Discover This Transformed Hudson Valley Victorian


In 2013, David Ren emailed Workstead “for a little bit of decorating help” shortly after the New York–based finance professional had bought into a sunny yet anodyne condo conversion in Chelsea. Having noticed the firm’s projects in various publications, Ren was impressed by Workstead’s ability to create unfussy and evocative spaces in spite of existing buildings’ constraints. He tapped the design studio, whose first monograph will be published by Rizzoli in September, to infuse his new home with personality he felt unsure of conjuring on his own. “I would say David is very confident and caring about how he wants to live,” counters Workstead cofounder Robert Highsmith. “In some ways, he’s a step ahead of us.”

A century-old sycamore shades the Eastlake Victorian mansion, whose renovation and expansion was completed by Workstead

Matthew Williams

In the formal dining room, an Isamu Noguchi pendant presides over the Guillerme & Chambron table and chairs. Charles Dudouyt sideboard; Marthe Armitage wallpaper.

Matthew Williams

The instant mutual admiration has turned into an ongoing collaboration. After completing the Chelsea residence—inspired by neighborhood galleries’ exhibitions, it was conceived as a group show of furnishings by Workstead and eight of its peers—the studio began modernizing an 1850s Charleston town house that would become Ren’s weekend destination and earn wide acclaim for its reinterpretation of historic vernacular. And in late 2016, as they were wrapping up the South Carolina project, Ren asked Highsmith and partners Stefanie Brechbuehler and Ryan Mahoney to stay on yet again. For this third go-round, he had set his sights on a derelict 19th-century mansion in New York’s Hudson Valley.

In the living room, a pair of De Sede sofas are centered on a Nathan Lindberg cocktail table with a Workstead chandelier hanging overhead. RH rug; Gino Russo dining Chairs (at rear).

Matthew Williams

Although the homeowner requested assurances that the foreclosed property was indeed salvageable—it had only one bathroom at the time—he told Workstead relatively little, in turn, about how to revive the Eastlake Victorian into a rural retreat for a rotating cast of guests. “The brief was to save this grand historical home that had fallen into disrepair but also to create big open spaces where I could have a lot of family and extended family around,” he remembers, adding of the designers, “You can’t take on something like this, unless you have confidence in the people who can help you.”

While the main house had withstood neglect and even animal hoarding, a humble 19th-century kitchen structure tacked to the rear had not fared nearly as well. In its place, Workstead conceived a two-story, 2,000-square-foot pavilion that both reveres and differentiates itself from the past. The new volume features the same clapboard as its predecessor, but its coal-colored finish provides maximum contrast to the ivory façade in front. The pavilion also is sized to be hidden from the roadside view, though at night, interior illumination fills the expansive windows with a beacon-like glow. Instead of replicating the angles of yore, Highsmith rounded the corners. Of the various design decisions, the designer notes, “Our work is foundationally rooted in context, and 
the pavilion commission gave us a platform to stretch.”

In the front parlor, Luigi Caccia Dominioni chairs reupholstered in green mohair gather around a Harvey Probber games table.

Matthew Williams

Rejuvenation counter stools tuck into the custom cherry-and-granite island, which also features a custom pot rack, Dornbracht fittings, and a Miele dishwasher. Signature Kitchen Suite Range; LePage Millwork casement windows.

Matthew Williams

If the exterior of the Workstead-designed pavilion represents a dialogue with history, then the interior exemplifies the modern family living the client had in mind. The ground floor is organized around a hand-plastered core. Where a fireplace punctuates one face of the core, Workstead created a seating vignette in which a pair of patchwork-leather de Sede DS88 sofas flank a quietly whimsical Nathan Lindberg cocktail table underneath one of Workstead’s own Orbit chandeliers. Opposite the living area, Signature Kitchen Suite refrigeration integrated within the core serves a broad kitchen finished in granite-topped custom cherry cabinets. These lounge and cooking areas flow seamlessly into one another via dining and anteroom spaces, or onto a deck that melds into five acres of tributary-threaded grounds, which look out onto surrounding farmland.

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