Hudson Valley Home 2011: 18th-Century Stone Ridge Stone House
A Stone Ridge couple polishes an 18th-century gem
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The mudroom addition features a heated floor; the reproduction early American light fixtures were made in nearby Hurley
The master bathroom was one area where Julia and Stephen’s wish list — including twin sinks, a steam shower, and a deep tub — wasn’t easy to achieve. Moving a door helped free up space for a new layout. The final solution, recalls Alexander, involved bringing the shower and tub into a glass enclosure, and experimenting with different angles and seating arrangements. Stephen was happy to give up some of his own prep space in exchange for a soaking tub.
To create a comfortable master bedroom, a wall was eliminated to combine two small rooms. Space was claimed from an adjoining bedroom, so a walk-in closet could be constructed.
The removal of two dormers — one located at the top of the staircase and the other in the master bathroom — added headroom in both the bath and the adjoining bedroom, says Alexander. The dormers were replaced with a single shed dormer, which extends into the master bedroom. The new dormer, with a shallow, single roof pitch, allows light to flood into the rooms.
As work progressed, more of the house’s history was revealed. Workmen resetting the bluestone hearth in the living room uncovered a 1787 Connecticut penny. “It seemed to have been placed there for good luck,” says Stephen. Rafters in the dining room ceiling showed that the room had originally been three rooms, including a “birthing and dying” room. Recently, Stephen says, some hikers stopped by to say that their grandmother had been born in the house.
An exterior view of the house shows the added portico
Enlarging the footprint of the home, Julia and Stephen added a mudroom, which includes a heated stone floor. Reproductions of early American light fixtures, hand-crafted by Hurley Patentee Lighting in Hurley, are a nod to the house’s history. Bluestone unearthed during the excavation for the addition was used to fashion window sills elsewhere in the house. Workman flamed the edges of the stone with a torch to make it look old, rather than freshly cut.
The couple also added a portico. “We thought the front of the house looked a little plain,” Julia explains, adding that they also wanted to shelter arriving visitors from inclement weather.
The formal dining room (above) showcases the house’s wood floors, which were painstakingly removed and restored; the living room (below) is furnished with antiques; the table was purchased from Asher House Antiques in Rhinebeck
To build an adequate foundation for the portico, it was necessary to temporarily move a huge piece of bluestone. Not wanting to risk damaging the bluestone by using a backhoe, the workers used straps, levers, and rollers to move it. “It was a nice reminder of how spoiled we are as builders these days, although at times I really would have appreciated a horse or mule!” Alexander laughs.
Architectural purists would likely take issue with the decision to alter the home’s façade, Sanchez admits. But he is quick to point out that the home has undergone a number of changes over the years, from the addition of a study and bedroom in the 19th century to the relocation of the home’s staircase, thought to have occurred in the 1960s.
But Stephen and Julia showed their appreciation for the building’s historic character on more than one occasion. In the office, musty red paneling was stripped away to reveal the original stonework. The rock was wire-brushed, the mortar cleaned, and glass shelving installed and lit from above to showcase as much of the stone as possible.
The pair also went to extraordinary lengths to rescue original wood flooring, which had been damaged from centuries of use. Though it would have been significantly cheaper and easier to simply replace the floorboards, the couple instead decided to have them removed and restored. “It was quite a process to remove the boards without reducing them to splinters,” recalls Alexander. Before the boards could be shipped off to Ghent Wood Products in Columbia County for refurbishing, each one had to be painstakingly examined with a metal detector. (The workers had been warned that even a single speck of rust from an old rail could seriously damage the company’s planing machine.)
Throughout the house, Sanchez designed furniture and accessories to suit his clients’ tastes and needs. Swiveling bar stools and chairs allow guests to easily converse with anyone toiling away in the kitchen. The sunroom’s huge steel-and-glass light fixtures were created by a California firm to Sanchez’s specifications. He also used some of the couple’s favorite possessions, including an antique bookcase they picked up in London, and Julia’s collection of blue and white porcelain plates.
Below, built-in “secret” compartments give young Ben a place to hide his toys
An ornamental vent is part of the home’s new heating/air conditioning system
Sanchez incorporated punches of color, including a persimmon-hued living room sofa, into the home’s décor. “The object of the color scheme,” he notes, “is to be warm and comfortable, not monochromatic.”
Stephen and Julia, who wanted their son to share in the adventure of the house, created secret chambers — involving false panels, magnetic keys and the like — for Ben to discover as he grows up. “All over the house, there are hidden cubbies where he can hide his toys and treasures,” says Julia.
Living in an old house does have its down side, of course. Julia says she has to vacuum frequently because the mortared walls generate dust. Stephen notes that there are drafts around some of the old doors and windows, and that he and his wife have to be vigilant about keeping ice from forming on the house’s stone exterior to prevent water from seeping in through the porous walls. “There are definitely drawbacks to living in an old house,” asserts Stephen, “but they are small compared to the joy we have from living here.”