Zoe Bissell's Metal House in West Hurley | House Profiles | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
Pin It
Favorite

Zoe Bissell's Metal House in West Hurley 

Bigger Than a Breadbox

Last Updated: 01/24/2018 4:07 pm
click to enlarge The 1,450-square-foot LV home Bissell shares with partner Bryan Buryk and their daughter Shelby. Designed by architect Rocio Romero, the prefabricated rectangular structure of steel and glass sits on three forested acres and was completed in 2008. - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • The 1,450-square-foot LV home Bissell shares with partner Bryan Buryk and their daughter Shelby. Designed by architect Rocio Romero, the prefabricated rectangular structure of steel and glass sits on three forested acres and was completed in 2008.

Zoe Bissell was completely done with wood. The sculptor, welder, bread distributor, and eclectic collector had been living in some version of the log cabin vernacular since 1980, when her father and a family friend bought 12 undeveloped acres in West Hurley. The first cabin on the property, built by her father out of the surrounding woods, was decidedly rustic. "There was a well outside, an outdoor shower, an outhouse and a wood-burning stove," Bissell remembers. She would camp out there on weekends and throughout the summer months as she finished high school on Manhattan's Lower East Side and then attended Parsons School of Design.

In 1995, Bissell moved to West Hurley full-time and began to transition into slightly more sophisticated cabin living. Her second cabin of residence, built on the adjacent six acres by a family friend, was slightly less rustic ("It had indoor plumbing!" she recalls) and more suitable for winter living. Bissell bounced between the two West Hurley cabins for almost 15 years, staying at her father's simple cabin in the warm months and then in the winterized wood cabin when everything froze. Those years were fruitful ones: She attended Bard College for graduate school, studying sculpture, she met her partner Bryan Buryk, and she began two successful careers—one as an artisan metalworker and the other driving a truck for the family business, delivering Heidelberg bread.

click to enlarge Zoe Bissell in the master bedroom of her kit home, surrounded by some of her most recent work. Her bold and playful metal-and-papier-mâché sculptures begin as sketches. After Bissell settles on a shape she likes, she casts a metal armature in her shop and then adds the papier-mâché and paints. “They are quirky and crude and not meant to be precious at all,” Bissell explains. “A lot of my work is not at all meant to be permanent.” - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • Zoe Bissell in the master bedroom of her kit home, surrounded by some of her most recent work. Her bold and playful metal-and-papier-mâché sculptures begin as sketches. After Bissell settles on a shape she likes, she casts a metal armature in her shop and then adds the papier-mâché and paints. “They are quirky and crude and not meant to be precious at all,” Bissell explains. “A lot of my work is not at all meant to be permanent.”

But by the mid-aughts, Bissell was ready for some changes. "The 'roughing it' glamour started to wear off," she explains. She still loved the woods, but needed a little distance. "I had lived in cabins and everything was wood, wood, wood—a wood-burning stove, wood dust, and then the mold. I was tired of all of it. I wanted something completely clean and modern with no wood anywhere." With three acres of her father's original property and visions of both personal and architectural advancement, she and Buryk began to hatch a plan. "We thought, let's try and be grown-ups now," she remembers. "Let's take it up a few notches, we can have an indoor bathroom and sheetrocked walls." Bissell envisioned a total departure from the way they'd been living—she didn't even want a woodstove. "I got it in my head that I wanted a metal house," she explains. Bissell and Buryk set out to build a new, shiner, home.

Elemental Shift

This wasn't Bissell's first foray into the glories of metal. After college, she began working with welder Peter Sinclair, learning the craft and business of metalsmithing. She eventually took over Sinclair's metal shop, the Base Company, teaching herself to solder and creating metal display stands for art, artifacts, and sculpture. (She ran the business, located right across the road from the West Hurley property, from 2008 until 2017.) With practice, she learned metal was easy to work with and could be very durable in the long run.

click to enlarge The home’s main living and dining area is flooded with light from the south and west. “Because the home’s interior has a modern loft/gallery feeling to me, especially when we first completed it, I finally had a clean slate to display the furniture, art, and objects I’d spent my early adult years collecting,” Bissell explains. Tina and Angus sit patiently. - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • The home’s main living and dining area is flooded with light from the south and west. “Because the home’s interior has a modern loft/gallery feeling to me, especially when we first completed it, I finally had a clean slate to display the furniture, art, and objects I’d spent my early adult years collecting,” Bissell explains. Tina and Angus sit patiently.

With no internet in either cabin, Bissell made daily forays to the Kingston Library, searching online for ways to create a structure that would fit their budget and suit their needs. Then, online, she stumbled across architect Rocio Romero's modern kit home, the LV. Romero's minimalist, one-story rectangular house was designed to "celebrate glass, steel, and light" and be both affordable and beautiful. The couple found a prototype LV home in Virginia for rent and planned a vacation around it. By the end of the weekend, they knew it was exactly what they'd been looking for. Bissell and Buryk returned home and began the process of reproducing their own metal-and-glass cabin in West Hurley.

Beg, Borrow, Steel

click to enlarge The home’s kitchen was completed on a shoestring budget. Mismatched cabinets and pine butcher block counters complement a blue discounted sink from N&S Supply in Kingston. “Most everything is hand-me-down or from yard sales,” Bissell says. “That’s how we roll.” - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • The home’s kitchen was completed on a shoestring budget. Mismatched cabinets and pine butcher block counters complement a blue discounted sink from N&S Supply in Kingston. “Most everything is hand-me-down or from yard sales,” Bissell says. “That’s how we roll.”

Even though it was a kit house, it still took almost three years before construction could begin. Multiple engineers had to weigh in, helping the couple to locate a building site, dig a basement and foundation, and install services. The property's proximity to the Ashokan Reservoir added another layer of complexity, requiring special approval to install a septic tank within the reservoir's watershed, which is tightly regulated by New York City. "It was a serious test of everything—our ability to remain a team and to find the resources we needed," Bissell recalls. "It was like when you finally learn as a grown up that you have to push through hurdles and not let them kill a project—you've got to have will."

click to enlarge A nook in the corner of the master bedroom doubles as office space and is decorated with Bissel’s metal sculptures and other collected artworks. - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • A nook in the corner of the master bedroom doubles as office space and is decorated with Bissel’s metal sculptures and other collected artworks.

With the home's roof, ceiling, and exterior walls complete, the couple were able to adapt the 1,450 square feet of interior space to suit their needs. The home's only load-bearing wall was at the exact center of the structure, creating a divide between the eastern and western half of the home—the rest of the design was up to Bissell and Buryk. The freedom suited their aesthetic, as well as their restrictions. "By the time we got to the kitchen, our budget ran out," explains Bissell. "We had to pull all our resources together—it almost didn't happen."

When they finally got the all-clear to build, the shell of the home was erected within two weeks. The LV's highly efficient, passive solar design is comprised of three Galvalume steel walls and a flat pitched rubber roof with enclosed drains. The long, south-facing wall is made almost entirely of floor-to-ceiling glass doors and windows. In order to equal the efficiency of the roof and steel walls, Bissell and Buryk invested in commercial-grade, low-emissivity Acadia double-paned glass doors and windows. They also installed sheetrock and a double layer of fiberglass insulation to the interior, then finished the walls in shades of grey and white. A large square-paned window in the west, and longer rectangular windows to the north and east provide abundant light as well as a cross breeze in the summer months. A combination of radiant heat floors and ample sunshine keep the home warm though the winter. (There's also a high efficiency, wall-mounted "suitcase" boiler in the basement.)

click to enlarge A collection of animal skulls and bones found in the surrounding woods is displayed in the living room corner. - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • A collection of animal skulls and bones found in the surrounding woods is displayed in the living room corner.

Wabi-Sabi

The couple finished the home with ingenuity and elbow grease. First, they threw together a simple open kitchen in the northwestern corner of the house. Buryk, who does architectural cabinetry and millwork professionally, was able to finish most of the interior work himself. Wooden cabinets and pine butcher block counters line the back wall, and a workbench—traded for welding work—serves as a counter dividing the kitchen area from the south-facing living room looking out through the ample south and west windows.

click to enlarge Buryk completed the interior of the master bathroom, setting the tiles and installing the vintage clawfoot tub. - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • Buryk completed the interior of the master bathroom, setting the tiles and installing the vintage clawfoot tub.

The rest of the furniture in the open, sunny, loft-like living space is a wabi-sabi mixture of pieces gleaned through barter and scavenging or donated by friends and family. The dining room table, with a wooden top created by Buryk and metal legs welded by Bissell, is surrounded by mismatched chairs found at yard sales and on sidewalks. Bookshelves donated by neighbors line one wall and Bissell's collections and sculptures line another. A covered entrance way at the center of the northern wall features art by Bissell's mother and serves as a mudroom.

The couple configured the eastern wing of the house into two bedrooms, two baths, and a bit of closet space. For their daughter (born right after they finished building), a smaller south-facing bedroom features a wall of glass doors and a small half closet with open storage space above. Across the hall, Buryk built a full bathroom with a walk-in shower. There is also a laundry and additional closet space. At the end of the hallway, the eastern section of the home forms one large master bedroom and bath. Bissell furnished the space with mismatched cabinetry, sculpture, and art. Buryk carved the space for the master bath out of the northern corner, laying penny tiles along the floor and subway tiles along the walls. A vintage clawfoot tub, found online, faces an elevated slop sink Bissell found buried in her father's yard and adorned with new fixtures.

click to enlarge DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
click to enlarge Shelby Buryk’s room faces south and is decorated with toys and her own handicrafts. “She has the loveliest, warmest room in the house,” says Bissell. - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • Shelby Buryk’s room faces south and is decorated with toys and her own handicrafts. “She has the loveliest, warmest room in the house,” says Bissell.

In the southern corner of the room, an office area faces the backyard and is central to her newest venture. Recently leaving the welding business behind her, Bissell has taken on distribution for Heidelberg Bread. She now oversees the daily delivery of bread from bakeries in Herkimer to over 40 accounts in Ulster, Dutchess, Orange, and Delaware counties. Bissell is surprised by how much she's enjoyed the left-brained turn in her professional life. It's also allowed her to take her welding skills and sculpture in a playful new direction, creating work solely for her own enjoyment.

The house and its interior design is a work in constant progress. Bissell and Buryk plan to eventually finish the floors and cabinetry and add a garden and landscaping outside. The interior is frequently rearranged into new configurations and collections, like a gallery space. "We have more resources now," explains Bissell, "but we still have the mentality of putting things together."

click to enlarge Another piece of Bissell’s metalwork hangs over her bed. Bissell loves the simplicity of welding metal. “I can heat it up and bend it,” she explains. “Just like with collecting junk furniture and castoffs: If it’s not easy and quick, I’m not interested.” - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • Another piece of Bissell’s metalwork hangs over her bed. Bissell loves the simplicity of welding metal. “I can heat it up and bend it,” she explains. “Just like with collecting junk furniture and castoffs: If it’s not easy and quick, I’m not interested.”

Pin It
Favorite

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Hudson Valley Events

submit event
Holiday Light Spectacular at the Orange County Fairgrounds 2020 @ Orange County Fairgrounds

Holiday Light Spectacular at the Orange County Fairgrounds 2020

Nov. 27-30, 4:30-10 p.m., Dec. 3-7, 4:30-10 p.m., Dec. 10-14, 4:30-10 p.m. and Dec. 17-Jan. 4, 4:30-10 p.m. — The Holiday Light Spectacular at the Orange County Fairgrounds is the socially-distant...
Gabby's Wag N' Walk 5k Virtual Fundraiser @

Gabby's Wag N' Walk 5k Virtual Fundraiser

Nov. 19-Dec. 16, 12 a.m.-11:59 p.m. — Support a good cause! Join our Virtual Fundraiser! Register online! $30 You...

View all of today's events

Chronogram on Instagram

Latest in Home & Garden