When a couple of empty nesters from New York City acquired a property north of town, they turned to Brooklyn-based Worrell Yeung to help transform the old farm into a weekend retreat.
And while the existing structure had some memorable qualities that the clients were sad to see go, its location on the site is what proved key to realizing the new project. Zoning requirements did not allow for a new house to be built on this part of the site, but by designing a “renovation,” the architects could reuse parts of the foundation and place the structure on the ideal spot near the middle of the site, where it would be set back from the road and face the best views to the south. “We ended up bringing [the existing structure] down to the foundation and rebuilding on the footprint, then adding on the garage and painting studio and completing that ensemble,” Worrell says.
Worrell Yeung conceived the two-story 5,185-square-foot house and two new outbuildings, collectively dubbed North Salem Farm, as essays in wood construction and articulation. Inspired by barn structures that weather with time, the architects finished the exterior of the new house and garage/studio in vertical cypress siding in a custom dark green stain. “It’s a nod to the board-and-batten construction of barn structures in the area and also barn construction historically,” partner Jejon Yeung says.
The house is organized around a dramatic central space that spans the structure’s 26-foot width. The gabled roof, which reaches 19 feet tall at the ridge, is built from 4×14 Douglas fir rafters topped by Douglas fir plywood sheathing. Steel tie rods complete the minimalist exposed structure. A freestanding Douglas fir wood object at the core of the living room organizes the space and hides an entry closet, bench, and bar from view. Dark stained 1×1 wood batten walls bookend the space, with a fireplace and bookcase wall at the east and the kitchen and sleeping spaces at the west. The kitchen is organized around a zinc-clad island that is surrounded by Douglas fir cabinetry.
And it wasn’t just the foundations that could be reused: The architects salvaged wood from the old house and repurposed the material as new furniture pieces. A custom dining table and coffee table in the living room were both previously part of the old building. “We were able to do something with that material which has a lot of character and give it new life and new shape and form and put it back in its home,” Worrell says.
The garage/studio is sited to the northeast of the main house. The client, a photographer, uses the building as her studio, but it’s been designed to function as a guest house when needed. Douglas fir predominates this interior as well, but Worrell Yeung kept it a bit rougher than the house, using marine grade plywood as the primary material for walls and floors.
A third structure, to the east of the main house, is clad in a lighter hued cypress and is much smaller than the other two. It contains a spa under a simple shed roof.
North Salem Farm is a compelling mix of old and new, simple and complex. Worrell and Yeung’s contemporary ensemble filters the archetypal wood barn through more than a century of modern minimalism to complete a thoroughly timeless dwelling.