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Pound Ridge House by Tsao & McKown Architects

Tsao & McKown Architects designed this inspiring rural retreat for an aging couple, situated in Pound Ridge, United States, in 2016. The construction of the house is inspired by traditional Japanese architecture. It is made of a exposed timber construction with an open plan. Wooden slats direct views and cast patterns of shadow and light while screening certain windows for privacy. Take a look at the complete story after the jump.

From the architects: We designed this rural retreat for an aging couple, for whom we had designed two residences prior. Working at every scale of the project, including the architecture, interiors, custom furniture, and landscaping, we had the opportunity to fully address the needs of this long-term client with whom we have worked intimately over the course of twenty years.

With full awareness of how they live, work, and entertain, we conceived the furnishings simultaneously with the architecture. The site is 30 acres, and house’s enclosed area is 2,900 square feet.

Inspired by traditional Japanese architecture, the house is formed of exposed timber construction which reduces the need for interior walls and opens the plan. The natural beauty of the crafted timber structure was enhanced through flaming to express the wood grain, and to naturally darken its surfaces to recede from view as it frames the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the gardens and surrounding woods.

Within the open plan, variations of proportion and light produce subtle rhythmic effects. Wooden slats direct views and cast patterns of shadow and light while screening certain windows for privacy. Two custom bronze chimneys hang from the ceiling in the centers of the living and sleeping areas, thereby maintaining views across interior spaces to the outside while defining areas of comfort and warmth around their hearths.


The house takes advantage of passive environmental approaches such as natural ventilation and light. In addition to the expansive sliding glass doors and windows, the design incorporates smaller floor-to-ceiling operable wooden panels for additional means of regulating ventilation.

Radiant geothermal heating and cooling help to achieve an energy efficient design despite the openness of the house and expanses of glass.

Two large asymmetrically shaped skylights were designed to optimize seasonal patterns of sunlight. Additionally, sustainable and low-energy materials were used throughout the house, most notably the timber frame construction made of local wood.

The home sits upon a glacial rock ledge on which the home’s foundation and timber construction are set. All excavated stone was reused in the gardens and landscape. To reduce the house’s footprint on the land, the exterior spaces are permeable softscapes that capture runoff water: wooden platforms, natural grasses, and recycled gravel. All plantings used in the landscaping are native species, except for one bonsai tree that was purchased at a nearby nursery.

Designing for social as well as environmental sustainability, the house is located on one floor, a conscious decision to accommodate the couple as they age. There are no steps to enter the house – a gentle ramp from the driveway to the front door is designed to ADA standards.

Photography by Simon Upton

Find more projects by Tsao & McKown Architects:

Hillside View by ARRCC Interior Design

Hillside View by ARRCC Interior Design

WebSupport by Studio Perspektiv

WebSupport by Studio Perspektiv