When a Westchester couple with grown children started looking for a homestead farther north in the Hudson Valley, not even a winter ice storm could deter them from viewing a particular property in Chatham that dangled possibility like a fruit tree in summer. The house, a clever bit of architectural grafting, was created by former owners who brought the property’s 18th-century saltbox to higher ground and enlarged it with a contemporary addition. Those dual architectural stories—historical and modern—intrigued the new buyers. “It’s the best of both worlds, cozy wood-paneled rooms, as well as big, open sun-filled spaces,” says the wife. “We knew immediately that it had the potential to grow along with us.” Ideas bubbling, the couple called designer Shawn Henderson, whose own historic weekender is in nearby Hillsdale.
The saltbox and its addition, done by LDa Architecture & Interiors, “blew me away,” recalls the designer, who worked with general contractor Peter Whitehead for a “light cosmetic renovation” comprised of a few interior architectural tweaks and all-new finishes. “Everything in the house was white—Shawn knew right away that we would warm things up,” says the wife. “While it has distinctly modern elements, it’s still a house in the country,” adds the husband. “Shawn had not only a sense of space but of place and the four-season views on the other side of the windows.” The designer was keenly aware of not limiting the views with heavy draperies and knew that the vistas, be they lushly green or snowy white, could also act as a harmonizing element between the old and new sections of the house.
Guests are greeted in the historic component, where Henderson designed a welcoming entry flanked by a formal lounge and a game room. (This is a family of card players.) And while the rooms have defined purposes, they are united visually by midcentury furnishings and a subdued palette with the sort of “obscure colors” that Henderson adores. Above the front rooms are two cosseting guest rooms, while behind them is an alcove that transitions the saltbox into the addition’s rear great room and adjacent primary bedroom suite. Henderson kept the great room’s kitchen and dining spaces neutral, further relaxing them with natural woods, but he amped up the palette at the living room end, bringing in a Swedish kilim-style rug woven in pale blues and mustard yellows. “It hits all the right notes,” he says, adding that he chose the plaid upholstery for the side chairs for “a little American country.” The surprise, perhaps even for Henderson, was the yellow sofa. “This is probably the first bright yellow sofa I’ve done, but I’ve done quite a few since! Yellow is a beautiful color to be surrounded by.” Meanwhile, in the couple’s bedroom, a contemporary four-poster “adds structure and architecture,” says Henderson, but it’s also a subtle nod to the past.
Henderson’s clever mix of old and new has become something of a hallmark and throughout this home, vintage Scandinavian silhouettes sit comfortably with much earlier American pieces. (A barley-twist table here, a bobbin-turned chair there.) To insert too many antiques would have been “too specific, too trite, too ordinary,” says the designer. Instead, rooms are layered and textural, clean and simple, contemporary and subtly colored. And repeated motifs, like plaids and natural fibers (woven wallcoverings, window shades and even table lamps, for example), knit the home’s two architectural styles together in a nuanced way.
With the interiors complete, the homeowners turned their attention outside, bringing on landscape architect Diane Devore to revive the setting and fellow farm-owner and architect Oliver Cope, who designed the new pool house, which was built by Whitehead and furnished by Henderson. “It’s a contemporary barn in shape and a more durable extension of the main house with a hang-out space, kitchenette and changing room,” says Henderson. And true to the homeowners’ vision of “growing” the house for friends and family, the designer is currently transforming the property’s original barn into a guest house. “I’ve been able to put my stamp on this home that, in theory, will keep living on, and that’s super satisfying,” he says. “To have a historic home and expand on it; to make your own history in it—that’s fun!”