In the first half of the nineteenth century, the fledgling United States found a national identity in transcendentalist appreciation of its vast undeveloped landscape, placing the Catskill Mountains and greater Hudson River Valley at the forefront of the American imagination.
Almost 200 years later, the recently opened Piaule Catskill Landscape Hotel seeks to capture that bygone majesty, and inspire a future where such wilderness is again transcendent. Its whole purpose is to fade into nature, allowing guests to experience the subtle joys it offers.
The hotel's 24 standalone cabins are tucked into the woods along gravel paths. The cabins were prefabricated and placed by crane onto foundational stilts that elevate them four feet above ground level, allowing water and creatures to pass underneath. Exteriors are clad in untreated cedar, whose silvering transformation is already underway and will soon match the color of surrounding tree trunks.
The western wall of each cabin is a 10' by 13' window which can slide open to let in the sensations of their surroundings. The windows are framed with an overhang that blocks rain and snow from entering so visitors can keep the windows open in any weather, and experience nature with protection and privacy as if they were admiring a plein-air painting that has come alive.
Interiors in the cabins are designed to not distract from the immersive beauty of the surrounding landscape. Untreated white oak walls and ceiling are matched by white oak floors in the bedroom, which transition to heated tile in the bathroom and entryway, purposely separated from the serenity of the bedroom and with plenty of storage so luggage, dirty boots or wet coats never cross the peaceful threshold.
A short walk from the cabins, the hotel's Main House serves as a communal lodge with a lounge and restaurant divided by a zinc-clad fireplace, where visitors can enjoy a farm-to-table dinner while admiring an unobstructed view of the sunset over the mountains. The intimate 1500-square-foot room is furnished with custom hardwood tables, oak and paper cord Wegner chairs and rust-colored Sesann sofas, with antique French stools and Noguchi light sculptures scattered throughout.
Hidden beneath an extensive patio and green roof, which blurs the line between structure and landscape, is a spa with two temperature-regulated pools, cedar sauna, bluestone steam room, private massage rooms and a yoga studio. Interiors here are again made of the same palette of local materials to enhance the feeling of bringing the outdoors inside: walls and ceilings are paneled with white oak and cedar, and flooring is made of bluestone, befitting a property that stands on a former bluestone quarry.
At the end of the spa's exposed-concrete corridor sits a lone Paimio chair by Alvar Aalto, a tribute to the pioneering sanatorium of the same name in Finland. Aalto and the Finnish, like many before them, believed in the same principle upon which this project is based: nature—its fresh air, heavy raindrops, dappled sunlight and gentle breeze—has the profound ability to heal.
Cabin at sunriseSean Davidson
Cabin from belowJoe Thomas
Cabin interiorJoe Thomas
Cabin showerJody Rogac
Path to Main HouseSean Davidson
Main House exteriorSean Davidson
Main House interiorJoe Thomas
Main House receptionSean Davidson
Main House interiorSean Davidson
Spa hallwaySean Davidson
Cedar saunaJoe Thomas
Main House from belowSean Davidson
The project's guiding principle is straightforward: nothing should distract from the beauty of nature.
Accordingly, the hotel's interiors are designed to blur the boundary between outdoors and in, using a palette of local and natural materials: untreated white oak and fragrant cedar, cleft bluestone (befitting a property that sits on a former bluestone quarry), and concrete and steel where structure demands it. Of course, glass plays the primary role in framing the landscape, making up the entirety of the property's many west-facing walls. Every interior space embraces a pristine view of the Catskill Mountains and the ever-changing weather in their foreground.
Guest rooms provide everything required for a comfortable stay but nothing frivolous. Custom millwork in each cabin's entryway accommodates all manner of luggage, with hanging space for wet coats and stainless steel trays for muddy boots; the heated tile floor suggests a greater tolerance for potential dirtiness. Once into the sleeping area, the room turns to a serene wooden envelope, a life-size shadowbox from which to observe nature's rhythms.
The central design challenge in the Main House was to craft a space that adheres to modernist principles yet never lacks the mountains' requisite coziness. The result is a clever arrangement of spaces that are restrained yet refined, never feeling too vacuous nor too crowded whether occupied by a solitary guest or a banquet of 60.
Furnishings are sensuous but understated, using the structure's same palette of materials to achieve serenity. White oak and paper cord Hans Wegner chairs are complemented by custom tables in storm-felled local white oak and air-dried 50-year-old slabs of walnut. Not coincidentally, these materials are exceptionally hard-wearing, achieving patina rather than degradation over extended periods of use, as required of a commercial space. Such intentional timelessness achieves goals both financially and for responsible consumption.