Interiorssneak peeks

A Bewitching Old Stone House in The Hudson Valley

by Maxwell Tielman


My neighbor John McKinney is an optometrist with a serious eye for design (pun absolutely, shamelessly intended). Although his days are filled with eye charts, optical exams, and glasses fittings, his evenings and weekends are packed with trips to local auctions, estate sales, and flea markets—all part of his tireless and passion-driven journey to renovate and furnish his 1723 house in the heart of uptown Kingston, New York. John’s home, an absolutely stunning stone construction, is a a gem amongst gems—one of the neighborhood’s oldest and longest-standing structures, dating back to Kingston’s pre-Revolution days when it originally functioned as the town’s Elmendorf Tavern. It has survived not just the Revolutionary War and the infamous 1777 burning of Kingston, but centuries of change. Nineteenth century Italianate and Victorian homes have sprung up around it, but this quaint colonial construction has remained one of the area’s most beautiful homes.

Throughout my first months as a Kingston resident, I had always admired John’s home when walking past it on trips to the city’s center, but I was absolutely floored when I was first welcomed inside for afternoon cocktails. After purchasing the home from a former medical practice five years ago, John has been painstakingly renovating it to its former glory—right down to period-appropriate antique furnishings and woodwork. John’s loving commitment to his home is clear in every detail—and the story of how he purchased the home and ultimately furnished it in its colonial and colonial revival style is downright fascinating. John’s previous home—a split-level ranch filled exclusively with midcentury modern furnishings—was a far cry from the pre-Revolution styles he currently surrounds himself with. When he put his former home on the market five years ago, though, the purchaser chose to buy with one proviso: that the home come with all of its furnishings. Despite having obsessively culled all of the home’s authentic Modernist pieces over the years, John split with them willfully and amicably, relishing the opportunity to start fresh. Although John seems to have broken up with his midcentury obsession when he broke up with his former home, the colonial style, with its hallmark simplicity, has proven to be an unexpected complement to his eye for the clean, modern line. “As long as you keep it simple,” he notes, “it’s all ‘modern’ for that time period. If you pick the right pieces from each time period, you can see the clean lines in it.” John’s house might have a 1723 date on it, but its classic styling and timeless beauty makes it right at home in the twenty-first century. —Max

Check out all of the photos and design notes after the jump!

Above image: The upstairs hallway. Original wide board floors. In the corner are a 18th Century Hudson Valley Chippendale chair alongside Tiger Maple Pembrook Table. Paintings, both mid-19th Century, purchased from Ebay. Drapes by Tim Lester Designs.


Above image: The house’s front facade. Built in 1723, originally the Elmendorf Tavern.



Above image: A view into the living room from the dining room. To the right is an 1820s cupboard with original blue paint. On top is a small collection of miscellaneous earthenware. The walls are bare, unfinished horse hair plaster (ca. 1790), a look that is carried out throughout a number of the home’s other rooms.


Above image: Once the original tavern room, the front room now functions as John’s main living room. The room is filled with an assortment of vintage and antique furniture, culled from auctions, estate sales, and tag sales. Walls painted in Benjamin Moore’s Linen.


Above image: A Hudson Valley banister-back chair and a Pennsylvania tavern table sit along the living room’s front wall. Atop the table are a set of early 20th Century steer horns mounted on tramp art bases. Wainscoting is painted in Benjamin Moore’s Revere Pewter.


Above image: A portrait of a horse by G. Fowler, a nineteenth century animal portrait painter, 1882.


Above image: A Colonial Revival Towle chandelier, ca. 1930.


Above image: A lantern originally used on the interior of a train’s caboose.


Above image: An engraving of Kingston, New York, ca. 1770.


Above image: Metal bird’s feet, purchased at a local jewelry store.


Above image: A colonial Connecticut armchair against the dining room’s northern wall.


Above image: The dining room’s eastern wall.


Above image: The dining room fireplace. A Hudson Valley School painting sits atop the mantle. Deer skull purchased at a flea market in Dallas.


Above image: An 18th Century Dutch Kas, originally crafted in Kingston, NY.


Above image: The view into the dining room from the kitchen. Honed marble countertop. Kitchen appliances like the refrigerator and a Kitchenaid two-door dish washer are hidden beneath custom-crafted cabinet fronts.


Above image: A Shaw Original farmhouse sink. A shelf above the countertop holds various antique items.


Above image: Standard Edison bulbs hang bare above the countertop.


Above image: Cabinets on the Kitchen’s southern wall. On the lower right are two early Abercrombie & Fitch sandwich tins. All white dinnerware from Fishs Eddy.


Above image: White dinnerware from Fishs Eddy fills a cabinet along the kitchen’s southern wall. An antique sausage stuffer, colander, and cherry pitter sit on the bottom shelf.


Above image: The kitchen’s western wall. To the left hangs a student’s personal school chalkboard.


Above image: The hallway adjoining the living room and the kitchen.


Above image: The downstairs bathroom. Cabinets are filled with various medical accouterments, many of which came with the house (the previous owner was a gynecologist practice!).


Above image: A 1920s skeletal chart sits atop the houses’ original toilet.


Above image: The main entryway. A Hudson Valley Chippendale chair sits alongside a primitive wall cupboard. An original Kingston crock from the mid-19th century sits atop the cupboard. Painting purchased on Ebay.


Above image: The front stairs. Stair woodwork painted in Old Village’s 1709 Antique Yellow. Stair treds painted in Benjamin Moore’s Mink.


Above image: The upstairs hallway. A cabinet along the southern wall holds John’s collection of pewter objects.


Above image: A collection of books and a painting (another Ebay purchase) in the bedroom’s anteroom.


Above image: The bedroom. A cannonball rope bed, ca. 1830, rebuilt to hold a queen-size mattress. In an effort to save money, one of the home’s previous owners only refinished the room’s floor along its borders, leaving the interior covered in the original black paint, where a rug would cover it.


Above image: Fireplace painted in Benjamin Moore’s Avon Green.


Above image: The bedroom’s western wall. The mirror was originally the “O” from a Woolworth’s sign. Victorian exercise weights sit on the nightstand. 


Above image: a collection of antique keys.


Above image: An antique document box sits on the bedroom’s northern windowsill.


Above image: The upstairs bathroom. The walls are pine planks, hand-hewn by a local carpenter to match period woodwork. Floors are wide-board planks with the original paint. Western paintings from the late 19th century hang on the wall.


Above image: Sink purchased at the Brimfield Antique Fair.


Above image: Stools made by a local Kingston craftsmen in the 1970s.


Above image: A turkish watering can, a scale weight, and a plumb bob sit on the bathroom’s windowsill. Outside the window is the original Fitch House of the Abercrombie and Fitch company.

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Above image: the garden path along the house’s eastern wall.

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  • That home is absolutely amazing! He has done such an incredible job…really owns every inch of it. This has got to be favorite “sneak peek” ever. I am very envious but it is a good envious. My husband & I purchased a 1890 farmhouse about two years ago and have slowly been working on it. I have always loved historic homes & it was a dream of mine to own a old farmhouse. It is always a pleasure to “meet” someone else working hard to preserve history & brings me encouragement as we have a lllloooonnnggg ways to go. Fantastic job!

  • I just spent the weekend in Hurley (just down the road from Kingston) in a similarly aged stone house so how nice to see another example done so beautifuly. You really do get a feel for all the people who came before in old places like this that have been loved and cared for but not so carefully preserved that you can’t see the passage of time and the marks of habitation.

  • oh wow! i’m a brooklynite now, but grew up in kingston, and my parents still live on fair street. i used to hang is this house when i was a kid, and my dad, a stone mason, actually rebuilt the chimneys! it is SO BEAUTIFUL now. every time i go back upstate i am awed by the renaissance i see happening there. thanks so much for sharing this space!

  • I live a block from this beautiful home, on Fair Street in Kingston. We are so very grateful that the owner of this historic home loves it. We all benefit from his caring.

  • Best house tour ever. Seems like you could spend a lot of time in this house just looking at different treasures. Love it

  • I’m very interested in the paneled ceiling in the living room. Did you put that in, or was it already there? I’m looking for an interesting way to cover asbestos popcorn ceiling.

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