Rivertown Guest House: An Italianate Victorian Escape in Hudson, NY
244 Allen St | Hudson, NY
It is not uncommon to hear the city of Hudson referred to as “Upstate’s Downtown,” an accurate moniker when you consider the vast and still-growing number of touted restaurants, bars, shops, and stylish places to stay. For the first few years of Hudson’s boom, its epicenter seemed to be concentrated on Warren Street, but inevitably, due to unprecedented growth, the action has since expanded outward to some of the quieter, neighboring blocks. Over on Allen Street sits a prime example of the shift at its best: Brigitte Gfeller’s Rivertown Guest House, a Victorian Italianate two-apartment home perfect for traveling Hudson Valley visitors.
“I chose to live in Hudson because I fell in love with the creative community, but also with the surrounding soft hills of Columbia County,” says Brigitte, a Switzerland native who has lived all over the world, building and fixing up all types of homes, and along the way, has cultivated a very distinctive aesthetic. In 2014, it all came together with Rivertown Guest House, an award-winning renovation that took a few skilled contractors and some vital encouragement and advice from her daughter and son-in-law, who together co-own the Brooklyn- and Charleston-based design firm Workstead.
Today, Rivertown Guest House is Brigitte’s permanent residence, as well as a temporary home in the truest sense for anyone lucky enough to stay. Upon entering, the interior feels simultaneously contemporary and faithful to its 19th-century roots with cool gray walls marrying with sparse but gorgeous farmhouse furniture, industrial modern fixtures, sun-soaked plants, and masterful craftsmanship at every turn, such as original mantels, wood trim, and wainscoting. Behind the home, an expansive yard and garden conjures up a more rural setting, perhaps the open farmland of which Brigitte speaks so fondly, or those soft hills that are just a couple miles away. Above all, Brigitte has set out to create a space that “reflected my own personality — it had to be feminine yet strong, peaceful and healthy, as well as functional and practical.”
- Location: Hudson, NY
Apt. No. 1, Parlor Floor
1 Twin-sized Sofa Bed
Whole House Water Filtration System
Apt. No. 2, Second Level
Whole House Water Filtration System
Brigitte has lived all over the world, from Switzerland to Venezuela to many parts of America, including Colorado, New Jersey, and almost everywhere in between. But living in Westchester, just outside of New York City, gave her a taste of the Hudson Valley and clarity on what she was looking for: a walkable town that offered both more and less than a true metropolis. In 2011, her daughter got married in nearby Ancramdale, and Brigitte immediately fell in love with the city of Hudson.
On the parlor floor is Apartment 1, Brigitte’s personal residence that is available to guests when she is off traveling. The space is equal parts regal, warm and Swiss-cozy with many design pieces sourced directly from Workstead. “In winter, I love to sit in front of my Morsø wood stove in the living room, or take a hot bath in the soaking tub,” says Brigitte. “I also enjoy cooking in the farmhouse-style kitchen or serving dinner in my dining room.”
Throughout both apartments, Brigitte wanted to ensure an environment conducive to overall health and wellness. It was crucial to her that materials used be organic whenever possible (such as a waxed floor instead of polyurethane) and clutter be avoided at all costs. She also openly admits to cleaning the guest house almost obsessively, saying it’s part of her undeniable Swiss upbringing.
Brigitte worked with local perfumery 2 Note to stock all-natural soaps and more throughout both apartments. Guests will find organic shea butter-infused hand wash in the kitchen, shower gel made with organic oils of coconut, olive and jojoba in the bathroom, and organic bug spray at the ready during summer.
For sourcing at an even more hyperlocal level, Brigitte didn’t have to look further than her own backyard. The expansive garden is her summertime haven, overflowing with lush greenery, the likes of which are truly rare in Hudson.
The garden also plays host to all manner of get-togethers, from small events and casual glasses of wine, to barbecues and simple meet-and-greets among guests and locals.
“I wanted to create the same feeling of tranquility and health as in my apartment,” says Brigitte, referring to Apartment 2, “so the same effort went into choosing good quality natural, organic materials, and soothing colors; I love to provide a peaceful place for my guests.”
Whereas Brigitte’s Apartment 1 is modern with a hint of 1800s originality, Apartment 2 is the ultimate vintage charmer — but not without its modern touches.
Naturally, the queen bed in the master comes complete with organic cotton linens, including organic goose down pillows and organic duvets.
Apartment 2 boasts adorable — or, depending on the guests’ ages, adult-functional — bunk beds. There’s also a sleeper sofa to bring up the maximum number of guests to six.
As with Brigitte’s own apartment, nooks abound in Apartment 2, a reminder of the original layout. Today, this one is a masterfully and minimally designed workspace overlooking the garden; in the 1800s, it could have slept two.
Much of Apartment 2 is a throwback to the Rivertown Guest House’s origins, but the bathroom is brand-new with an inviting marble-framed tub similar to the one in Brigitte’s apartment — plus, so much natural light that you’ll be tempted to spend an entire winter’s day here just soaking and relaxing.
Neutral tones were chosen throughout both apartments: grays, off-whites and all varieties thereof. Brigitte purposely let the sparsely laid-out furniture and natural greenery provide most of the color.
Rivertown Guest House is centrally located within Hudson, just two blocks south of Warren Street shops and restaurants. It is a five-minute walk from the train station, which is only a two-hour ride from Grand Central. For those with cars, Germantown and Rhinebeck are both short drives away, as are the Catskills. Within walking distance, there is no shortage of places to eat and shop: Moto Coffee offers a delectable blend of coffee and motorcycle culture; Rivertown Lodge (no relation!) is a must for dinner and brunch; BackBar satiates the casual drinker-snacker; Grazin’ Diner is a low-key burger-’n’-more staple; and Talbott & Arding is a cheese and provisions shop that does everything else right, too. Pretty much everywhere you turn on Warren Street, you’ll bump into a new, buzzed-about hotspot, and it’s genuinely difficult to go wrong with any of them. The shopping is equally bountiful with enough high-end vintage furniture, antiques, housewares, and one-of-a-kind boutiques to furnish a dream home like Rivertown. You’ll want to check out the schedule of events at Basilica Hudson, an arts and performance venue located right on the Hudson waterfront, and carve out time for exploring Olana, the home, studio and designed landscape of Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church, located less than 10 minutes outside of Hudson.
BackBar, Grazin’ Diner, Moto Coffee, Rivertown Lodge, Talbott & Arding
2 Note Perfumery, Hawkins NY, Red Chair, Antique Warehouse Center
Olana, Basilica Hudson, Hudson-Athens Lighthouse