|'Nuits', Irvington, NY. 1852 Photos: Wikimedia|
'Nuits' is an impressive early Italianate mansion overlooking the Hudson River Valley in Irvington, NY, a city full of impressive homes. It was part of the push in the early and mid 19th century to construct elaborate showplace estates on the river to both take advantage of the impressive views and the company offered by the artists, businessmen, and writers who had country homes in the area. It was designed by the German architect Detlef Lienau for Francois Cottenet, a French immigrant to the US.
The house is a highly unique example of Italianate design, and its plan is complicated and expansive. It is in general an example of the central tower plan with a strongly projecting tower bisecting a narrow three story block. This central block, while it gives the appearance of symmetry soon dissolves from the sides into a mass of asymmetrical projections, bays, and corridors. As can be seen on the plan below, the house is a series of intersecting cubes, which seem placed where they seemed most conducive to interior planning rather than exterior symmetry. Whoever said function followed form in historic design? Indeed, the house does seem like some fantastic cubist sculpture, and must have seemed striking to 19th century steamboat passengers.
Unlike many Italianates, Nuits is actually built of stone. Apparently Cottenet had no problems with importing expensive Caen stone for his house. Decoratively, the house is in line with the severity characteristic of Italianate designs of the 1850s: spare walls and light colors only relieved by porches and around the windows. The entablature is only marked by a slight projection in the stone and rafter brackets. At Nuits, the windows are liberally supplied with Juliette balconies, wooden tent roofed awnings, and even a tent roof box window. The front itself has a few interesting features in that the windows flanking the tower are actually triple segmental arched windows, and the archway surrounding the main door is rusticated (the seams between stone courses are emphasized). Very simple, spindly porches are liberally supplied around the main block. A large conservatory was added in the 1860s, a unique survivor.
The house is still a private home and seems to have had a pool added behind the billiard room. Recent pictures of the front and of one of the interiors can be found online.