In 1943, Roberta Lewis Thrun became one of the first women to earn a degree in architecture from Columbia University. While her primary focus was raising her three children, she did design two houses for the family: a summer home in Maine and this residence in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. The Hudson Valley home is still in the family and was recently renovated by GRT Architects.
“Broadly speaking, the clients wanted to make it their own without erasing what makes it so special,” says architect Rustam Mehta. “We love it when people ask what was original and what was added. This house is humble, honest, rational and unexpected, and we strove to make our contributions in the same spirit.” Whether it’s the trim that they painted black to better highlight the stunning views or the unexpected sheen and materials of the wet bar, there are surprises and moments of whimsy that complement the home’s overall rationalism.
Throughout the house, the floor is a grid of four-inch terra-cotta tiles – all original – with rooms planned on this module. “All of this rationalism is in service of a very human experience,” says Tal Schori of GRT. Seeing the tiles as one of the defining and unique aspects of the house, the architects used terra cotta as the basis for all other material choices. “Our understanding is that Thrun worked for only a brief time, and her designs already showed a great deal of nuance and elegance. I imagine a longer career would have led to considerable success.”