History Finds a Contemporary Foothold in a New Paltz Farmhouse

For Agnes Devereux, to live in a historic home is to be endowed with a certain responsibility, one that she gladly takes on with her early 19th century New Paltz farmhouse. “I feel that we’re just the caretakers of this house for this moment in time, and one day somebody else will probably live here. And we just hope that they’ll love it as much as we do.” It’s that notion that she is part of something larger than herself that has driven Agnes to take such loving care with the home’s design; and it’s that same respect for the past that stokes the graceful warmth radiating from every inch of this Upstate sanctuary.

The home, which shares a lot in the center of town with Agnes’ acclaimed restaurant, The Village TeaRoom, was originally built by Daniel Relyea in 1830 and purchased by John Vanderlyn in the late 1800s. Because of Vanderlyn’s prominent public role as Ulster County District Attorney, any work he did on the farmhouse was noted in the local paper, resulting in a well-documented paper trail of the home’s evolution. And for Agnes, being a part of that evolution was as much about highlighting the home’s past as it was about incorporating hers. From English wallpaper, to the “imperfect and speckled” glass of the kitchen cabinets, to the commanding AGA stove reminiscent of her childhood in Ireland, each aspect was carefully maintained, restored, or added. “I wanted to have the feeling in the house that I wasn’t trying to make it modern,” said Agnes. “I wanted it to feel like an elegant Irish farmhouse.”

Inspired by both her upbringing in the pastoral Irish village of Clogheen and a visit to Katharine Hepburn’s “a little worn, but lovely” New York City apartment years ago, she created an elegant and, most importantly, a comfortable family home. “When we sit by the fire at nighttime, we think we’re part of this whole continuum of people cozying up to a fire on a winter’s night.” And it’s these winter nights, and all the winter nights for the caretakers to come, that make it all worthwhile.

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  “Adding a fireplace to the living room was one of the best decisions we made. It’s the best place to be on a snowy upstate evening.”

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  “The dining room is the oldest room in the house with the most modern feeling! It’s a square room (an unusual proportion) with a wide deep west facing window for lots of diffuse light.”

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  “We gutted the kitchen and rebuilt it to look like it might have been original to the house. The vintage wide board flooring, the Aga stove and the painted cabinetry lend a country kitchen feeling.”

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  “We have lots of art. This one I bought at a storage facility sale. We move the art around now and then to get a new perspective.”

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  “The kitchen design was built around my beloved AGA stove. It warms the kitchen and it roasts, bakes and stews beautifully. It eliminates the need for a toaster (AGA toast is fantastic) a toaster oven or a microwave. It’s also very handsome.”

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  “Our study was once the law office of John Vanderlyn, DA of Ulster County in the 1800s. I painted this room a deep raspberry color and filled it with bookcases that I found in High Falls.”

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  “The framed photo is of my daughter Elizabeth, when she was 3 years old, perfecting a Dickensian attitude next to the baked goods at the restaurant. It was taken by Jerry Novesky of Valley Table Magazine. We use these curtains to close off the living room from the entry on cold nights.”

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  “I love wallpaper and this pattern from Zoffany is one of my favorites. The headboard was created with Kravet fabric that looks like strips of fabric sewn together, the bolster and bed skirt are Nancy Corzine silk damask and the blanket is organic cotton from Target.”

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  “This chest is part of a suite of three pieces of bedroom furniture we bought on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn when we lived in a loft in the ExLax building.”

New Paltz home tour, upstate NY. andnorth.com

  “I chose un-glazed hexagonal tiles for the bathroom floor so they would scuff and look original to the house. The claw foot bathtub is a reproduction in a lightweight material. The wall tiles are off-white hand – finished subway tile that have an appealing uneven surface.”

1 comment

  1. So elegant, I love this house!

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