Featured Space: Tripp’s Charming Catskills Barn
Tripp Bassett, space owner behind the renovated barn in Catskills, on the history, design, and renovation of his country estate.
Tell us a little about yourself, what brought you to the Catskills?
Like many of my collaborators at the Barn, I work in mass media. Fascinated by media at an early age, I interned at a local news station then earned my BA degree in Mass Communications (emphasis TV/Film) from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. My move to Hollywood brought years of experience in every aspect of TV and film production and piqued my interest in digital editing and broadcast animation, which inspired a certification in Digital Multimedia from UCLA, and resulted in a job that brought me to NYC. My love affair with the Catskills started in ’04 with trips to a friend’s pond-side chalet in Phoenicia. That such natural beauty existed only two hours away from the city captivated me and I wanted to share it with everyone I knew. It felt like a different planet.
Tell us about Barn on a Pond, how did you find it, and what attracted you to it?
Fixing up a tiny cabin that I could rent as a vacation rental when not using it myself was the original intent, but when I stumbled upon a beautiful old 19th century post and beam livestock barn on one property I looked at, the idea of converting it into a habitable space became an obsession. It turned out to be too far gone for rehab, but that set me off on a search that thankfully ended up with the barn I have now. Many talented friends and I passionately devoted four years to restoring the historic barn and property into an idyllic country sanctuary. I am an avid fan of architecture and interior design and used my professional eye for detail and aesthetics as well as the skills and guidance of my renowned team of collaborators to bring to life my vision of Barn on the Pond.
A native of Roswell, New Mexico, I spent my childhood in the mountains of Ruidoso, Santa Fe and Taos and exploring my mother’s gardens, where appreciation for the wonders of the outdoors was born and nurtured. Over the years, this matured and developed into an environmental awareness that led me to follow the ecological concept of Seven Generation Sustainability, which urges the current generation to live in a way that benefits the seventh generation into the future – something I am conscious of in all aspects of designing the Barn and its property. It is also through this movement and way of living that I developed a strong sense of community and collaboration.
What was it like before you entered the space?
More than 200 years ago, the original barn overlooked a 4,200 square foot pond. Livestock grazed, farmers harvested the land, and the pond functioned as a water source for the animals. The existing property was part of a large piece of land that was subdivided and sold in different sections over the years, which explains the stone walls and irregular layout of the plot’s 3.8 acreage. Two centuries later the barn was converted to a residence, but tragedy befell it when a gas tank was struck by lightning, causing an explosion that almost destroyed the home. The structural integrity was so seriously compromised that it had to be demolished, but some parts of the home were meticulously salvaged, reconstructed and still live on in several features throughout the barn.
The history of Barn on the Pond remains a large part of its present-day identity. Recapturing the property’s historical character was the first priority in rebuilding the barn as a home. It was also important to keep as much of its original proportions and personality as possible by incorporating remnants from the old barn into the new one. Recycled wood gets a second life in such features as the home’s staircase and inlaid floor beams, the master bedroom’s wall and trim, and kitchen cabinets. Stone from the original property reappears in the stone wall flanking the wildflower meadow and in the fire pit.
The process of restoration continued beyond the barn’s repaired doors with the addition of strategically placed trees to the existing generations-old shade trees, as well as the expansion of the meadow, forest and surrounding vegetation. To accomplish this objective, I enlisted the expertise of my since award-winning friend landscape architect Steven Tupu of Terrain, a firm committed to creating ecologically sustainable landscapes that are just as beautiful to view as they are beneficial to the environment. The pond was reconstituted into a natural habitat and wetland intended as a haven and water source for neighborhood wildlife.
In addition to my strong commitment to environmental awareness and preservation, I am passionate about Barn on the Pond’s impact beyond its property borders. As part of a close-knit, local community of artisans, artists, farmers, craftsmen/women, and neighbors, Barn on the Pond does not stand alone and apart. Rather, it seeks to enhance and stimulate the local economy by employing the services of talented area regional entrepreneurs and bringing tourism to the area. From featuring the products of a local cheesemaker at an special event to displaying an artist’s work inside the home, Barn on the Pond aims to maintain its commitment to being a responsible asset to the community.
Any fun or history facts about the space?
When word got out that I was looking for a barn to home conversion in the Catskills, a coworker at a production company I was working at told me her relative was selling the barn they grew up partying in near Woodstock that might fit the bill. She was right and Evelyn Gentile has been our General Manager ever since! The property has been a neighborhood icon for generations and had a history as a party place with friends before I acquired it. The neighborhood has been tight knit for decades and I am now friends with the three previous owners of the barn. One of the couples owns a local restaurant and catering business and caters many of our events.
What inspired the overall design of the space?*
LOFT LIVING IN BROOKLYN
When I moved from Hollywood to NYC in ’99, I lived in a converted 19th century factory to loft in Brooklyn’s historic DUMBO neighborhood, at the time considered dangerous. I love entertaining and began hosting theme parties that were difficult to get people from Manhattan to come over the bridge for at first. They would joke not to forget your passport when you traveled to that shady wasteland across the Brooklyn Bridge. When unsuspecting and sometimes fearful guests entered the massive well designed and decorated space the wow factor and revelry vibe kicked in immediately and my parties gained a reputation for being memorable (or not so memorable depending on how much you were drinking) soirees not to be missed. In fact I had a wedding photographer come to the barn for a bride and asked me if i was that Tripp who hosted the DUMBO parties. When I said yes, she said that as a photographer she had been to many parties and mine were by far some of the most fun and memorable and the space had much to do with that.
Many of our collaborators are creatives in art and media so we approach this barn to home conversion as an interactive installation art experience and built as a stage showcasing the natural beauty that surrounds for events and everyday living. By design, mother nature is the star of the show wherever you go in the barn or on the property. The communal open plan living layout with the kitchen, dining room, living room and great room all as one massive open space with floor to ceiling windows fit perfectly within our barn to home and event space design. Inevitably at house parties, guests usually convene in the kitchen with the food prep and bar, so why not incorporate that and make it the highlight?
MULTIFUNCTIONAL SPACES: VACATION RENTAL HOME COMBINED WITH EVENTS
Originally, the barn was to be renovated into a vacation rental home for small groups and families, but in the process we realized it would be a perfect space for hosting larger scale events, so we adjusted our planning accordingly. Every room is multifunctional for both living and events with 4 murphy beds that fold up and become armoires for events and furniture is removed to create a blank canvass for event hosts using the space to entertain. The master designer and friend I was working with solicited the guidance of caterers, chefs, event planners and contacts in the food and beverage industry on planning for the kitchen, which has become the star of the show and a major draw. We widened the aisles for two way traffic and expanded the island for a larger variety of activities and uses. We installed two of everything: sinks, dishwashers, ovens, refrigerators plus a pot filler which our chefs love for larger pots that don’t fit easily into the sink. Wider than standard decks and patios accommodate tents, tables, servers and overall flow of traffic throughout the course of a typical multi location event such as a wedding. The designer and I worked closely with the landscape architects from the beginning to ensure the entire experience of the home and surrounding 4 acres (the barnyard we call it) compliment each other, interact seamlessly and accomplish our aim of bringing the outside indoors whenever possible to remind we are surrounded by nature year round.
How can this space be used and what for?
Retreats, reunions, photo shoots, getaways with friends, birthday celebrations, customized and unique destination events and weddings.
What are the advantages of this space for the different activities it allows?
The renovated barn, pond, fire pit and camper offer a completely unique and memorable venue for a highly customized experience. You can leverage the natural beauty, views and flow of the property, or make it your own with whatever you can envision. The local area boasts some of the best of the Hudson Valley’s culinary destinations, skiing, hiking, yoga and so much more. We’re equidistant between Woodstock and Saugerties, NY, artist meccas for over a decade with plenty to do…or just relax at home and cook masterful meals in our chef’s kitchen and veg out by the fire pit.
Tell me about the events or photoshoots you’ve hosted. What has been your best experience hosting at the Barn so far?
Barn on the Pond’s events are warm, inviting, intimate and dreamy. Our clients say that the barn becomes part of their love story, and we’re so flattered by this feedback. Our couples are looking for a venue to highlight their uniqueness and offer a more casual and down homey experience than more traditional venues.
What’s your favorite thing about being a space owner?
Reading the reviews and hearing the glowing feedback of our guests and hosts who have hosted such unique and beautiful gatherings: memories that they will treasure forever. Some literally go through withdrawal when they have to go back to the city and never want to leave! We have many return guests.
Any tips for other space owners?
Be respectful of your neighbors first and foremost and don’t burn those bridges if you can help it. If you staff, find collaborators you can trust and depend on to get the job done effectively and on time (much easier said than done in my experience). Empathize with your potential clients and try to predict and help them prepare for any hurdles that may come their way so you can help them impress their guests or clients.
Why did you seek services such as Splacer and what about Splacer do you like?
In the past several years, the Catskills have become much more popular than they have been in recent decades and we would like to be there for those who desire to host events in these gorgeous upstate surroundings. Although the barn is rented solid as vacation rental most weekends, it sits empty and available 4-5 days a week, which is such a pity for such a gorgeous space. We hope Splacer might help us fill that void and introduce the barn and property’s unique experience to those interested in hosting events in the area.
Photos courtesy of Barn on a Pond