Small Town Symphony | House Profiles | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

When you ask Patrick Lo Re why he decamped from the wilds of Manhattan for the rolling bucolic hills of the Hudson Valley, his answer is to the point. "In one word, the sound experience of New York City is: noise," explains the audio engineer—who, in his quest to perfect the art of recording music, has learned to play several instruments, as well as studied architecture, material science, and a bit of physics. In 2006, when he found his architecturally inspired raised ranch nestled on six acres in the quiet hamlet of New Baltimore, he relished the calm. "Coming back to nature was about opening up," he explains of his move upstate. "I found in Manhattan I was unconsciously protecting myself. The experience is not harmonious. Here, nature offers sounds you want to hear. "

Lo Re loved the modesty of the 2,200-square-foot house, which is clad in dark brown cedar shingles and blends with the surrounding landscape, once part of a larger orchard, and still filled with gnarled apple, pear, and cherry trees. To invite more of the park-like setting inside, he installed walls of picture windows and sliding glass doors leading to a wooden deck, a wisteria arbor, and pool. "Part of the American dream for me was the appeal of the wood cabin," says Lo Re, who grew up in Europe. "After Manhattan, disappearing into nature became vital. I loved the chance to reconnect with the Earth." The three-bedroom home became a haven for Lo Re, who travelled the world designing and building recording studios for clients. In 2010, he met his wife, Sabrina Mitre, a writer and former fashion executive who quickly saw the appeal of the property and joined him in his pursuit of quietude.

In 2020, when construction on a studio in Maine was halted by the pandemic, Lo Re saw an opportunity to fulfill a long-held dream. "The first time I came up the driveway here I had deja vu," he says. "I knew that at some point I could make the perfect sound studio and retreat." Originally Lo Re had searched for a home with a barn to convert. "But the acoustics of barns aren't actually conducive to sound recordings," he explains. The raised ranch didn't have a barn, anyway—but it did have an architecturally uninspired three-car garage. "I had my team together and none of them wanted to go back to the city," he remembers. "So I spoke to Sabrina about them staying awhile and designing a new studio." Mitre agreed. "We became like a family," she says. "With me cooking and taking care of the team over the next six months. It was fun."

click to enlarge Small Town Symphony
The interior of the performance venue looks out onto the landscape. “We placed and designed the buildings so you don’t see any other structure when looking from the windows,” says Lo Re. “The intent is to promote the landscape outside and the soundscape inside.” Lo Re had a longtime dream to build a recording studio on his property and share his home with other musicians. Since 2021 the studio has been the home to L’atelier Musical, a workshop and residency space that culminates in a live recording session series open to the public.

But Lo Re's inspired pivot and Mitre's good-natured hospitality didn't just transform a garage into a world-class recording studio and performance space. It also inspired their New Baltimore neighbors into a kind of spontaneous harmony, with locals stepping up to help coproduce a musical retreat and performance series. Local videographers, hometown cooks, volunteer valets, and a few good-natured hosts all play their part in the hamlet of New Baltimore's evolving musical workshop.

Soundscaping in the Woods

To convert the garage, Lo Re collaborated with his acoustic design team of Jean-Jacques Bacquet and Maria Anne Bacquet from Klinger-Favre Audio in France, Bendi Kovacs of K2 Design in Queens, and Andras Gipp from Hudson Workshop in Hurley. The team decided to create a barn-inspired structure that matched the rustic nature of the property but concealed a recording studio, concert venue, and audiophile listening room. "We focused on minimizing the human footprint and the visual impact on the landscape," explains Lo Re. "We transformed the structure into something you'd normally see in the countryside—basically a barn."

They hired New Baltimore-based Randio Builders to remove the eight-foot roof of the garage and then construct a vaulted gabled roof, 25 feet high at its apex. Van Elten Excavating poured a new foundation for the expanded space. Then the team installed Loewen windows throughout—including a full glass wall in the performance space. The windows were chosen for their acoustic insulation but also to enhance the studio's interior-exterior flow. "The big windows let nature in," explains Lo Re. "But they also reflect nature back to onlookers when they're outside walking around the building."

click to enlarge Small Town Symphony
Winona Barton-Ballentine
Upstairs Lo Re carefully crafted a dynamic recording studio from a variety of wood, each piece chosen for its acoustic properties. The 20 degree angled ceilings throughout the space were also carefully designed to distribute sounds evenly. The varying thickness of the interior wall paneling help control the different sound frequencies. “It was designed so that the room actually disappears and the listener can hear the music,” says Lo Re.

Cedar shingle siding matches the main house, giving the structure the same wood cabin vernacular and similarly helping the building meld with the landscape. Horizontal cedar siding wraps around the structure's second floor, which houses the audio room. Sound proofing was achieved by creating a "box within a box"—which also insulates the structure's temperature. "We need very little heating or cooling in here throughout the year," Lo Re explains.

Breathing Rooms

The idea of turning his property into a retreat and live performance space first came about gradually, but soon gained steam with local support. "Over my time in the hamlet I became involved with the local land conservancy," explains Lo Re. "They would often ask me to bring musicians to play at events." He noticed how much local interest there was in the performances. "The concept of mixing a live venue within a recording studio up here made total sense," he says.

click to enlarge Small Town Symphony
Winona Barton-Ballentine
Lo Re and Mitre chose a minimalist interior for their home. The large living room looks out through a variety of windows onto the deck and grounds, and includes very little art. “The decorating is meant to avoid any type of style, which would come as an imposition to our guest musicians,” says Lo Re. “We want people to be at ease and be creative in their own way. Our paintings are the constantly evolving wall size windows framing the park, the trees, the animals, and the sounds.”

By the end of 2020, the team had finished with the studio's construction and he and Mitre began sharing the space with New York City-based musicians interested in recording in the arboreal studio. The couple quickly noticed how much the setting influenced their musician-guests to slow down and take a breath. "Musicians would come up and start working, and then inevitably I'd see them noticing the wildlife out the windows, taking pictures on their phones, and wandering through the nearby woods," says Lo Re. "They'd always ask if they could stay a bit longer. We realized spending time in the natural world was a big part of their creative process."

The layout of the couple's main house is conducive to this sort of hosting. With the primary bedroom suite, large eat-in kitchen, and lounge all on the main level, the couple can maintain their privacy. Downstairs, two guest bedrooms and baths enjoy a separate entrance through a renovated mudroom to the woods and recording space—giving musicians the opportunity to practice or enjoy outdoor activities according to their own creative muses. Lo Re and Mitre extended the driveway between the home and the recording studio so that guests could safely drive through the property and also park. This facilitated Lo Re's next idea: Inviting local residents to come and participate in some of the live recording sessions.

L'Atelier on the Hudson

Through 2021, Lo Re fine-tuned the acoustics of the space as well as its mission. He hosted a series of free live recording sessions and loved watching the interaction between the audience and the musicians. He noticed how that camaraderie influenced the musicians' creative process as much as the natural setting. "It's very inclusive," explains Lo Re. "The audience is on the same level as the musicians, and after the recording there's lots of informal discussion. Everyone is talking to the musicians and commenting and asking questions. It takes the hierarchy and elitism out of the process."
click to enlarge Small Town Symphony
Winona Barton-Ballentine
Patrick Lo Re and Sabrina Mitre enjoying the stone patio outside their New Baltimore home. During the pandemic, Lo Re, an audio engineer, converted their three-car garage into a recording studio and performance space that serves as a hub for musical community.

In February of 2022, before beginning the current season, Lo Re decided to hold an impromptu meeting with his neighbors to see who might be interested in participating in the growing workshop series. "I thought, let's just see what happens," he remembers. "It was 5pm on a Thursday and I'd only given people an hour-and-a-half's notice." Twenty local volunteers showed up—all offering their skills and services to help grow the workshop series. "We now have volunteers who pick musicians up from the airport, volunteers who take care of valet parking, neighbors who host surplus musicians, and a local lady who cooks meals for everyone on the day of the performance so we can focus on rehearsing," explains Lo Re. One neighbor conducts interviews with the musicians and another is now the official videographer. Someone else is helping develop L'Atelier's website. "It's really creating a community," says Mitre. Lo Re agrees: "Music is really about sharing a moment together."

Mary Angeles Armstrong

Mary writes about home design, real estate, sustainability, and health. Upstate, she's lived in Swiss style chalets, a 1970's hand-built home, a converted barn, and a two hundred year old home full of art. Now she lives with her son in a stone cottage outside Woodstock.
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