From Dilapidated Barn to Renovated Pool House

This article originally appeared in New York House Magazine.

This 3,200-square-foot barn in New York's Catskill Mountains was falling apart. Two artists fully renovated the structure, including this glorious room for their Original Endless Pool. In addition to the striking aesthetic touches, the pool is set into a radiant-heat concrete floor. 

It was an unusual dinner party that Marc Rubin and Ina Kozel gave in their Lanesville home in the spring of 2004. At the end of the evening, after sharing good food, wine, and talk, each guest was invited to take part of the house away. One couple chose the heavy wooden front door to use in the bed-and-breakfast they had just opened down the road in Phoenicia. I considered taking the rustic wood cabinets along with the kitchen sink. The following week the house was to meet its proverbial wrecking ball.

While that was the end of the house, it was the beginning of a new phase of the renovation project that began in 1996 when Kozel and Rubin bought this eight-acre Catskill mountain property.

The Back Story

Kozel had been living in San Francisco and Rubin in New York City when they decided that their bi-coastal romance needed a landing place. Artists accustomed to huge studio spaces, the couple had as their main criteria a magical property with enough workspace for both and, if possible, a place to live. "It had to be really charming, beautiful, on the water," says Kozel. "And it had to be dirt cheap," adds Rubin. It could also be in rough shape, because Rubin's resume includes creating castles from spit and dirt.

The barn, a 3,200-square-foot classic gable-roofed beauty with 25-foot-high ceilings, was awe inspiring, but it needed a massive renovation. The walls were askew, the roof was spreading, and the foundation sills were rotted. Kozel and Rubin removed the feed stalls and copious amounts of bat guano and began the renovation themselves.

The entire barn was jacked up and all the sills replaced. Using winches and cables, they straightened walls and bolted custom steel brackets on posts and cross beams to secure the building. All the windows were replaced, and the jambs were angled to let in more light since the walls were eight inches thick. A magnificent set of mahogany doors creates a dramatic entrance and allows for an easy loading area for Rubin's commercial work.

Defining a Shared Aesthetic

Fast forward to today. Rubin and Kozel have replaced the 1930s house that fell to the wrecking ball with a new one. And while the new house blends with the barn in its color scheme and with the vernacular architecture in its craftsman style, it has a subtle Asian look. The various roof lines, all set at the same pitch, lend the house a harmonious feeling.

That feeling is continued inside, where each room flows into the next downstairs. In the center is a living room/dining area featuring huge windows and a French door looking out onto the backyard and stream. The kitchen is open to the living room/dining area and wraps around part of the creekside wall and along the entire gable side. A speckled green granite countertop runs the length of the counter, breaking for the sink and cooktop. Asian elements in the kitchen include a ceiling of light green bamboo divided into rectangular blocks, a round window at the roof peak, and a magnificent Balinese tile behind the cooktop, the accent in a backsplash of irregular purple tiles running above the granite countertop.

"There's no wasted space in this house," says Rubin. "There are built-ins on the stairs going down to the basement, and we made the area above the pantry a guest bedroom. It's no McMansion—it's just 2,500 square feet. The insulation [between the floors and in the interior walls] is recycled denim, which has ten times the sound absorption of fiberglass with the same R-value. It's like putting teddy bears in your wall; you can touch it without wearing protective clothing."

Off this room is a small steam room and bathroom. And on the other side of the steam room is their greatest luxury: a pool room. The ceiling is vaulted and the room is graced by a huge round window on the gable end, echoing the one in the kitchen. The Endless Pool is set into a radiant-heat concrete floor, with an acid-wash finish. Giant windows on the other two sides allow in light and views of the creek. Rubin created a frieze that runs along the top of the entire room. It's an art deco-ish gold swirl pattern accented by shells.

A home with the personality and aesthetic of its owners and with charm to waste—the romance has landed.


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