Lake George, New York

I wanted to build a barn,” says Richard Yulman, the client for the Inverted Guest House in Lake George, New York. “Just a country barn where we could park cars and put stuff in the winter.” What started as a simple shed kind of project, though, became a 5,600-square-foot building that features a pair of two-bedroom guest apartments on either side of an eight-car garage. With its rugged-yet-elegant copper cladding and flat roofs, it looks like no barn. But its industrial materials capture the utilitarian spirit of rural buildings and its large, folding doors and shutters connect it to the light and views of its wooded site.

Photo © Paul Warchol

The guest house/garage is the third in an ongoing series of projects that New York City–based architect Peter Gluck has designed for Yulman’s 17-acre estate on Lake George. Although Yulman had traditional tastes in architecture when he first bought the lakeside property and its early-20th-century house, he developed a more contemporary sensibility while working with Gluck.

Gluck selected the site because it offered a degree of separation from the main house, ensuring privacy for guests and keeping cars and equipment out of sight. Taking advantage of a 10-foot drop across the length of the lot, he designed a long bar building where one end pops up above the ground floor and the other slides down. The guest apartment that pops up has a glass-enclosed living/dining/kitchen space on the upper level and a pair of copper-clad bedrooms below, while its twin on the other side of the garage follows an inverted scheme.

Simple contrasts supply most of the design impact, creating an effective back-and-forth between opaque and transparent materials, open and closed elements, rooms with big views and those with small, framed ones. To set apart the guest quarters, Gluck inserted a vertical glass slot between each unit and the garage, creating a transparent reveal where guests enter and find metal stairs going either up or down to the main living space. Corrugated-copper walls in these entry/stair halls bring the exterior’s dominant material inside and create a lovely, warm glow when the sun hits them. Interior finishes are as simple as those on the outside, mostly Douglas fir, white drywall, white artificial-stone counters, and a few touches of copper.