Words Victoria Bartlett Photography Brian Park
I found the location of this house 20 years ago with my friend Daryl K. We sat by the river digesting the beauty and decided then that this was our dream location, that it would be our sanctuary. The house was secondary for me; it’s about the spirit of the land and the sunlight that speckles through the trees and kisses the house. It’s an ever-changing spectrum of colors and textures. Nature dances perpetually here. I was constantly searching for and building things in nature with my ex-husband. We spent years fighting nature’s forces and re-landscaping. We spent hours researching Japanese gardens and structures and the various wood to build them. It was our dream to create these environments. We got married here and established a haven on the land to bless us. It was a time infused with spirit.
For me, the river is the most vital life source, always injecting us with energy. My artist friend believed this place was blessed with an unusual light that bounced off the other riverbank at a certain time of day, glistening and leaving us feeling possessed by its spirit. We have always spent summers on the river, swimming, canoeing, eating, drinking and celebrating life until the sun goes down. Having our own private beach has been the heart of our summertime.
My house became a project, a work-in-progress over the years. A photographer friend spent the first year shooting it. It was a 70s fantasy set, a curiosity for any photographer, but I wanted to make it more in keeping with the natural surroundings. I opened up the whole space and added glass wherever I could, referencing the architect John Lautner, so it turned into more of a 50s contemporary design. After 10 years, I extended the bottom of the house to become a panoramic viewing chamber where you can see green from every angle. It’s like being inside and outside at the same time. There’s a screened-in room at the top of the house that makes you feel as if you’re bird watching in Costa Rica, floating in the canopy.
“For me, the river is the most vital life source, always injecting us with energy. My artist friend believed this place was blessed…”
The house holds so many stories and memories from the life that has transpired here. Having Daryl as a neighbor created a special world, almost like a commune, with her kids always at my place and my one-eyed cat always at hers. We shared our worlds, our friends, cooking, laughs…everything. For 10 years, it became a second home to my dear friends Maria Cornejo and Mark Borthwick. He photographed the house and surroundings over so many years that it became an integral part of his artwork.
It’s been a place of entertainment, with feasts and intimate parties, but also a sacred getaway. When I need privacy, this is where I go to be secretive or dream. Creating a world within was a huge part of tying everything together. I like to bring nature inside and I was on a constant quest for the most touching and unique objects of desire. I spent years driving to amazing antiques hideaways in the Catskills. The house is always evolving and changing, like nature. I rearrange the artwork, the furniture and my obscure treasures to create areas of curiosity. I hope and dream that this place will live with me for many more years and grow even more intriguing over time.
Victoria Bartlett is a British-born designer and stylist. Her career began in design for a prestigious designers, including Mui Mui, Versace and Calvin Klein. She was Fashion Editor at Allure magazine prior to becoming Fashion Director for Interview and BIG Magazine.