DRUMLIN HALL, DUTCHESS COUNTY, NEW YORK
Located in the verdant and rolling landscape of eastern Dutchess County — an area of the Hudson Valley settled with open fields and horse farms, Drumlin Hall is a new classical stone house whose name draws its inspiration from its dramatic setting in a valley of miniature hills — or drumlins — that were formed by glacial deposits. Much like rural England, this hamlet near Millbrook, New York, is also steeped in a shroud of age-old gentility where activities, such as game hunting and polo, are favored leisure pursuits. Conceived as a square Palladian villa, this 7,500-square-foot house echoes the client’s deep admiration of the architecture of Robert Adam and the craftsmanship of Duncan Phyfe and sits as comfortably here as it would in England’s pastoral greens.
In embarking on Drumlin Hall, PPA sought to design something of a jewel box — a slightly feminine house that would simultaneously set off and appropriate the client’s museum quality collections of nineteenth-century American art and Federal style furniture as well as reflect the historic character of its surroundings. The exterior, faced in warm buff sandstone carved in and shipped from China, is a lesson in balance, symmetry and harmonious proportion and bows to the wealth of Regency houses set forth by such architects as Henry Holland, Benjamin Latrobe, Sir John Soane and S. P. Cockerell. The firm emphasized the neo-classical spirit of the pedimented south façade, commanding the long approach, distinguishing it with French doors, lunettes carved with bas relief cornucopias, urns and massive chimney stacks. PPA centered the western entrance façade on a gently arched porte coche inspired by Montgomery Place, designed by A. J. Davis in nearby Annandale-on-Hudson, and created a more romantic and heroically-scaled façade to the north where the shifting planes of the two severe wings, columned bay of the breakfast room, and massive center chimney create a delicate play of volumes expressive of the important central vaulted space within. Each of the four principal façades — each with its own distinct personality — delights in the possibilities of geometry, graceful proportion and equilibrium.
The plan of the house revolves around two central axes and succinctly absorbs all of the requisite rooms into a contained rectangle with windows that express themselves symmetrically on the façades. At its heart lies the groin-vaulted stair hall, which doubles as a gallery, its white-painted walls primed to display the client’s Hudson River and American Impressionist paintings. Above, on the second floor, consisting of a large open space, vaulted and lit by a lay light at the center of a handkerchief dome, and bedrooms, echoes the fluid movement of the public rooms as they radiate from the first floor hallway. In effect, PPA designed the circulation of the house to relate to these two spaces and the layout of the rooms seems to fall effortlessly into place from there…