This Designer Gave Her Hudson Valley Home an 18th-Century Feel
How a Brooklyn-based designer made her new Hudson Valley home feel quirky, charming — and old.
One side of the living room leads into the kitchen, while the other side leads out to one of the outdoor living rooms the couple created.
Photos by Ellen McDermott
When designer Kathryn Scott first set eyes on this 2000 sq ft house situated on a hilltop in Dutchess County back in 2004, she knew it was the perfect fit as a second home for herself and her husband, contemporary artist Wenda Gu. The home had the look of a turn-of-the-century carriage house, but was actually just two years old.
Scott — whose business, Kathryn Scott Design Studio, is based in Brooklyn — had always wanted to live in a 17th- or 18th-century historic house, but her husband wanted a newer home because it required less maintenance. “I have always loved old houses,” qualifies Scott. “This has qualities of an old house without the intense repair. Instead of fixing an old house, we were trying to recreate one.”
When they moved in, they wanted to give their new home more charm and character to match the carriage house it was built to look like. “The house wasn’t particularly modern nor historical in style,” explains Scott. “It was filled with miscellaneous things, as second homes often are. Details bother me as well as inspire me. I am constantly thinking about the interior and how it could be better.”
Bringing the New and Old Together
Finding an older home in a desirable location — with the right setting, size, style, price, and condition — is challenging, says Scott: “So the next best thing is to reconstruct it.” And this home seemed to check all of the right boxes.
The master bathroom’s design and amenities are modern; but a rustic charm weaves through it, thanks to the use of distressed wood.
“I love its shape,” says Scott. “I love the coziness of the layout, yet how all the rooms feel generous. The most important thing to us was to bring out all the elegant features, while creating a place we could enjoy.”
To give the house an older look, she upgraded the hardware to a more authentic quality, added older light fixtures or reproductions of such, closed up cabinetry with beadboard doors, added more beadboard in the bathroom, and changed the mirrors.
“Everything is custom,” says Scott. “I personally love this because it maintains an antique character. I don’t like ‘mass-produced’-looking items. The downside, of course, is that custom is expensive.”
To complement the home's tailor-made character, Scott and Gu pulled together an assortment of furnishings collected from all over the world and different eras .
“The interior is totally mixed,” says Scott. “We have a lot of Chinese antiques and reproductions because my husband bought a container of furnishings long ago on a trip to China. It was tough to make sense of them all when they arrived. He couldn’t remember what he bought.”
Scott and Gu sourced many of the other pieces from antique shows and dealers in Hudson. This search for intriguing items was part of the fun.
The kitchen, although updated, has the look and feel of something much older than it is as well. “[It is] a recreation of an old kitchen,” says Scott. “In some ways, the double row of counters with appliances mixed in gives it away as new. Had I designed it from scratch, I would have had a little less built-in cabinetry and more inserts of separate furnishings; this was not a practical change to make, though.”
Although the kitchen is new, Kathryn Scott added charming, older details throughout, including the oven. She also added beadboard to open shelves, and new hardware was chosen to look more antiqued.
Her favorite part of this project was the process. “Seeing visions arise for the changes we make along the way,” says Scott. And when it comes to her clients, she uses their preferences to guide the designs.
“I go both ways — whatever they want, I’m happy to do. I currently have a project on a historic home, a client who wants contemporary designs, and another in between. The fun of design is that every project is different, so it never seems stale or boring.”
And there is still plenty to do in her own home to carry even more character throughout the house. “I’m sure any additional work we decide to do will be to make the house itself feel more quirky and historic,” says Scott, rattling off a list of ideas such as adding working shutters and handmade wrought-iron stair handrails. “I think it is never done — it evolves with us. It’s following a dream.”
The clean and simple lines of this canopy bed create a perfect juxtaposition with the distressed wood and antique light fixtures.
Tips for Adding Charm to a New Home
Any home — new or old — can have character; you just need to know how to add it. Here, designer Kathryn Scott shares her best tips for doing just that.
1. Pay attention to detail.
2. Incorporate vintage items whenever possible.
3. Don’t forget about the exterior. When Scott bought her house, “There was no landscaping,” she says. “We added a stone wall and steps, put in some historical copper post lamps, changed the fence, and added an outdoor living room.”
4. Use custom when you can. It may cost more, but it is worth it.
5. Try to keep your choices as authentic as possible.
6. You can have new, modern amenities that feel older. The kitchen in this home is a perfect example of this.
7. You can always add more details over time. “I think [the design process] is never done, it evolves with us,” says Scott.
Shopping with Scott
“I love all the shops on Warren Street in Hudson,” Scott proclaims. Here are some of her favorites:
Wainscoting and unique trim were added throughout to give the carriage house more of an authentic feel.
Vincent Mulford Antiques
417-419 Warren St
316 Warren St
Red Chair on Warren
606 Warren St
Arenskjold Antiques art
605 Warren St
556 Warren St
536 Warren St
310 Warren St
“There are many more,” says Scott. “Going store to store is like a treasure hunt. You never know what you will find and where.”
The home was built in 2002, but looks very much like a carraige house built at the turn of the century.