Upstate Diary

Living On The Inside Out

Living on the Inside Out

Moyra Mulholland was born in a little town in Zambia and later moved to South Africa. Raised in a large family under modest conditions, in her early 20s she arrived in New York where her skills as a make-up artist soon became much in demand and lead to her working on a regular basis with supermodels like Naomi, Cindy, Linda and Christy and for magazines such as American Vogue and Vogue Italia. What made her successful was not simply the beautiful, translucent skin she created or her ‘You, but better’ approach but also her art education and unique way of mixing preexisting products into custom made blends — something she had developed while working in Cape Town, where the best products were not readily available.

Built as a place for the extended family to gather on weekends, Moyra’s home was never intended to be precious house but a place where the kids would feel free and have fun. “The boys learned to ride their bicycles in the hallways,” she remembers with a smile.

“When we first bought the property we used to walk the land every weekend — to get to know it more intimately.” They choose the top of a sprawling hill as the location for their future home.

Choosing Thomas Phifer as the architect was a given, he had a home nearby and, after stepping down as head of the design team for Richard Meier, he was genuinely enthusiastic about the project.

Phifer initially proposed a glass house but Moyra, having a fear of thunder and lightning, needed to feel secure. So the ground floor was carved into the hillside. “With the concrete ceiling I can lie in bed and watch the most amazing lightning storms and feel totally safe. It’s curious that, since childhood, I had dreamt of living in an underground house but we never told Tom to build it that way – it kind of just happened.”

Halfway through the construction a tornado hit the property and took out 300 trees. “All of a sudden, we were like ‘Wow! Now we have a view that we never would have dared to create ourselves!’” Thankfully, the structure remained intact.

While flipping through a magazine, Andrea, her now ex-husband, discovered the work of iconic modernist landscape architect Dan Kiley. “We were really very lucky that he accepted the commission, he wasn’t a young man anymore,” says Moyra. They left Kiley with “pretty much free reins” The reflecting pool, the clipped hedges and allées — spaces of structural integrity that reveal nature’s power — are all signatures of this master.

The building’s scale and the sheer amount of glass invite a sense of being at one with nature. “I watch flocks of birds, the little foxes play in the tall grass – a world of wild life we so easily miss out on by living in regular structures with walls and smaller windows.” But to live in the Taghkanic House is to live intimately with the natural light, experiencing the shadows and tones that shift from morning to night — each day and season are an homage to life.

“The other day I was in my shower and, as I looked outside, I saw the most spectacular sunrise — unlike any I had seen before. I hopped out of the shower, grabbed my phone, ran outside stark naked in the freezing cold, snapped two pictures and ran back inside and into my warm shower!” (Laughing). That’s living on the inside out.