Contemporary in the Berkshires

July 9, 2021

Wood, metal, and pops of pink make magic in a designer’s Berkshires retreat.

Text by Marni Elyse Katz    Photography by Neil Landino

Debra and Robert Gottlieb had a fairly lengthy wish list to ensure their Berkshires dream home would be a welcoming retreat for family, an entertaining haven for friends, and a showplace for Debra’s design talents. The five-acre lakefront property could easily absorb a significant spread, but the couple felt strongly that the scale of their new house not overwhelm the neighborhood. To solve the competing directives, architectural designer Ritch Holben expanded on Gottlieb’s vision for a modern barn by creating three distinct but connected gable-roofed buildings that evoke traditional barn forms. “The concept is based on the collected structures of typical New England farm compounds,” the principal of RhDesign says.

To simultaneously stay true to the rustic locale and celebrate contemporary design, Gottlieb and Holben curated a medley of natural, low-maintenance materials as finishes. European oak floorboards with a taupe finish provide a refined, neutral ground for the expansive living space with its twenty-seven-and-a-half-foot-high cathedral ceiling and twenty-six-foot-long mezzanine.

A sculptural white oak stair that Holben describes as “Escher-like boxes with a zigzag stringer and underlit treads” infuses warmth and glows dramatically through the front and back windows at night. “The stainless Moooi pendant shines like the moon,” Gottlieb says. “It’s my favorite part of the house.”

The custom steel stair rails inside and out echo the raw steel structural posts flanking the entry hall. The rails also inspired the pair to wrap the soaring chimney that anchors the seating area with hot-rolled steel. Artisan-made pieces such as the ribbon stools by the stairs and the acacia wood-slice coffee table complement the hand-hewn-meets-industrial-modern vibe.

Initially, Gottlieb leaned into the monochromatic, masculine palette to conjure a sense of calm. But when she was working on the kitchen scheme, Robert said, “Let’s have some fun with color!” So in came a rich plum-colored range. From there, Gottlieb added counter stools with faux leather fuchsia backs and seats; a B&B Italia Tufty-Time sofa in a tweedy hot pink performance fabric; and dining chairs upholstered in a striated velvet that pulls together all the rosy hues. “I live in a house with a husband and two sons. The dog and cat are boys, too,” Gottlieb says. “It’s nice to have a bit of pink power.”

Project Team
Interior design: Debra Gottlieb, Finelines Interiors
Architectural design: Ritch Holben, RhDesign
Builder: Roman Montano, Alander Construction
Landscape design: Bruce Bennett, Darrell Cherniske, Kent Greenhouse & Gardens