Interiors

A Rural 1800s Barn Becomes a Modern Home

by Maxwell Tielman

"The fireplace is based on a Finnish design and acts as a furnace to heat the entire main floor," Bill says. "The top oven is ideal for baking bread or stewing in cast iron."
After spending several years living within the concrete confines of Manhattan, designer Bill Hovard began to get the itch that befalls many a longterm New Yorker—the desire to uproot to greener, quieter pastures. In 2002, Bill began his search by drawing a 90-mile radius around the city and eventually followed the country’s siren call to the quiet town of South Kortright, NY. Nestled deep within the Catskills, South Kortright features breathtaking mountain views, hillsides filled with grazing livestock, and the zen-like comfort that can only be found when one travels beyond the realm of cellphone reception. Although Bill had originally envisioned settling in a Federal-style farmhouse, his path led him to a derelict, but charming, 19th century barn. Despite its disrepair, the structure was solid and featured hand-hewn, old-growth post and beam construction, a bluestone  foundation, and dazzling natural surroundings. “It was love at first sight,” Bill says.

Once he settled on the location for his country retreat, it was time to get to work. Over the course of eight years, Bill renovated the barn into a beautiful, comfortable, and fully-functional living space. “It was important to strike a balance between old new” Bill notes, “and no attempt was made to hide or mask renovations or additions. Ultimately, it was preserving the past and creating a dynamic space with 21st century amenities.” For Bill, this meant sourcing materials that were regional and appropriate to the home: locally quarried bluestone, repurposed oak fixtures salvaged from other structures, and milled cherrywood for the floors and cabinetry. Filled in with antique and Modernist furniture, the home is a balanced, timeless mixture of Bill’s tastes and regional flavor.

Today, Bill has vacated the city permanently to focus full-time on Hudson Made, a lifestyle brand that features artisanal wares from regional artists and makers. “In late August, the western field on the property is in full bloom with milkweed and offers nourishment to monarch butterfly on their migration South,” Bill says. “This is how the property was suitably named. ‘Milkweed Barn’ has subsequently gone from weekend retreat to full-time residence. It is now home.” —Max

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A pair of mid-century chairs faces a fireplace at the home's main entrance. Original hand-hewn post and beam construction was left exposed.
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"The fireplace is based on a Finnish design and acts as a furnace to heat the entire main floor," Bill says. "The top oven is ideal for baking bread or stewing in cast iron."
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A mid-century sideboard, picked up at a New York City flea market, holds a collection of wine decanters and ceramics.
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Vase by Lindform, Stockholm; Mid-Century bowl by Berndt Friberg; Cuckoo whistle and wood sculpture by Marco Brunetti.
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The main level features Farrow & Ball's Pointers White paint. Walls in an eggshell finish, trim in a satin finish.
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A collection of 19th century molds is housed alongside bones and turkey feathers found on the barn's property.
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A collection of hand-turned wood bowls sits on top of one of the barn's beams.
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Originally a way to get up to the barn's hay loft, the hand-hewn wooden staircase now leads to the bedrooms and master bath.
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The main living room as seen from the barn's original hay loft.
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A collection of frames and objects, along with a vase filled with yarrow from Bill's garden, sit atop a mid-century Scandinavian table.
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A collection of utility aprons, produced by Bill's company, Hudson Made.
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The kitchen features Ann Sacks hand-cut white subway tiles—no two tiles are alike.
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The master bedroom, housed in the barn's original hay loft.
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The master bedroom. Mirror from a Paris flea market; Anders dresser made in Vermont; Handwoven basket from a trip to Tanzania; Vase from a Tokyo flea market.
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The master bedroom. Black walnut stool by Sawkille Co, Rhinebeck, NY.
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The back deck.

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Comments

  • This place is amazing and so serenely beautiful. I LOVE the staircase. Thanks for showcasing this, Max! The photos are wonderful.

  • Is anyone else that is using the mobile site not viewing the whole slideshow. I noticed on this page that I only went up to 5 and someone was referencing photo 13. I think it’s happening with other slideshows as well. Need my design sponge fix for the day!!!

  • Oh, so beautiful! And hello neighbor, I border on S.K. Also, interesting objects and ambitions at Hudson Made!

  • Yeah, I also can’t see past slide 5 while on my iPhone. This has happened with two other (but not all) slideshows.

  • We lived in a converted barn once on an island in the Thousand Islands region of Canada/upstate New York. Ever since, converting a barn has been one of my dreams! This is absolutely a dream home for me. I enjoyed it so much, thank you for haring your home with us!

  • Everything in this home is so gorgeous, peaceful, and well-edited, but my heart literally started racing (not in a good way) when I saw the stairs. These people must be much less accident prone than I am to have a tall staircase with no safety rail to prevent someone (sleepy or rushing homeowner, visiting guest or child, rambunctious dog, etc.) from falling off the one side. Eeep! But I love everything else they’ve done here.

  • This is a labour of love…the bones were there but there was much needed to convert from a neglected space to a warm, architecturally profound home. Bill made it seem easy, but I tell you it was not. Everything worthwhile—including love— needs, determination, overcoming fear sprinkled with lots of commitment.

  • What an incredibly beautiful place and space. I’m glad to hear it was 8 years in the making – I’m always puzzled how people can apparently furnish their homes to perfection within months. This one looks so beautifully and carefully grown, you can almost feel the calm sitting in front of that amazing fireplace. I hope he really bakes bread or makes stew in there, it sounds wonderful!

  • Going forward, could you include an exterior shot for all home tours. I find that bit of context is missing.

    • Hi Lulu

      Not all home owners feel comfortable with exterior shots because they wish to remain more private. Some homes, especially in smaller towns, are easy to find if the exterior or house number is shown, so we often leave them out at home owner’s requests for privacy and safety.

      Grace

  • This is so amazing! Just bought a house with a very old 1800s barn that we eventually would love to renovate some day. This is just what I would want to do!

  • I love the fireplace set up. This seems to make so much sense to me. Could I get some information on the fireplace. What are the inner workings? Thanks

  • This is so amazing! Just bought a house with a very old 1800s barn that we eventually would love to renovate some day. This is just what I would want to do!

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