Dezeen Magazine

Fremont House by Marc Thrope

Marc Thorpe aims for "architecture of responsibility" in solar-powered Catskills house

American studio Marc Thorpe Design has completed a wood-clad, off-grid cabin for himself in New York that is meant to be "minimal in design but purposeful".

Marc Thorpe, whose studio is based in Manhattan, designed the 1,000-square-foot (93-square-metre) Fremont House to serve as a year-round, second home for himself and his wife, Claire Pijoulat, a co-founder of New York designer showcase WantedDesign.

Black clad cabin in the Catskills
Marc Thorpe has created a holiday home in the Catskills for himself and family

The cabin sits on a forested site in the western Catskills, near the hamlet of Roscoe. Located two hours by car from New York City, the scenic area has become an arts and culinary destination.

The couple bought a property there over a decade ago, with the intent to build an off-the-grid dwelling.

Black cabin
The house is meant to be minimal in design but functional

"We noticed that there was an extremely high demand for housing, with very little supply – a condition across the entire country," said Thorpe.

"This inspired us to create a house that was minimal in design but purposeful."

Black clad cabin in the Catskills
The house integrates sustainable technology

Prior to the Fremont House, the couple built a 500-square-foot (46-square-metre) dwelling on the site called Edifice Cabin. That project propelled the couple to "scale up the idea into a fully functional home," said Thorpe.

Similar to the first house, the new cabin is mindful of environmental concerns.

"The Fremont House is an architecture of responsibility and respect for our environment and ourselves," said Thorpe. "The intention behind the house was to design and build an affordable, contemporary home with integrated sustainable technology."

Black cube house
Power is supplied by solar panels

Rectangular in plan, the building has a simple, boxy form and a gently pitched roof. The structural frame is made of locally sourced lumber.

Exterior walls are clad in Douglas fir that has been stained charcoal grey. The dark colour aids in heat retention.

A living room with a woodstove fireplace
The first floor contains a kitchen, dining room and living room while there are two bedrooms and a bath upstairs

"The West Catskills remain moderately cool all year, so holding onto heat is key," said Thorpe.

Power is provided by a 16-panel rooftop solar array that produces between 1.5 and 2.4 kWh of electricity per day, according to Thorpe.

A kitchen with a simple island
The exterior walls are clad in Douglas Fir stained in charcoal grey

Within the home, there is a clear division between public and private areas.

The ground level holds a kitchen, dining space and living room, while the upper level encompasses two bedrooms and a bathroom.

A red togo chair in a living room
Interior cladding includes oak flooring, sheetrock walls and quartz countertops

Interior finishes include oak flooring, sheetrock walls and quartz countertops. Great care went into selecting the furnishings and decor.

"Claire and I have the equivalent of a MoMA curatorial meeting any time an object finds its way into the house," said Thorpe.

Notable furnishings include Noguchi lamps, a Togo sofa from Ligne Roset and vintage Thonet pieces found locally.

Design work by Thorpe for brands Moroso, Nanimarquina and Venini feature in the home, as do pieces by Keep Brooklyn and US designer Joe Doucet.

A red togo chair in a living room
The studio included art by family members

The couple have also incorporated work by family members, including art by Jim Thorpe and photographs by Suzanne Pijoulat.

Thorpe and his team are currently launching a design-build company called Edifice Upstate, which specialises in creating off-grid, solar-powered homes in New York.

A bathroom with white tile
Thorpe previously built a smaller cabin on the site

Other architectural projects by Marc Thorpe Design include a proposal for a set of houses in Uganda made of bio-bricks, and a design for wooden cabins with sharp, slanted roofs that will be part of a Romanian hotel.

The photography is by Marco Petrini.

Project credits:

Architecture and interiors: Marc Thorpe Design (MTD)
Architect of record: JBA Collective
General contractor: Shady Grove Building & Construction
Site excavation and septic: Edward Horn
Foundation: John Diehl
Water well: WM Fulton & Son Well Drilling
Plumbing: Mark Peters
Solar technology: Solar Generation

More images and plans

Fremont House by March Thorpe
Fremont House by March Thorpe