Saddle Peak House is a breathtaking modern vacation villa in Topanga Canyon above Los Angeles, overlooking the Santa Monica Mountains and the Pacific Coast.
What is the story behind Hinterland Hall, what was your inspiration to create it?
Ever since settling in Berkshire County, we’ve relished going for scenic drives, exploring the region’s stunning landscape and historic landmarks. In the summer of 2020, we learned that the St. Luke’s Episcopal Parish was selling their Old Stone Church, a Gothic Revival building constructed in 1836. Always captivated by historic buildings, we were eager to learn more, finding that the space had been vacant for over one hundred years and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, bound by historical preservation protections and restrictions. Overcome with a desire to restore this crumbling landmark, we made an offer, and immediately immersed ourselves in the humbling, gratifying process of bringing Hinterland Hall to life.
In spite of the challenges of modernizing the space, we were determined to sustain as much of what made it magical as we possibly could. Constructed from stone, containing nine tracery windows with pointed arches and an impressive bell tower standing sixty feet high, the structure had always been incredibly striking. Aside from raw aesthetic potential, however, the required work was daunting: no running water, no septic system, no bathrooms, no heat, and limited electricity. And so, within a month of closing, we drilled a well, installed a septic system, and upgraded the electrical system, ensuring we stayed within the parameters of the space’s preservation provisions every step of the way. All along, we envisioned an events space with an overnight accommodations element, knowing that the potential was truly boundless.
Among the more eccentric aspects of the project — and one critical to its eventual short-term rental viability — was the relocation and restoration of the mahogany hand-pumped organ. The majestic instrument was built in 1862, by famed organ maker William Johnson of Westfield, MA. Originally located in the choir loft, we had it professionally dismantled in order to transform that space into the upstairs ensuite. Once moved to the sanctuary downstairs, we proceeded to have the organ fully restored, and it now stands as one of the oldest functioning hand-pumped organs in the country.
How would you describe the atmosphere, architecture and interior design of Hinterland Hall?
Every time I step inside, it still takes my breath away. So much light pours in through the tracery windows, transporting stunning shadows across the sanctuary as the day goes by. It’s so peaceful, meditative, and spiritual. True to its Gothic revival architecture, symmetry was at the core of the church’s design, and we wanted our renovation to preserve the integrity of the building, evoking its original spirit. To do this, while accentuating the place’s inherent beauty, we maintained a minimalist approach and a neutral color palette. We took inspiration from the stone exterior by incorporating bluestone, concrete, copper, and brass hardware throughout the interior. Unwilling to surrender agency or compromise our vision, we acted as general contractors and designers for the entire project, which transcended a standard renovation before it even began.
To you personally, what is so special about Hinterland Hall?
The experience of sleeping in the historic church and having uninterrupted time to just wander the space is both rejuvenating and spiritual. The design and the quality of light are powerful enough to soothe and invigorate at the same time.