If the average person were to hollow out a tree branch, turn it into a light fixture and hang it over a dining room table, it would look like the work of a Cub Scout. But in Constantin Boym’s weekend home in the Hudson Valley, the branch is perfection. Not too crusty, not too knobby, so artless as to be almost invisible.
Mr. Boym, the chair of the industrial design department at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and co-principal with his wife, Laurene Leon Boym, of the design company Boym Partners, is very good at making things and has recently had lots of opportunities.
Sequestered with his family for 18 months in their 1955 cabin in Esopus, N.Y., he embarked on a long busman’s holiday. Inside, he designed a second bedroom for the couple’s 24-year-old son, Rob, and a mudroom where the refrigerator and laundry appliances could live.
controversial consumer products like Land O Lakes butter and Sun-Maid raisins, received a new studio extending from a woodshed.
The couple renamed their augmented property Boym Park.
For people fortunate enough to own a country home during a pandemic, the relief of having a refuge is often tempered by the stresses of making it work. Stuffing a weekend house with a full complement of family members puts a strain on more than the septic system. And with the shortage of available contractors and the scarcity and expense of building supplies, it hasn’t been easy to renovate one’s problems away.
Which gives designers like the Boyms an advantage: Subjected to the same pandemic conditions as the rest of us, they are equipped to make scrappy home improvements that help maintain their sanity. They can act as their own general contractors, nudging the results they want from builders, electricians and plumbers, or they can do the jobs themselves, without making them look D.I.Y.
It pays to be hands-on and off-the-shelf (or out-of-the-forest). Mr. Boym estimated the cost of the art studio, built with hired help, at $20,000. Yet choosing humble materials like $27 worth of pressure-treated lumber for an outdoor bench that will last half a century is not just a matter of thrift, he said, but a commentary on consumption. He quoted the Russian Constructivist artist Vladimir Tatlin’s support of “not the old, not the new, but the necessary.”
The Door-Man,” a multigenerational saga that centers on the fossil discoveries of the real-life 20th-century paleontologist Winifred Goldring, is due out on Feb. 1 from Fomite Press.