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

Bigger Than a Breadbox

Last Updated: 01/24/2018 4:07 pm

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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.”

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