Interior Designer Marc Hammond Renovates Hudson Townhouse
Comfort zone: An interior decorator and unabashed Anglophile creates a warm, welcoming home in Hudson
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“I’m not a less-is-more person,” Marc Hammond will tell you — unnecessarily, if you happen to be standing in the richly done-up drawing room of his Hudson townhouse. These days, when mid-century modern is still a leading trend and “declutter” seems to be on the lips of every interior decorator, it’s a surprise to find one who revels — in his own home, at least — in the eclectic, elegantly cozy English country style.
Although Hammond often designs pared-down interiors, the inspiration for the townhouse was the London home of the fictional Schlegel sisters in the movie Howards End — a riot of Edwardian decoration, all knickknacks, fringed lampshades, tea trays, and furniture of various vintages. “I loved the spirit of that house, it’s so atmospheric,” says Hammond, whose own house is more restrained — but not by much. And it’s the opposite of the Florida home he grew up in.
“My mother loved decorating,” he recalls. “Her taste was very modern and she liked to move house a lot. Whenever we moved she’d get rid of everything and do all new. No sentiment... I loved going to friends’ houses and finding everything the same. I love the idea of things getting older. I’ll look at a sofa and remember people visiting, parties, and holidays.”
Timeless appeal: The owners spend most of their time in the library, where new cherry paneling looks as though it’s been there for 100 years. Bold Scalamandre paper on the ceiling and comfy furnishings help make the room inviting
Hammond and his partner, Seth Rapport, have lived in the townhouse for six years. Rapport, a mortgage broker and third-generation Hudson native, previously used it as offices for his business. When he moved his company into more modern surroundings (designed by Hammond, incidentally), the couple decided to restore the 1857 building as a residence, and live in it until the Georgian-style house that Hammond wanted to build in Austerlitz was done.
The four-story house hadn’t been a single-family dwelling since the 1950s, Hammond guesses. The fireplaces were bricked up, and most of the original millwork was missing. “No kitchen, no full baths, dropped ceilings, aluminum windows — typical commercial office décor and no architectural detail whatever,” he says.
All four floors were gutted. Hammond patterned new windows on the two remaining original ones, used still-existing baseboard on the staircase as a guide for restoring the trim, and converted the fireplaces to gas. Only seven inches deep, the fireplaces were designed to burn coal, so Hammond tracked down rare gas coal baskets at Ashleigh’s Hearth and Home in Poughkeepsie. Apart from some cabinetry and finishing details, the construction work was completed in six months — lightning speed for such a major renovation.
Every inch counts in the galley-style kitchen (left), whose white tiles and marble counters fit the period of the house. The upper cupboard doors came from an old butler’s pantry. Some of Hammond’s fine china (he calls himself “a dish and linen fanatic”) is on display in the glass-fronted cupboard in the dining room (right)
Hammond and Rapport come and go through the downstairs entrance, where there’s enough room for coats in the hallway. (Hammond’s office occupies what would have been the kitchen in the days of servants.) Visitors who climb the steps to enter through the glossy black front door find what he considers the house’s one flaw: a tiny entry.
In the drawing room, Hammond had the baseboards faux marbled to match the ornate stone mantelpiece, painted the walls Palladian Blue, and hung art with abandon. “I always wanted a home for the George Inness,” he says, pointing to the landscape painting that looks very much at home between the windows. Although the room is small, there are several seating areas, each with tables to set down a drink. The dining room in the rear is also furnished with eclectic antiques: an English mahogany table, 18th-century Venetian sconces, and a painted Chinese screen. A work by Allen Tucker, one of America’s few Post-Impressionists, hangs over a rosewood Empire sideboard.
What the tiny kitchen lacks in space, it makes up for with luxurious touches, including an Aga stove. The doors of the upper cabinets came from an old butler’s pantry; the lower ones were designed to match. White subway tiles, octagonal tiles on the floor, and Carrera marble counters are repeated in the bathrooms on the upper floors.