An Iconic Modern House in the Catskills


Viewed from the road in Accord, New York, a shadowy dark house is both austere and mysterious; behind the black facade is a great story.

In 1981, just a year before his death, famed ballet choreographer Eugene Loring was looking to complete his bi-coastal existence with a house in the Catskills (he was seeking a counterpoint to his white Richard Neutra modernist pavilion in California). That's when Tom Pritchard of Madderlake Designs suggested a completely abstracted wood-construction form with a controversial exterior cladding material: neoprene.

Loring wanted a house that would feel like "living in a work of art," so Pritchard pared down the design to its purest form, with no distinction between the roof and walls and without any trim or frames. The Rubber House has little separation from nature: the side exposed to the surrounding forest features floor-to-ceiling glass. Years after Loring passed away, actor Willem Defoe was attracted to the building; as he once told Architectural Digest, "One of the best features of the house is that nature has a a dialogue with it. The inside looks out, and the outside looks in."

The Rubber House in the Catskill mountains

Above: The Rubber House is located on a seven-acre parcel in Accord, New York. Photograph by Nikolas Koenig.

Rustic living room in Upstate New York

Above: The living room offers expansive views of the surrounding forest.

Floor to ceiling windows in the kitchen

Above: An expansive window in the kitchen allows dish washers to contemplate nature (according to Dafoe, "the windows frame the landscape like a living diorama").

The Rubber House exterior and open kitchen

Above: The back of the house (L) and the double-height kitchen (R).

A bedroom with a Rietveld chair in the Catskill Mountains

Above: A bedroom with Rietveld chair.

Black-tiled bathroom at The Rubber House when owned by Willem Defoe

Above: A well of light illuminates the black-tiled bathroom. Photograph via Luxist.

Windows in the Rubber House, taken when owned by Willem Defoe

Above: Windows in the rear of the house. Photograph via Luxist.

A house made of black neoprene

Above: Pritchard, who was working with a limited budget, designed the house from a wood construction that was then sheathed in plywood and coated in a gray-black neoprene sheetskin.

The Rubber House in the winter

Above: The stark black exterior of the house mimics the energy of the winter months upstate.

Abstract form Rubber House in Upstate New York

Above: Filtered light from surrounding trees projects shadows on the neoprene exterior.

Eugene Loring and Willem Defoe's Rubber House

Above: Photograph by Nikolas Koenig.

N.B.: Looking for more shadowy houses? See 39 images of Black Houses in our Gallery of rooms and spaces.

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