Windrift Hall: A Preserved Farmhouse and Creative Retreat in Coxsackie, NY
Smith Rd. | Coxsackie, NY
Susanne Frenk had been searching for a weekend home for two weeks when she discovered Windrift Hall. One evening, after hours roaming the internet for listings, she came across the property’s website. It was like stumbling upon a secret. Susanne left the laptop out for her husband with a note that read ‘This is it!’
And she was right. The Federal-style farmhouse, located in secluded Coxsackie, New York, fit all the couple’s criteria: it was a historic home, built near the water (in this case, a spring-fed pond), and had a barn on the property to accommodate an art studio. But for Susanne, a freelance creative director and her husband Jean Louis, a ceramicist and art teacher, the home appealed instinctively to their artistic sensibilities. “We love earnestness and good craftsmanship,” she says. “The house was honest and authentic. It felt right from the moment we walked in.”
Windrift Hall was faithfully preserved and updated, thanks in large part to its previous owner, an antiques dealer. They furnished the house with antiques and added modern amenities, including heated floors and Miele appliances. To offset the cost of repairs, she and her husband listed the home on Airbnb and started hosting weddings on the property. Sharing the home has brought new meaning to Windrift Hall; beyond providing a bucolic retreat, Susanne and Jean Louis see it a destination for creative enrichment. Susanne teaches yoga on the deck in front of the pond, and Jean Louis has hosted a ceramics workshop in the barn. An opera singer and pianist rented the house to rehearse, and a chef booked it as the location to shoot his cookbook. “That is my ultimate goal for our home,” says Susanne, who wants to organize a five-day yoga retreat filled with hearty meals, cocktails made with herbs from the garden, and of course, good company. “We want to share it with a community that comes together to create, learn, and make connections.”
- Location: Coxsackie, NY
5 working fireplaces
300-square foot spring-fed pond
The earliest records date Windrift Hall to 1795. Susanne speculates the name refers to the draft created when the two doors in the entry hall are opened, but she fancies it also refers to the positive flow and energy of the house. “You come here and all the troubles and silly worries that occupy the mind are wiped clean, and the fresh ideas start to circulate.”
Susanne, who admits to spending two hours a day combing auction websites, decorated Windrift Hall with a sparse but curated mix of provincial French antiques and classic Americana and Shaker furniture. Among her favorite finds: a 19th century Steinway Model A concert grand piano, and a Dutch cupboard that dates to the same decade as the house. “Everything here shows the patina of its age,” says Susanne, who takes pride in the absence of big box furniture. “You can daydream about where this cabinet or chair has been.”
Windrift Hall boasts five working fireplaces. The gilded Rococo mirror was scored at an auction at Christie’s, and offers a striking contrast to Jean Louis’s contemporary ceramic vase. “I think the house should reflect where we came from and where we are,” says Susanne. “Everything here has a history, and has become part of our history.”
The kitchen served as the chicken coop during Windrift Hall’s days as a farmhouse. Today, the space, which the Frenks left virtually unchanged, is a favorite gathering spot for their family and guests alike. The vintage rattan chairs and breakfast table were left by the previous owner.
Susanne scored Wedgwood’s “Patrician” china set at Skinner Auctions in Marlborough, Massachusetts. The dainty creamware has served many impromptu dinner parties and luncheons in the garden. Most of the décor were sourced at auction houses, including Skinner, Christie’s, and Stair Galleries in nearby Hudson.
The majority of the renovations the Frenks made to Windrift Hall were structural repairs. They also added the kinds of modern features that guests don’t immediately detect, but instantly appreciate. In the kitchen, this meant top of the line appliances. “You can stir your soup on the Viking range with a 19th century wooden spoon!”
The simplistic, symmetrical design of the house appeals to Susanne’s “sense of German order.” The wide plank floors are original. The 18th century gumwood kas cabinet was made for one of the Dutch families that originally settled in the area, likely as a dowry gift. “We don’t see ourselves necessarily as owners,” says Susanne, “but as caretakers, as preservers.”
The previous owner had painted the four bedrooms in bright hues, which Susanne and Jean Louis, to their own surprise, decided to keep. “Some things just worked out beautifully, even if it wasn’t part of our original plan.”
The Frenks repainted the bathroom on the first floor and plan to install fixtures from Lefroy Brooks. The stone cherubs are from a flea market in London, and the bèrgere is from Stair Galleries.
The yellow accent wall is fitting for the sunny second bedroom. A mid-century Harp Chair by Danish designer Jørgen Høvelskov sits comfortably beside an 18th century French secretaire and an ornate Italian giltwood mirror.
The farmhouse is located on 14 sequestered acres. “Most of the time, guests don’t leave the property,” notes Susanne. Should they decide to venture, downtown Hudson is a 20-minute drive and Hunter Mountain is 30 miles away. However, there’s no shortage of things to do in historic Coxsackie, which has remained incredibly well preserved and under the radar despite the spillover of urbanites visiting trendier Hudson and Athens. There is mini-golf and a drive-in movie theater on 9W, as well as access to the Coxsackie public tennis courts and Catskill Valley public pool. Horseback riding lessons are available at Willow Creek Farm, while design and architecture lovers can check out Bronck House (the oldest home in the Hudson Valley), and the Coxsackie Antiques Center. Finish the day with one of Tom’s Soft Serve 26 ice cream flavors.
The barn is home to Susanne and Jean Louis’s art studio, which houses a massive electric kiln. The need for a spacious (and inexpensive) studio is what originally led the couple to search for property upstate. Susanne recently got certified in horticulture to learn more about the surrounding landscape and gardens. “Plus, I needed to know why my plants were dying!”
After navigating a long, meandering driveway, guests pass through the gates to Windrift Hall and watch the landscape unfold. Flanking the farmhouse are rolling green fields, a babbling creek and a spring-fed pond. For Susanne, Windrift Hall is a source of ultimate tranquility and nourishment. “You do your sun salutations on the deck while the sun is rising. The water is spread in front of you, and sometimes deer pass through the field, and you wonder ‘Is this for real?’”