Upstate New York

The Delaware River’s East Branch, meandering through New York’s Catskills region, is famous for fly fishing. So, when Gad Soffer—a passionate amateur fly fisherman—got the chance to purchase a pristine nine-acre parcel there, he and his wife, Katie Donnelly, leapt for it. But several years would pass before the couple built on this land in a long, narrow valley. Instead, they enjoyed weekends camping there, amid eagles, wild turkeys, bobcats, deer, and raccoons.

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By the time they were ready to replace the tents with a more permanent vacation home, they knew they wanted an architect who could let them retain that sense of immersion in nature. Their search led them to Turner Brooks. As Soffer recalls, “I loved the way his houses engage the landscape.” To create a 2,000-square-foot cottage for the owners and their two young children, Brooks tapped into geological themes in certain details relating to the couple’s own lives. Soffer and Donnelly originally met in a graduate geology program, and, though he now focuses on biomedical work, and she’s currently a homemaker, they remain avid rock collectors. So, Soffer remembers, “we asked Turner for display and storage for thousands of our specimens—even ones I found when I was 7 years old.”

Brooks responded with a jagged, slate-gray house whose L-shaped plan provides privacy from the road while capturing views of an abandoned gravel pit-turned-pond. The low-slung building, in a clearing amid tall grasses, rises to a small tower with 360-degree vistas. Lining that turret are three levels of ladder-accessed bunks: “the children’s own lair,” says Soffer. Above the bunk-bed zone, a separate, more adult aerie, or office, is reached by its own steep, narrow stair.

Throughout the house are concrete floors, cured, ground, and polished, “to bring out the gravel aggregate’s colors and textures,” says Brooks. Rock- and mineral display cabinets with custom-designed stands extend across a living room wall and a corridor to the bedrooms. Since the main level is almost continuous with the ground plane, interior space flows out to meadow and pond. “I’m repeatedly struck by how Turner oriented the building and worked out the fenestration to take in the entire landscape,” muses Soffer. “Even through smaller, seemingly random windows, you see a whole mountain face. You’re constantly reconnected to the surroundings.”



Turner Brooks Architect

319 Peck Street

New Haven, CT

06513 203 77203244


Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit: Aaron Amosson, Tessa Kelly (reg. architect)


Interior, landscape, lighting, acoustical designer: Turner Brooks


Engineer: Doug McClowsky, Michael Horton Associates, 151 Meadow Street, Branford, CT


General contractor: Alison Devore, 120 Muthig Rd. Hurleyville, NY 12747



Turner Brooks Architect

Christopher Gardner Photographer, 7 Phelps Lane, Deep River, CT 06513




Structural system

Wood frame with some LVL’s and TJI’s


Exterior cladding

EIFS, ACM, or other: Hardi-board clapboards

Moisture barrier: Asphalt paper



Metal: Custom standing seam ‘galvalume’



Wood frame: Pella



Wood doors: Exterior: Wood fir by Simpson/ Interior: Solid core birch veneer by Brosco

Sliding doors: Pella

Special doors (sound control, X-ray, etc.): Sliding door at entrance custom with ‘barn door’ hardware



Locksets: Sargent

Pulls: Ikea


Interior finishes

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Malheuresemont Ikea

Paints and stains: Benjamin Moore

Special surfacing: Kitchen island and counters Corian

Special interior finishes unique to this project: Polished concrete floor



Office furniture/hall shelving: Custom work by cabinet maker Mike Scardino, Harris, N.Y.

Chairs: Dining chairs designed by Turner Brooks

Tables: Dining table- Reclaimed Russian Oak Plank Rectangular Dining Table



Interior ambient lighting: Stonco wall mtd.

Downlights: Prescolite, recessed

Fans: Cirrus Fan,

Task lighting: Over dining table: ‘Nut Suspension Light’/ over kitchen island- Jielde Augustin Pendant A160

Exterior: Lithonia Lighting 2-Lamp Outdoor Floodlight



Toilets: Toto Ultrax 2 / Tub Kohler / Shower custom with Grohe fixtures/ Lavs Ikea



Energy management or building automation system: roof R 50/wall r-35 /solar heat sink slab opposite south facing windows goes a long way towards heating house.


Other unique products that contribute to sustainability: All large expanse of glass triple glazed