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A Classic Conversion

A Beacon architect transforms a 19th-century carriage house and stable into a stunning contemporary home

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Carriage HouseUpstairs in the stable wing, a floating wall with a built-in platform bed separates the sleeping and sitting areas in the master suite (see right). New Gothic arched windows were made to match the originals

When the makeover in the stable wing was complete, the couple moved into it, took a break, and then plunged into renovating the main body of the house, which involved gutting the entire space to move walls and add staircases. The spacious living room feels even bigger than it is because of the soaring skylight (which Wilkinson enlarged), but architectural details like the coffered ceiling and paneling bring it back to human scale. “There are a lot of mechanics hidden in the coffers,” says the owner. “Wiring, plumbing, and some giant steel I-beams to shore up the second floor, which was sagging.”

“It’s partly structural,” agrees Wilkinson. “But it’s also important to make ceilings mean something in that kind of space, otherwise you have a big, horrible, Sheetrocked expanse. There’s a bit of baronial castle to it.”

Carriage house

In the master bathroom (below), the open shower allows the owners to look out the window as they bathe. Walls and floors of white-gold quartzite, and Italian soapstone around the deep soaking tub, add to the relaxed spa-like feel

Carriage house

An ill-positioned staircase was replaced with two others: one leading from the dining room and another anchoring the living room. “And the oversized columns and the paneling are intended to ground the rooms,” notes Wilkinson.

A Chinese Chippendale railing around the balcony hallway was inspired, he says, “by something the owner had seen. She had a lot of ideas, and oftentimes I could take them and give them a little boost. We worked well together.” The owner also oversaw the subcontractors — and efficiently, Wilkinson reports. “I’ve helped many owners manage their own projects, and she was the most organized.”

Architect and owner both praise the work of electrician Phil Badger, who had to find ways to run wires in a solid brick building. “Phil is an electrical and mechanical genius,” declares Wilkinson. “It’s the hardest part on a house like this, with all the bells and whistles.”

Wilkinson also designed a library for the husband, a coat room and several utility rooms, including a mudroom with a low sink to wash the dogs.

When the dust settled, the wife had woodwork throughout the house painted white to set off the soft, earthy colors she chose for the walls, some of which have Venetian plaster or other faux finishes. “My husband’s from Scotland and he wanted wallpaper,” she recalls. “He said, ‘Americans are just lazy painting everything white.’ So I wallpapered the downstairs powder room and coat room, and the butler’s pantry, told him how much it cost, and he said, ‘Okay, that’s enough wallpaper.’ ”

The owner deftly mixed Arts and Crafts, Asian, and traditional furnishings, but she’s offhand about how well it goes together. “I can’t say I made a conscious style decision,” she says. “It’s basically things we like. The Arts and Crafts pieces are left over from a house we had before. The sofas and chairs used to be in different rooms. When we moved to the apartment in Hong Kong, we bought fabric in Thailand for slipcovers to coordinate everything.”

From the driveway, the stable wing (perpendicular in the floor plan) looks much as it did when it was built in the 1890s. Plans show how architect Wilkinson made clever use of the angles between the two wings of the houseCarriage house

Carriage house

The garage (top right in the drawing) was added around 1910, complete with its own car wash

Asian touches in the living room range from an altar table brought back from Hong Kong to an antique Korean tansu chest used as a coffee table (“got it at Gumps in San Francisco,” the owner remarks) and a giant Chinese mirror picked up at a local auction. “We said, it’s absolutely perfect, we need it and we’ll pay anything. It was one of the last things to be sold, and nobody wanted it, so we got it for $100,” she says with triumph. “I guess it’s too big, too red, too Chinese. We lucked out.” A giant carpet was also picked up at auction for a song.

Outside, Wilkinson designed a courtyard with a new pool between the two wings, and added a columned portico to dress up the main entrance. Still to come is a small pool pavilion, and a kitchen redo (the present awkward layout is dominated by a peculiar, grand piano-shaped island).

The original 1892 plans, stamped McKim, Mead & White, now hang in the TV room. Apart from the French doors, the portico, and a small cupola that lets light into the master bath, the building looks much as it always did — from the outside. But if the original draftsmen were to see the changes made inside, they’d likely marvel at how their modern counterpart has tucked useful rooms into the odd angles of the V-shaped dwelling, and transformed their stately 19th-century outbuilding into a comfortable and delightful 21st-century home.

Architect: Jeff Wilkinson, Jeff Wilkinson Associates, Beacon; 845-838-9763
General Contractor: Pat Kelly, Pat Kelly Construction, Rhinebeck; 845-876-3283
Electrical, Plumbing & HVAC: Phil Badger, Badger Mechanical, Inc., Staatsburg; 845-889-4464
Faux Painting: Muriel Norman Calderon, Down Under Faux, Red Hook; 845-758-1040


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