Designer James Huniford has always found beauty in forgotten objects, often deploying them to flavor his interiors. For this home in upstate New York, he turned the hood of an old car (rusted to a Richard Serra red) into one artwork and a portion of a farm conveyor belt into another. He made a pair of lamps from bottles (a dorm room move made elegant in the designer’s rendition) and another pair from vintage weights made to stabilize buoys.
The home itself offered no forgotten objects to repurpose. Recently built, it presented no plaster to hammer through to find old beams worth exposing; no patinated building materials to rely on for charm. He had to create those elements himself, which he did in part by covering a wall of the living-dining room in salvaged barnwood from Vermont. Its rich mix of grays and browns sets the softly rustic tone his clients wanted for their weekend getaway.
Huniford first met the clients, a young couple, when they were thinking of buying a house in the Hamptons and asked him for advice. Although they ultimately decided against that purchase, they loved Huniford’s aesthetic, responding most enthusiastically to some of his more rugged, outdoorsy projects. A few years later, when the couple bought a place a few hours north of New York City, they phoned again, this time asking him to transform their new white box condo into a place that reflected the region’s rural heritage. Huniford, himself the product of an upstate New York childhood, was ready.
The home has an open plan that keeps things casual and makes the spectacular hilltop setting visible from almost every vantage point. Huniford emphasized that flow—except in the foyer, which he decided to treat as a distinct room and defined place of arrival. The designer started with a wooden table sheathed in a welcoming blue velvet that “softens things up a bit when you walk in,” he notes. Flanking the table are a pair of Spanish vellum-covered chairs that fold into stools and above the table is the salvaged auto hood. (Asked what kind of car, the designer says, “I hope a Ford.”)
The foyer leads into a living-dining space, where reclaimed wood paneling makes a strong impression without overshadowing the details. There, a dining table nestles into a corner formed from the side of the open kitchen, joined by a long settee covered in printed linen. Above the settee is an old propeller, which Ford had mounted so that it would spin right on the wall. (“I love things that move and reward curiosity,” says the father of two.) Across from the table is a niche containing a French cupboard joined by two additional dining chairs of Huniford’s design and the “art” on the wall is the old agricultural conveyor belt.
To lend a similar unexpectedness to the adjacent living area, the designer arranged four paintings by the artist Hunt Slonem along the reclaimed wood wall in an asymmetrical format. “I didn’t want any one picture to be too important, or to compete with the view,” he says. “This was a way to break it down.” Grounded by the neutral tones of that antique chestnut paneling, Huniford, in a signature stroke, let textures do most of the talking. The round rug is composed of pieces of vintage kilims, the daybed is upholstered in cowhide, the coffee table is wrapped in leather with decorative stitching and the side tables have slate bases and tops.
A medley of textures extends to the carefully planned covered terrace—framed by rolling hills and forest—where Huniford had a classic wicker dining table cut down to coffee table height and a set of Russell Woodard 1950s garden chairs powder-coated so that they’re durable outside year-round. Meanwhile, it was important that the sofa cushions be blue, drawing the eye all the way from the console table in the foyer to the outdoors.
That’s the designer’s goal: allowing for the eye to take in an entire scene with stops at unusual pieces along the way. Some of these objets, Huniford says, “might have looked out of place on a storyboard but make sense when you see them here.” Joined by luxurious fabrics and contemporary comforts, the mix is suited to a quiet—but never boring— weekend in the country.