Based in Rhinebeck, the design-oriented construction and development firm is a dynamic collaboration between James Dell'Olio and Darren Davidowich. Dell'Olio grew up in a family of antique dealers and historic home lovers, and was perennially surrounded by renovations. Davidowich, on the other hand, has 20 years of experience in land use, site development, and construction management. This balance between the art and science of home design is what the Art of Building is all about.
Harnessing a carefully refined aesthetic and a practicality born of experience, the Art of Building's portfolio features a diverse slate of historic home renovations. Under the pair's direction, archetypal Hudson Valley homes are reinvented and modernized while never losing their historic integrity and grace.
Developing a renovation concept is "a three-way collaboration between the client, the designer, and the house itself," says Dell'Olio. "What is the house giving us that we want to bring out? What are its shortcomings that we want to improve?" Using in-the-field construction considerations as a starting point, the Art of Building's designs are grounded in buildable reality.
The firm provides clients with a single point of contact for all aspects of the process, from the design through to execution. "Our design sensibilities drive the vision, and we assemble a team of subcontractors who are more expert than us in their particular field," Davidowich says. "We think of it as a holistic approach to major renovation."
The Art of Building embraces design challenges. One of their more daunting projects was the renovation and restoration of Wilderkill, which was originally part of the historic Wilderstein estate in Rhinebeck.
The storybook cottage is a picturesque Hudson Valley Victorian with a Mansard roof and pointy carpenter Gothic dormers built on top of an 18th-century Dutch home. When Dell'Olio and Davidowich first saw the cottage, it was in an "abject state of disrepair," according to Dell'Olio. The brick insulation inside the wood walls created a moisture condition that had completely rotted out all the exterior walls on the main floor. The team had to work carefully around the perimeter of the building to rebuild all the exterior wall in segments, while leaving the historic upper floor floating above untouched. They preserved historic details like the stairway, floors, corbels, and arched period windows while blowing out the interior walls to create a bright, flowing open plan. "The result," Dell'Olio explains, "is essentially a brand new house inside the shell of an historic gem." See more photos of this renovation.
The Art of Building has built other major eye-catching projects in and around the Village of Rhinebeck, and even designed the very modest interior of Cinnamon restaurant. Although the company is best known for its work on historic structures, they are also committed modernists, who have a passion for contemporary design and ground-up construction. Ultimately, the Art of Building is about creating special spaces for interesting people. "We work with clients who want their homes to be as individual as they are," explains Dell'Olio. "The more conventional your tastes are, the less suited we are for you."
While clients might bring a host of personalized design ideas to the table, one thing they are often short on is time. "Clients simply don't have the time to juggle the countless considerations, trades, and professions needed to pull off a major renovation" says Davidowich. "So we become their project Sherpa."