A centuries-old farmhouse gets a sophisticated update from its design-savvy owners.
This creative couple brought city sophistication to the renovation of a rambling, centuries-old farmhouse in upstate New York.
This page In the dining area, painted in Farrow & Ball ‘Card Room Green’, is a wall-mounted console designed and made by Hollymount. On top sits a Maison Martin Margiela bottle lamp, and a vintage ‘Mushroom’ sculpture from Antwerp. The artwork hanging above is by Marina Abramovic. Vintage chairs, upholstered in a Paul Smith plaid, surround a custom table by Hollymount. Silk rug is from ABC Carpet & Home. Opposite page The farmhouse dates from 1827 and sits in a vast expanse of woodland. Its generous proportions are ideal for the couple, their three-year-old son, and their golden retrievers.
This page The console table and the round mirror in the hallway were found at a local antiques store. ‘J Arm’ wall lights from PW Vintage Lighting. The two stone corbels are vintage pieces sourced from City Salvage. Tumbled marble ooring from Albany Marble. Opposite page A custom sofa by Hollymount sits on a striped wool dhurrie from ABC Carpet & Home. Vintage coee table from Liza Sherman Antiques. The wingback armchair is vintage, the slipper chair was found at the Marché Aux Puces. Sheepskin throw is from Toast. The custom faux bois bench was designed by Michael Fogg. Artwork by Damien Hirst. Jean Prouvé ‘Potence’ wall lamp.
Even for experienced designers Dale Saylor and Joe Williamson the prospect of restoring and updating a crumbling ve-bedroom farmhouse was daunting. They shared the dream of a country escape as an alternative to their life and apartment in Manhattan, but the notion of a major house rescue project seemed like a tough way to begin. Fortunately, they were offered the perfect dress rehearsal in the form of a modest period home in the picturesque hamlet of North Chatham, not far from their current home. It offered the perfect introduction to rural living, with little more than a cosmetic update and decoration required. Just a few years later the pair felt ready to tackle the farmhouse.
“We saw the farmhouse at the very beginning, when we rst started looking for a country place,” says Dale, who runs a design studio with Joe. “But it was a wreck – a falling-down disaster – and we knew we were not up to a project of that size at the time. Now we have an of ce in Chatham and we split our time more equally between town and country than you might with a traditional weekender.”
The house was built in 1827 – the date found carved on a timber beam – and, in its heyday, sat in 200 hectares of woodland and pasture. But over the years, its star began to wane. There were two foreclosures and most of the farmland was sold off. The property fell into a 20-year decline and sat empty for two years before Dale and Joe eventually took it on in 2009.
Around the same time, the pair established their design practice, Hollymount, working on projects from retail to residential, and drawing on Dale’s long experience with interior design for fashion houses such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Burberry, as well as Joe’s talents as a fashion stylist and designer. The farmhouse was one of Hollymount’s rst substantial challenges.
“A lot of local people were thankful that someone had bought the house at last, because it does sit prominently and had fallen into such a terrible state,” says Dale. “It was a mess and there wasn’t even a proper kitchen. We had to take the house down to the bare studs.”
Nothing much had been done since the 1930s and many original features had been lost, including the replaces. Floor joists had to be replaced in parts and one facade had to be jacked off the foundations for repairs. New services were needed throughout, including fresh electrics and plumbing. Some of the oorboards had been damaged by beetles and needed replacing, but the owners kept what they could, including some timber oors, skirting boards and windows.
“We tried whenever possible to keep anything that was original to the house,” says Joe. “We were really glad to have the experience of our rst country house behind us because it was a big undertaking. We are not purists but we have a reverence for historical preservation and architectural heritage. As much as we wanted to create a home, it was also about having the privilege of renovating this beautiful 180-year-old house.”
This page, clockwise from top Under the windows in the living room is a vintage bench bought from a local antiques store. Twin standing lamps are from Joe’s family collection, and are topped with pleated shades by Hollymount. Custom faux bois bench designed by Michael Fogg in front of the replace. Dhurrie rug from ABC Carpet & Home. In the entrance is a vintage table sourced locally. Glass dome by Maison Martin Margiela. Opposite page The kitchen units by Hollymount are painted in Farrow & Ball ‘Old White’. Yellow stools from C&H Distributors in a custom colour by Hollymount. Lights are vintage bee skeps. Plant stand in brass and painted canvas is by Hollymount.
Paint colours were carefully considered and a soothing palette was chosen, though every now and then there is a bolder choice, such as the ‘Card Room Green’ in the dining room and the ‘Off Black’ on the bookcases and window seat in the library, with its striking black and white tiled oor and French windows. “The colour choice was inspired by a Twinings tea bag – a dusty charcoal with an ivory trim and so pretty. We loved the idea of a black room,” says Joe.
The mix of furniture is truly eclectic, with traditional period pieces, contemporary elements and more rustic, organic touches, such as the plank and branch bench by Michael Fogg in the sitting room or the custom ceiling lights in the kitchen made with vintage wicker bee hives. There is an emphasis on texture throughout and also a number of bespoke elements designed by Hollymount.
The couple share the house with their three-year-old son Henry and their golden retrievers, and the challenge presented by the farmhouse has certainly been met and rewarded. “A lot of New Yorkers have this dream of a place in the country,” says Joe. “It gives us a great balance between the energy and frenetic pace of New York and then being able to decompress for a few days a week. We focused on how we wanted to live up here, but we also wanted what was right for the house. We wanted to take care of it.”
“We focused on how we wanted to live up here but we also wanted what was right for the house.”
» A designing couple, Dale Saylor and Joe Williamson, bought an 1827 farmhouse in upstate New York as an antidote to their frenetic paced lives in Manhattan. » Initially daunted by its derelict state the pair rst renovated a nearby house which set them in good stead for the mammoth task ahead. » Structural repair was required but the owners tried to preserve as many details of the original building as possible. » They opted for a neutral palette with a few pops of colour for interest, such as the black library and green dining room. » Furniture is an eclectic mix of traditional pieces, bespoke designs by their rm Hollymount and contemporary elements, with texture always front of mind.
This page, clockwise from top The bed in the guest bedroom was made from reclaimed posts from the house. Vintage tobacco sorting basket above bed came from a local antiques store. Bedside ‘Slice’ storage shelves from CB2 with Brendan Ravenhill ‘Cord’ sconces above. Vintage chest of drawers painted in ‘Delft Blue’. Wooden bench outside the bathroom was acquired at the Brimeld Antique Show. Botanical prints from The Temple of Flora book. Master bedroom headboard is in a Hella Jongerius for Maharam fabric with leather trim. ‘Companions’ bedside tables by Studioilse with Bestlite table lamps. Restoration Hardware rug. Vintage artwork from Brussels. Opposite page An old barn on the property currently stores wood, but one day the owners hope to turn it into guest accommodation. They landscaped the area and added a pond.