architecturally significant homes on Airbnb reflect the creative community of hosts on our platform, from architects themselves to designers and artists. These homes allow us to celebrate and pay tribute to the legacy of incredible architects of the past and present.”
Right now, Bearak is immersed in another side project through his practice, called Open Source. “We designed three homes,” he says, “and we shared everything about them online. The idea is that if you have a design you should share it, and let people hack it up and reinterpret it. It’s like a piece of code.” This mirrors the sentiment of the Case Study Movement. And it’s further affirmation of the thoughtful vision of imagination behind an enjoyable glass house.
Hero image by David Graver