Text by Tovah Martin
For Jamie Copeland of Hudson Design Architecture & Construction Management PLLC, it all began in the sandbox. “I was always building forts,” he says of his earliest memories growing up in Charlotte, NC. From there, he moved on to a multi-story tree house. As luck would have it, his home was the first finished house on a street that added structures on a regular basis—a little advantage that exposed him to plenty of carpentry during his impressionable years as well as all the salvageable scrap lumber he could haul on his bike to his own backyard projects. His mother was an enabler, “She realized that kids who play hard also work hard.” So, Copeland grew up with ample opportunity and encouragement to dabble with spatial relations. When the time came to select a career, he never had to grope. “If you believe in a purpose to our lives, I found my gift and figured out how to use it to serve other people.”
From the sandbox and tree houses, it was just a hop, skip, and jump to a degree in Environmental Design. His internship was what brought him north to New York City. “I met my wife on the job site,” he said of an early project with the Lambs Theatre in Manhattan, where his wife served as artistic director. Since then, his focus has moved out from the city toward a dialogue between architecture and nature. At Eagle’s Rest, a 1998 commission, his firm—Hudson Design Architecture—created a very noteworthy house on 100 acres of grounds, previously a horse farm recently converted to sheep. There, Copeland found a sterling opportunity to exercise all his talents and bring structures together to honor viewsheds while walking lightly on the environment. The more the homeowners communed with nature, the more they wanted to be outdoors. The pool house followed fourteen years after the main house was built. Basically, it is yet another excuse for an intimate exchange with nature. With a massive fireplace, protected porch, incredible views, a pool alongside, and outdoor shower—who wouldn’t want to settle in with the scenery?
The house at Eagle’s Rest was a hard act to follow. With circular, site-found granite lookout components joined by stucco wings, the house is purposefully oriented to revere the Hudson River snaking immediately beside the property. Just before the Hudson reaches the house site, it spins into a dramatic S-curve around Constitution Island, giving Hudson Design their reference point. Everything about the house celebrates the cataclysmic majesty of the river and the sights along its shores. Walk through the front door, and a bank of pilot-like windows sends all eyes out to that S-curve in the water. “The orientation toward the river was so strong, it had to inform everything else,” explains Copeland. “When a ship comes down the river, it feels as if it is heading straight for the house.” Ingeniously, the bank of bowed windows magnifies the experience. No matter how often you’ve walked through that front door, you feel the thrill.
The contours of the house are all about curves as it strives for the panoramic view. And the landscape is equally curvaceous with an arc of pines shouldering the wind and gently undulating berms of shrubs flowing around the various majestic specimen conifers along the riverfront. When the homeowner decided to furnish yet another opportunity to link firsthand with the land and opted to add a freeform outdoor pool rather than an indoor version, enclosing it within a curved safety fence was the obvious way to go. With heavily disciplined wisteria vines to soften its lines, a low, circular stone wall topped with custom metal stylized leaf-like ornamentation was also added to reinforce the flow felt throughout the property. The pool itself has a jigsaw of inlets, including a massive springboard stone beside a hot-tub/whirlpool that heats the surrounding water. As for the jewel-in-the-crown pool house, Hudson Design “agonized over its position.” They drove stakes into the ground where the pool house might sit, they pulled them out to move them around. They did a mock-up, they set up chairs and sat in them. In the end, they oriented the pool house toward the pool, shouldering the river view and optimizing on the afternoon sun. Instead of meeting it head on, large windows cut in its walls frame the view.
Jamie Copeland is nothing if not tuned into the land. That is why he sought out the massive tulip poplar timber salvaged from an 1800 barn to run across the yawning 18 foot wide front of the Tuscan-style pool house that he designed. Crafted of stone and stucco with wood beams to echo the house and match the granite on the generous patio skirting around the pool, he strove for simplicity and strength when designing the pool shelter. After dark, when the pool is not the center of attention, all eyes are on the massive Rumford fireplace. “In the early 1800s, when fireplaces became less about cooking and more about comfort, the Rumford design where the walls are slanted so the heat radiates outward served as the most efficient design. You hear the fire, you smell the wood, it gives you all the comforts that a fire can provide,” Copeland sums up the beauty and engineering of the heat/entertainment source.
Furnished with oversized all-weather wicker and brightly cushioned sofas, the space is made for lounging. Several whimsical sculptures around the pool keep the mood merry and serve as focal points. Thanks to the fireplace, entertaining extends before and after the pool’s calendar year for active use. Behind the covered (with cooling fan affixed) porch, the pool house accommodates a half-bath and laundry for convenience, both accessed from the rear. In between those doors, Hudson Design stationed an outdoor shower. How to make it discretely private without feeling boxed-in? The sleek, nautilus shape is Hudson Design’s solution, using overlapping mahogany slats for seclusion. With the woods behind and the heavens above, showering is a lark.
Every aspect of the design was done with a firm eye fixed on environmentally friendly techniques—the roof is copper to shed water and handle snow, distressed lumber was employed to echo the tulip poplar front beam, light-colored granite was employed to defray heat underfoot around the pool, and windows are sited to optimize natural ventilation. Similarly, Hudson Design collaborated with the landscape designer to make sure that a high canopy would block the floodlights from the West Point’s Michie Stadium and the texture, color, and massing of plantings reflect the mood of the buildings. Always—when creating the house as well as the pool house—Jamie Copeland keeps one tenet firmly in mind, “You are designing for people. They will view it and use it inside and out.” Fittingly, the house has a decidedly nest-like feeling. And the property’s most recent addition—the pool house—enhances that experience furnishing all the comforts of family, friends, and warmth.
This article is from the Early Summer issue of Outdoor Home Magazine.