Ulises Liceaga and his wife, Christina Isaly-Liceaga, have five children under the age of 7. At any given weekend moment, the kids might be zipping around the kitchen island on their scooters, having a pillow fight in the studio over the garage, or even frolicking in an indoor pool.
Jane Margolies -- Interior Design, 10/1/2011 3:12:00 PM
Ulises Liceaga and his wife, Christina Isaly-Liceaga, have five children under the age of 7. Yes, you read that correctly. At any given weekend moment, the kids might be zipping around the kitchen island on their scooters, having a pillow fight in the studio over the garage, or even frolicking in an indoor pool. That's thanks to the family's country house in Cold Spring, New York. No question-Liceaga's architecture firm, Fractal Construction, has designed a fun-loving retreat that's perfectly attuned to the little Liceagas. But it's also daringly innovative.
For starters, no mere breezeway connects the main house to the garagestudio. Liceaga designed a graceful suspension bridge to preserve the openness between the two structures-both with the same clean profile. The 7,000-square-foot setup was inspired by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's linked art-studio residences in Liceaga's native Mexico City. Whereas the artists' houses are concrete-block cubes, however, his structures have pitched roofs as well as cedar clapboard siding and mahogany window frames to blend with the woodsy setting.
Inside, the aesthetic is far from predictably countrified. A rustic-meetsurban theme plays out in a palette of wood and stone, glass and metal. From the main entry, the public space extends straight in front of you. The living area, anchored by a copper-finished fireplace surround, flows into the dining area, where the chairs are upholstered in copper-colored leather-Scotchgarded, of course. "The copper color matches the leaves seen through the windows in the fall," Liceaga says. In another reference to the Hudson Valley surroundings, kitchen cabinetry is surfaced in ebonized wood veneer inlaid with an overscale leaf pattern.
Smooth gray porcelain floor tiles on the ground level are durable enough for the children to bounce around on pogo sticks-right over to the accordion doors of the glassed-in pool area, which nearly doubles the public space. The general contractor thought it was crazy to put the pool right there. "To maintain the open plan, I just took one more step by making the pool part of this big hybrid room," Liceaga explains. An ozone filtration system, rather than chlorine, keeps the water clean, so there's no chemical smell in the house, and ducts directing warm air at the windows prevent them from steaming up. When the pool isn't in use, a safety cover stops the kids from tumbling in.
Contrasting with the expansiveness downstairs, the four bedrooms above are tidily contained. Windows are tall but narrow, keeping the rooms intimate. "I like a bedroom to be a cocoon," Liceaga says. Besides, the basement playroom provides plenty of space for toys and art projects. Not that it's stopped the kids from colonizing the garage's studio, originally envisioned by their father as a private place to get back to the yoga and meditation he'd practiced regularly before professional and parenting demands took over. The bridge would serve as a transition, helping him make the mental shift from the busy life of the main house to a space of silence and solitude. "I'll reclaim the studio someday," he says hopefully. In the meantime, a drum set has moved in-so much for peace and quiet. Slumber parties can't be far behind.
Taking things as they come was, in fact, Liceaga's MO for the entire project. His design was supposed to have been manufactured by a kit-house company, but it went bankrupt before delivering the modules the couple had paid for, forcing them to build the old-fashioned way. Because that fiasco ate into the budget, they improvised when it came to decorating. The dining chairs are castoffs, just reupholstered. He mounted salvaged theater spotlights on inexpensive copper plumbing pipe for track lighting and fitted the bedroom closets with peg-board and rods snapped up when a Virgin Megastore went out of business. For artwork, he framed computer-generated graphics, printed out at his office, and grouped them for maximum impact. He did splurge, however, on Ingo Maurer light fixtures, fishnet look-alikes strung with crystal teardrops and installed between ceiling beams.
Liceaga notes that the "detailing" period of the house has officially ended and, surveying the 9-acre grounds, contemplates his next move. Add solar panels? He had the wiring put in during construction. Build a guesthouse, a greenhouse, or a toolshed? This family home is likely to be a lifetime project.
Photography by Eric Laignel.
annemarie moerl (project manager): fractal construction. shea construction: general
INGO MAURER: CEILING FIXTURES (POOL, LIVING, DINING AREAS); PENDANT FIXTURE (MASTER BEDROOM).
ROOM & BOARD: SOFA (LIVING AREA); BED (MASTER BEDROOM).
DESIGN WITHIN REACH: LAMP (LIVING AREA); SOFA (STUDIO).
VALCUCINE: CABINETRY (KITCHEN).
ORAS: SINK FITTINGS.
NANA WALL SYSTEMS: ACCORDION DOORS (POOL AREA).
RAUSCH CLASSICS: TABLE, CHAIRS (EXTERIOR).
NEO-METRO: SINK (BATHROOM).
HANSGROHE: SINK FITTINGS.
DONNA KARAN COMPANY: BEDDING (MASTER BEDROOM).
WEST ELM: TABLES (MASTER BEDROOM); SINGLE BED (GIRL'S ROOM).
CB2: TABLE, SHELVING (STUDIO).
HERMAN MILLER THROUGH ALL MODERN: CHAIR (GIRL'S ROOM).
ARGINGTON: BUNK BED.
CERAMICA SANT'AGOSTINO: FLOOR TILE.
LUMBER LIQUIDATORS: LUMBER SUPPLIER.
BENJAMIN MOORE & CO.: PAINT.