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How a Couple Kept Costs Down At Their New York Home

The home-building experience has come to an end. But for the Olsens, life at their getaway retreat is just beginning.

Photos by Scott Hemenway 20160709-_DSC2214

Drive two hours north on the Taconic State Parkway, away from the bright lights and fast pace of Manhattan, and you’ll soon find yourself pulling off into the charming hamlet of Hillsdale, New York. It’s here, surrounded by rolling hills and country roads paired with upscale amenities and million-dollar views of the Massachusetts Berkshires, that city dwellers come to rest, relax and get away from it all. And Greg and Dee Olsen are no exception. 20160709-_DSC2145

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“We go up to the house pretty much every other weekend, whenever the kids have vacation — all the time,” says Greg, adding that they’ve also been hosting guests frequently, including his parents. “My dad’s an architect, so he really appreciates the house and how it lives on the land and captures the view.” 20160709-_DSC2154It was that view that first captured Greg’s attention as well, and served as the focal point for the home’s “one with nature” design.

“The view and the pond are what we enjoy most. The setting is really something you would typically go on a hike or a gondola ride to set out and see, but we’re so spoiled because we wake up to it every morning,” he says. “The house complements the property so nicely, but it’s the location that really blows us away every single day.”

The finished home has other standout qualities, including a mix of reclaimed materials; a walk-out lower level with a rec room and home gym; and a “healthy house” approach that helps with their daughter’s environmental allergies. The design, with its open kitchen/dining/living space and walk-out lower level, lives larger than its 3,200 square feet, Greg adds. “The great room that leads into the kitchen and the dining area — everyone’s always spending time there.

No one is huddled up in their rooms. The kids study at the dining room table. If we’re reading a book, we’re in the living room or on the porch. I definitely think we designed the right size house with the perfect layout.”

See also Dream Destinations: Greene County, New York

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From start to finish, design to completion, the Olsens’ home-building journey has been just that: perfect. 20160709-_DSC2189“It might sound a little unbelievable or corny because you sometimes hear horror stories about building a custom home, but we didn’t have any of that,” says Greg. “We’re so happy we decided to build this house and we’re so happy we decided to work with New Energy Works. We couldn’t have built a better home for our family and this spectacular piece of property.”

Lessons Learned After Building a Timber Home

Now that his timber home is complete, Greg Olsen shares his top tips for building a custom home on a not-so-standard site.

Focus on Energy Efficiency.

"Really try to build a house that’s as tight and efficient as possible,” says Greg. While it will cost more upfront to build this way, it will save you money in the long run because it will take less energy to heat and cool.

“When we’re home, the fact that we can keep everything at the perfect temperature is so nice.” The Olsens also incorporated a geothermal/solar system on the property, so their monthly energy is actually free. “It’s not only comfortable from a temperature standpoint, but there’s no heating or electricity bills, so it’s more comfortable financially,” says Greg. “We actually make a surplus of energy for the year, so we sell that back to the company and it even covers the service charge.”

See also Lakeside Timber Home in New York


Olsen-Residence_ML-PlanPlan Ahead for Access.

If you know you’ll be building on a challenging site, think about year-round access early on. “The only challenge with the house, because it’s high up and the driveway is a half a mile long, is we’re the ones that have to maintain it,” says Greg.

While he does have someone to plow the driveway, it can get tricky when it ices up. To work around the weather, the Olsens purposely bought vehicles that could make it up the steep drive. “We also have a guard rail just in case,” says Greg. “This way, if it’s icy, you won’t shoot down the hill.”

Home Details

Square footage: 3,200 (including lower level)

Bedrooms: 4

Bathrooms: 3.5

Designer; Timber Provider: New Energy Works Timber Frame Homes, 800-486-0661; newenergyworks.com