Inside the Upstate Home of Travel Writer Yolanda Edwards


“Back then it was literally, ‘Well, what can we afford and what looks interesting?'” says Yolanda Edwards of her upstate prefab — and a plight many of us can relate to. The travel writer, creative director, and founder of Yolo Journal, along with her husband, writer and editor Matt Hranek, longed for a haven in New York City about two decades ago — before their whereabouts weren’t quite so ephemeral. With a limited budget, they chose a piece of land in Sullivan County, New York, and then essentially ordered a house through the mail in Austria. Nestled in the middle of an idyllic pasture, the end result is a modern house of wood and glass contrasted by its contents – a small selection of the world travelers collections. (Edwards and Hranek also maintain residencies in Brooklyn, Italy, and France, though they mostly travel to even darker places).

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When the two magazine veterans bought the 130 acres of land, that was all it was – land. For years, Edwards and Hranek lived off the wind – without a shower – when they were there. “For two summers we would just drive upstate and then swim in the pond and you just didn’t have clean hair,” she says. “And it was fun. It was elevated camping.” Eventually, her desperation for a real bathroom grew. They conceived a bathhouse, which then evolved into a cabin-style bedroom with a porch. There they lived another year.

Eventually, the globetrotters channeled this imaginative spirit into a permanent structure. Luckily Hranek became friends with the architect Oscar Kaufmann while working on a commission in Austria Background*. Building their original dream home proved too expensive, but Kaufmann, a sort of prefab specialist, helped them create something similar and then shipped it literally prefabricated to its final destination in upstate New York. “He sent us a little sketch,” says Edwards, “and that was exactly what we had in mind.” Inspired by minimalist architects like Craig Ellwood and [Richard] Neutra, they created a house that is “essentially a shoebox, on a foundation with glass windows in the front,” she describes. “It’s simple and understated.”

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The aesthetically inclined couple juxtaposed the modernist exterior with a more eclectic approach to curation inside. “From the outside, it looks like a spaceship in this area,” says Edwards. “It’s more of a clinical space when you look from the outside, but when you’re inside you want it to reflect all the things you love.” The house is full of collections – antlers, porcupine quills, pottery and lots of books. “It’s almost bordering on hoarding.” But Edwards still keeps the range fairly manageable — space is too small not to do it. For this reason, the design of the house remains rather untouched. But “it’s not just a crash pad,” argues Edwards. “It’s a place where we go and actually cook, set up the hammock, play badminton and go for a walk,” she says. “We,” meaning herself, her husband, her daughter when she comes home from college, and her Jack Russell Terrier, Prune. “When we’re there,” concludes the jetsetter, “we’ll have a lot of fun.”

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