We love a good home for a reason: There’s little more to satisfying than Transformational home renovation. Perhaps that’s the beauty of the event involved – we can see all parts of the process, from start to finish. Or maybe this is the fulfillment of someone’s artistic dreams, bringing sketches and renderings into the physical world. Whatever the cuteness, this love of before and after is nurtured in our culture (there’s a reason frantic house-cleaning montages are a mainstay in almost every rom-com). And while I’ve loved a lot of the changes, Upstate Down’s latest Hudson Valley project has to be my favorite.
North Down State Based in New York state’s scenic Hudson Valley, it combines an interior design brokerage with a home goods store curated in the form of UD Studio, where visitors can browse the brand’s thoughtful decor in person. Co-founders Delyse and Jon Berry inform the company of complementary backgrounds — she works in rental management and serves as a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley. With their dream of owning a comprehensive real estate and lifestyle brand, the duo pooled their expertise, and in 2021, Upstate Down was born.
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Upstate Down shares a 1970s home renovation
When I say you won’t believe this before and after – believe it. Often, the challenge of renovating a home that was built hundreds of years ago is that there is history and character that needs to be preserved. But the best designers know: It’s those stories woven into the details that are worth highlighting.
I sat down with Delyse and Jon to reflect on their latest project: the complete renovation of a great project 1770s home in Fall Kill, New York. Below, they talk about the home’s original architecture, the possibilities of the space, and how they bridged the beauty of the past and present. Let’s dive in — I guarantee you’ll want to add these pictures to your “dream home” Pinterest board.
What initially drew you to this property and inspired the project?
When I first saw the house, I described it as having charm. The original charm was covered in layers from the 60’s and 90’s but the energy was special. I also loved how quiet the property was. Houses of this era are often built on roads that have become major thoroughfares over the years, but this house was still in a peaceful environment.
The house was dying when we bought it and we felt very honored to be the hosts helping to give it new life.
This home has such presence. He took us through some of the unique elements of the original architecture.
When we finally sealed up the house (which took six months), the pipes burst which meant the house needed more remodeling than we thought. We had no idea what was behind the walls, but when we started to take things apart we were thrilled to find the original floors, hand-hewn beams, hand-blown glass windows, original siding, and even the initials in the wall of the person who built it. Every inch of these results needed to be restored but they were so worth it. The house was dying when we bought it and we felt very honored to be the hosts helping to give it new life.
Working with a home from this era, I knew I wanted to honor it for what it was rather than make it something it wasn’t.
It turned out incredibly before and after space on your Instagram. With low ceilings and small windows, how did you manage to see the space’s potential and execute it so beautifully?
Working with a home from this era, I knew I wanted to honor it for what it was rather than make it something it wasn’t. Instead, I looked at the things we would define as challenges and made them assets. For me, low ceilings mean intimacy and small windows mean mood. We painted the walls a rich color and made the space monochromatic so that the architecture could represent itself. Then we also balanced the experience of the original part of the house with the light and bright addition that features a second living and dining space.
The house isn’t huge, but having two living rooms and two dining spaces allows for an easy transition into old and new as well as from morning to night.
There is a push-pull tension inherent in any renovation—the desire to honor the original bones while still making room for the modern day. What are some of the major changes you’ve focused on?
Everything original has been restored and everything not original has been replaced. This allowed us to blend the old with the new while not losing the integrity of the home. When making new material decisions, we took the original home into consideration and used the human hand in our material choices as much as possible. For example, all the tiles and hardware are handmade and there are no whitewashed walls. We opted for a prep table over a kitchen island, and used materials that will age with time (just like a home).
Accordingly, how were you conscious of reconciling the past and the present? How did this balance affect the final project?
We wanted people to walk through the house and feel the history of the house but we also wanted to make it livable. Being mindful of how people live today has really helped us achieve good flow and function in the home. The house isn’t huge, but having two living rooms and two dining spaces allows for an easy transition into old and new as well as from morning to night.
When you are on the property, you feel connected to the earth. The rushing stream, the old barn, the antique stone walls… it’s as if they all tell a story.
Exposed beams, light wood accents, organic shapes, and natural textures dominate the space. How did these elements and this aesthetic play a role in your design process?
The house is perfect in its imperfections. We wanted to make sure our design choices didn’t distract from the integrity of the home, and so we used indigenous treasures as our inspiration. The furniture was kept neutral and organic in order to connect it to the structure and we elevated our finishes to create some modern amenities.
The Catskills is known for its stunning landscapes and enviable natural elements. How did you seek to integrate your redesign into the surrounding environment?
When you are on the property, you feel connected to the earth. The rushing stream, the old barn, the antique stone walls… it’s as if they all tell a story. There is a lot of history in the area, and while it feels right at home, there’s no doubt that you feel that too on the property.