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Zoe Bissell's Metal House in West Hurley

Bigger Than a Breadbox

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The 1,450-square-foot LV home Bissell shares with partner Bryan Buryk and their daughter Shelby. Designed by architect Rocio Romero, the prefabricated rectangular structure of steel and glass sits on three forested acres and was completed in 2008. - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • The 1,450-square-foot LV home Bissell shares with partner Bryan Buryk and their daughter Shelby. Designed by architect Rocio Romero, the prefabricated rectangular structure of steel and glass sits on three forested acres and was completed in 2008.

Zoe Bissell was completely done with wood. The sculptor, welder, bread distributor, and eclectic collector had been living in some version of the log cabin vernacular since 1980, when her father and a family friend bought 12 undeveloped acres in West Hurley. The first cabin on the property, built by her father out of the surrounding woods, was decidedly rustic. "There was a well outside, an outdoor shower, an outhouse and a wood-burning stove," Bissell remembers. She would camp out there on weekends and throughout the summer months as she finished high school on Manhattan's Lower East Side and then attended Parsons School of Design.

In 1995, Bissell moved to West Hurley full-time and began to transition into slightly more sophisticated cabin living. Her second cabin of residence, built on the adjacent six acres by a family friend, was slightly less rustic ("It had indoor plumbing!" she recalls) and more suitable for winter living. Bissell bounced between the two West Hurley cabins for almost 15 years, staying at her father's simple cabin in the warm months and then in the winterized wood cabin when everything froze. Those years were fruitful ones: She attended Bard College for graduate school, studying sculpture, she met her partner Bryan Buryk, and she began two successful careers—one as an artisan metalworker and the other driving a truck for the family business, delivering Heidelberg bread.

Zoe Bissell in the master bedroom of her kit home, surrounded by some of her most recent work. Her bold and playful metal-and-papier-mâché sculptures begin as sketches. After Bissell settles on a shape she likes, she casts a metal armature in her shop and then adds the papier-mâché and paints. “They are quirky and crude and not meant to be precious at all,” Bissell explains. “A lot of my work is not at all meant to be permanent.” - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • Zoe Bissell in the master bedroom of her kit home, surrounded by some of her most recent work. Her bold and playful metal-and-papier-mâché sculptures begin as sketches. After Bissell settles on a shape she likes, she casts a metal armature in her shop and then adds the papier-mâché and paints. “They are quirky and crude and not meant to be precious at all,” Bissell explains. “A lot of my work is not at all meant to be permanent.”

But by the mid-aughts, Bissell was ready for some changes. "The 'roughing it' glamour started to wear off," she explains. She still loved the woods, but needed a little distance. "I had lived in cabins and everything was wood, wood, wood—a wood-burning stove, wood dust, and then the mold. I was tired of all of it. I wanted something completely clean and modern with no wood anywhere." With three acres of her father's original property and visions of both personal and architectural advancement, she and Buryk began to hatch a plan. "We thought, let's try and be grown-ups now," she remembers. "Let's take it up a few notches, we can have an indoor bathroom and sheetrocked walls." Bissell envisioned a total departure from the way they'd been living—she didn't even want a woodstove. "I got it in my head that I wanted a metal house," she explains. Bissell and Buryk set out to build a new, shiner, home.

Elemental Shift

This wasn't Bissell's first foray into the glories of metal. After college, she began working with welder Peter Sinclair, learning the craft and business of metalsmithing. She eventually took over Sinclair's metal shop, the Base Company, teaching herself to solder and creating metal display stands for art, artifacts, and sculpture. (She ran the business, located right across the road from the West Hurley property, from 2008 until 2017.) With practice, she learned metal was easy to work with and could be very durable in the long run.

The home’s main living and dining area is flooded with light from the south and west. “Because the home’s interior has a modern loft/gallery feeling to me, especially when we first completed it, I finally had a clean slate to display the furniture, art, and objects I’d spent my early adult years collecting,” Bissell explains. Tina and Angus sit patiently. - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • The home’s main living and dining area is flooded with light from the south and west. “Because the home’s interior has a modern loft/gallery feeling to me, especially when we first completed it, I finally had a clean slate to display the furniture, art, and objects I’d spent my early adult years collecting,” Bissell explains. Tina and Angus sit patiently.

With no internet in either cabin, Bissell made daily forays to the Kingston Library, searching online for ways to create a structure that would fit their budget and suit their needs. Then, online, she stumbled across architect Rocio Romero's modern kit home, the LV. Romero's minimalist, one-story rectangular house was designed to "celebrate glass, steel, and light" and be both affordable and beautiful. The couple found a prototype LV home in Virginia for rent and planned a vacation around it. By the end of the weekend, they knew it was exactly what they'd been looking for. Bissell and Buryk returned home and began the process of reproducing their own metal-and-glass cabin in West Hurley.

Beg, Borrow, Steel

The home’s kitchen was completed on a shoestring budget. Mismatched cabinets and pine butcher block counters complement a blue discounted sink from N&S Supply in Kingston. “Most everything is hand-me-down or from yard sales,” Bissell says. “That’s how we roll.” - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • The home’s kitchen was completed on a shoestring budget. Mismatched cabinets and pine butcher block counters complement a blue discounted sink from N&S Supply in Kingston. “Most everything is hand-me-down or from yard sales,” Bissell says. “That’s how we roll.”

Even though it was a kit house, it still took almost three years before construction could begin. Multiple engineers had to weigh in, helping the couple to locate a building site, dig a basement and foundation, and install services. The property's proximity to the Ashokan Reservoir added another layer of complexity, requiring special approval to install a septic tank within the reservoir's watershed, which is tightly regulated by New York City. "It was a serious test of everything—our ability to remain a team and to find the resources we needed," Bissell recalls. "It was like when you finally learn as a grown up that you have to push through hurdles and not let them kill a project—you've got to have will."

A nook in the corner of the master bedroom doubles as office space and is decorated with Bissel’s metal sculptures and other collected artworks. - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • A nook in the corner of the master bedroom doubles as office space and is decorated with Bissel’s metal sculptures and other collected artworks.

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