Interiorssneak peeks

We Bought a Home!

by Grace Bonney

Design*Sponge: Grace & Julia's New (Old) Home, The "Before" Photos
Last Friday, Julia and I packed up our tiny car with as many essentials as we could fit and we drove upstate to sign the contract on our new home! It’s tempting to insert about 10,000 exclamation points here, but I’ll leave it at this: the process taught us a lot about patience, the emotional nature of buying (and selling) a home and how much you have to leave things to fate to see how they turn out. But after all was said and done, we are both thrilled (and scared and excited!) to call this incredible old house our home.

Earlier this year, after spending a lot of time in and around the Catskills for vacation and our honeymoon, we decided to consider looking for a home upstate. We planned on casually looking, but what happened was a (wonderful) whirlwind that led to our dream home. After seeing a promising listing, we called an agent who was highly suggested by our friends and drove upstate with Julia’s family to look around. We saw five houses the first day, and the fifth ended up being the home we would eventually call our own. It needs a lot of love and some work, but we can’t wait to get started. (Read on for the full story, photos and the history of our over 150-year-old home) xo, grace

Design*Sponge: Grace & Julia's New (Old) Home, The
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The History: The home we fell in love with was built around 1850 in Ulster County, New York. Originally a boarding home, it once had shuffle board courts (there are still remnants of this in the yard), archery, horseshoes and croquet.
Design*Sponge: Grace & Julia's New (Old) Home, The
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The History: When we first looked at the home, we found a guest register from the home's days as a guest house. I loved seeing how many people from Brooklyn had visited.
Design*Sponge: Grace & Julia's New (Old) Home, The
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Present Day: This was us on the day we came back up to see the home again and make an offer. We took Hope up to see how she would like the area. She seemed pretty happy about the prospect of a yard to run around in.
Design*Sponge: Grace & Julia's New (Old) Home, The
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This is the current "front" door of the home, which is a bit of a hodge-podge of different additions, although most of the front portions of the home (like this one) date back to the late 19th century. We love the tiny heart-shaped key lock on this door.
Design*Sponge: Grace & Julia's New (Old) Home, The
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There are several doors that look like front doors, so I'll take you around the house so you can get a feel for the overall layout. This is the driveway side and is what we consider the "front." It has wooden siding, a cedar shake roof (which we'll probably have to replace, sadly) and a slate entrance.
Design*Sponge: Grace & Julia's New (Old) Home, The
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If you walk around the house (heading to the left of the front door), this is the side of the house that has been changed the most. The room with the windows is our kitchen (which is what sold us on the house), which was a recent addition from the 90s, although it utilizes materials from the original home throughout.
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Right behind the kitchen is a small patio and two of the yard's huge Catalpa trees. I wasn't familiar with these trees until I Googled them. They bloom with gorgeous white flowers in the spring. Right below the tree is a fenced-in area holding one of our favorite features...
Design*Sponge: Grace & Julia's New (Old) Home, The
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The pool! It was basically a dream of ours to find a home where we could eventually build a pool because Julia is an avid swimmer. We flipped when we saw the home's pool and couldn't believe our luck. I'm basically living out all of my suburban pool fantasies and can't wait to landscape the surrounding flower beds this spring.
Design*Sponge: Grace & Julia's New (Old) Home, The
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Opposite the pool is the other side of the house. The bottom left windows are the main living room, the middle three windows are bedrooms and the top three windows are the attic, which is currently a terrifyingly spooky place where a mixture of mice and squirrels (and who knows what else) live. More on that later.
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This is our front yard. The property is a little under 4 acres and only about half is landscaped. The rest is sort of a mildly-tamed field that I plan on one day (hopefully) turning into a little flower farm.
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This is one of the other front doors, which needs to be replaced at some point because it's not in great condition. One of the first things we did when we moved in was replace all the locks and upgrade them because some doors didn't even have deadbolts. The city girl in me can't imagine not having deadbolts, let alone not locking doors at home, which we were told was pretty common. I plan on screening in this porch with some help from my Dad this spring and painting the floor. (This furniture is not ours, it went with the seller.)
Design*Sponge: Grace & Julia's New (Old) Home, The
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If you circle back around to the side entrance (near the kitchen), this is how we enter the home most of the time. It's the modern entrance added when the kitchen was updated. It's a small mudroom with slate floors - perfect for muddy winter boots. Hope approves. (Seller's furniture, not our own.)
Design*Sponge: Grace & Julia's New (Old) Home, The
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One side of the mudroom. The furniture left with the previous owner but I can't wait to find some new sconces to use here.
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The other side of the mudroom has a row of Shaker hooks, which are on most walls in the home. I love Shaker details, so these are a favorite of mine. (This little door actually opens and leads into the den behind it.)
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The mudroom leads into the dining room/kitchen, which was added on around the late 1990s. The two walls of windows basically sell the house, or at least they did for us. This room is flooded with light pretty much all day. (We bought this table and chairs from the seller, they fit so well in the space.)
Design*Sponge: Grace & Julia's New (Old) Home, The
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The kitchen: This room is pretty much our cooking dream. We've gone from having about 1 square foot of counter space to having more than we know what to do with. But now that Julia is writing her own cookbook, she'll have plenty of space to test and shoot it here at home. We plan on making some changes here (painting, etc.) but we're in love with the reclaimed floor plank counters.
Design*Sponge: Grace & Julia's New (Old) Home, The
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Hope is a big fan of the dining room/kitchen's low windows.
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One of the kitchen's counters is covered in copper. I love them so much. The cabinets were part of the home's original kitchen, which is a tiny space behind this room, which is now a small laundry room.
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To the right of the kitchen is one of the home's original rooms, with a low exposed-beam ceiling. (We're hoping to widen this door a bit to let in more light).
Design*Sponge: Grace & Julia's New (Old) Home, The
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This room will become our den, with the TV and a comfy sectional sofa, which both of us have been dreaming of having for over a year. We couldn't fit a full sized sofa in our apartment, so having a couch where both of us and the pets can relax is pretty exciting. (Furniture belongs to seller, no longer in the room.)
Design*Sponge: Grace & Julia's New (Old) Home, The
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The side of this small room leads to the hallway, staircase and the front door (the one with the heart-shaped lock that started this slideshow).
Design*Sponge: Grace & Julia's New (Old) Home, The
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If you walk out of the small den and look left, you'll see the hallway, which needs a lot of love. The little sliding door to the left hides a half bathroom. Opposite that is the basement doorway.
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If you keep walking through the hallway (by the front door) you'll enter a small, low room. We just call it the yellow room. Most people we spoke with think this is the oldest part of the home, since it appears in most of the oldest pictures we've found. The floors have been redone with reclaimed wood, but the ceiling is super low. We're hoping on expanding this tiny (very tiny) doorway to connect to the living room on the other side.
Design*Sponge: Grace & Julia's New (Old) Home, The
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Through that tiny doorway is the main living room. There's a fireplace* on the left and sliding doors that connect to the kitchen patio to the left of Julia. The front porch (the one in the rocking chair picture) is to the right of those chairs against the wall on the right. All of this furniture is gone now, so now we have a big, empty room and nothing to fill it. We hope to eventually have two sofas across from each other next to the fireplace, but that's a ways off. *The fireplace is actually a wood burning oven CEMENTED inside an old fireplace. The lining needs to be replaced and is a very expensive fix, so we're waiting until next winter to fix it. So next year we plan on having our family up for conversations around (and no TV!) the fire.
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Okay, back upstairs (I can't wait to give these stairs some love and restore them) to the bedrooms.
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The master bedroom. This is the previous owner's furniture, but this is now our master bedroom. The floors are olllllld and have a lot of holes, many of which were patched in the traditional fashion, with copper patches. They're quirky and we're going to leave them for now. But eventually most everything will be painted white. The previous owner had a major love of sponge painting.
Design*Sponge: Grace & Julia's New (Old) Home, The
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This tiny bathroom off the master bedroom is right over the staircase. One day I dream of expanding it out a bit, but for now it's totally fine.
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Across from the master bedroom is this original bedroom. It's one of the original rooms (which was probably divided into smaller guest rooms) in the home and we plan on turning it into our home office. *All of this furniture belonged to the original owner and went home with her.
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The "big" bathroom: This bathroom, along with the kitchen, also pushed us over the edge to make an offer on the home. I've never had a bathtub big enough to stretch out in while living in NYC (and I'm only 5 feet tall) so this is a dream come true. There's a small standing shower to the right and the toilet is to the right, too.
Design*Sponge: Grace & Julia's New (Old) Home, The
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Another bedroom: This room overlooks the main front porch and needs to have some tree limbs near it trimmed to let in more light and make sure things don't get too shady (and conducive to mold growth). Right under that side table (no longer there) is a vent from the first floor (by the fireplace) that would have originally been the method for heating this room. *All of this furniture belonged to the original owner and went home with her.
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Another bedroom (it sounds so surreal to type this, but there are actually five bedrooms) that needs to be skim coated and painted. *All of this furniture belonged to the original owner and went home with her.
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The trouble bedroom. I had a dream we turned this into the best bedroom of the house, so we'll see what magic we can work. When we first saw this room there was a mold problem and carpenter ant infestation. It's since been cleaned up and treated, but it's going to need some love. Under all of this carpet and in the closet were signs of an old leak, so this room needs some love and a little help. *All of this furniture belonged to the original owner and went home with her.
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Opposite of the "trouble bedroom" is this tiny little storage space that basically looks like the beginning of a horror movie. Or where you'd end up at the end of one. The back half of the second-floor hallway and this tiny staircase to the attic are covered in rotting wallpaper that needs to be torn down. We plan on removing this door, painting everything white and turning this into a tiny home for Turk's litter box, inspired by Douglas Riccardi's home cat project!
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A final shot of the oldest "front" door to the home, with the tiny heart-shaped lock. All of the home's old doors were a real selling point for us. The previous owner saved and restored so many of them.

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Comments

  • What a fun post. Thanks for sharing!

    I’d love to see another post just on the attic and basement, the creepy stuff where all the fun secrets hide.

    Are the wood floors throughout the house the same wood? I love rustic floors with gauges and imperfections. A good sander and some stain and a non-toxic top coat will create such a beautiful feeling of everything making sense together.

    I just love this new home of yours.

  • Congrats! the home is beautiful and I hope you’ll take us through the decorating process for years to come. Love those windows in the kitchen and the sink with the chubby legs in the bath. Maybe some beautiful candle sticks inside the main living room fireplace until it gets repaired! So excited for you both – or 3 :)

  • Oh my gosh!! This is awesome!! Congratulations to you both – what a beautiful house, I can’t wait to see what you do with it. We moved out to the semi-country three years ago – while this city girl was skeptical, we now love it so much that we can’t imagine moving back into the city (although we do visit it, often :). Our move was unfortunately due to very unpleasant circumstances and the process of selling our beloved apartment and buying a new home in a different town with less than a month to spare was almost debilitatingly stressful, but experiencing a new town, new neighbours, and a total appreciation of the peace, beauty and GREEN-ness is simply wonderful. Our dog Panda wouldn’t have it any other way – Hope is going to love it :) Congratulations again, and the only advice I would share (because you guys are pros and even if you weren’t, it’s your home and you two know how make it your own) is to do some living in it – up to a year or more, before taking on anything major (that isn’t an emergency of course). Get to know its quirks, and get to know how you use it through each season – and enjoy dreaming up your plans. That’s half the fun right there :) ENJOY!!

  • Welcome, welcome, WELCOME! Wishing you and Julia that absolute best in this adventure! Hopefully we’ll catch you all in person some time now that we’re neighbors. Well, neighbors in that country sense, haha!

  • Curious….will you keep a NYC apt or live upstate and commute? Starting to consider what life would be like to buy outside of nyc. could a nyc life still be had if you are an hour or so away ?

    • Hi Erin,a

      We’re keeping our Brooklyn apartment for a year and then making a decision. The drive is 2 hours so it’s not too bad, but it’s not ideal for an every day commute either.

      Grace

  • It’s gorgeous! Congratulations. It looks as though it has lovely light. I;m looking forward to seeing more of the house and garden over time. How exciting for you.

  • I ended up at your blog via FB, and can’t wait to see your house adventures. We just bought a farmhouse in PA with SO many of the same features and challenges you and Julia have here. I would love to know where you source things as you “give some love” to your house. There are lots of places in my area here but I am always on the lookout for more shops and salvage places. (And if you are ever in the Brandywine Valley outside of Philly, I’m happy to share the names of some great places!) Best of luck!

  • congrats a million times over — it’s just a perfect home… wishing you so many years of happy days there!

  • Oh Congratulations Grace – what a wonderful, wonderful house! You will have such a good time – and how perfect to get the key to the heart-shaped lock at this holiday season! What a grand adventure – I wish you both much joy. It’s a lucky house to have such talented owners – a happy house!

  • Congratulations!!! I can’t wait to follow the story of your home. The windows and light are so beautiful and I am a big fan of big porches as well. You are living the Dream!

  • Love this place!!! Any chance you know the color of the front door? Looks like the same color we just painted the exterior of our house- Ben Moore “Warm Springs”….Cant wait to see the next round of photos.

  • Congratulations, Grace and Julia!!! It’s such a beautiful old home, and the yard & pool look incredible! I can’t wait to see what you do with it, I know it will be beautiful and so very you. My husband and I are in the process of buying a new-to-us very old house, too! We close at the end of January. Isn’t it so exciting to have all of that space?!

    xoxo

  • Grace,
    What a lovely home! I noticed a baseboard heating system that looks similar to what is in an older home we recently purchased – do you mind sharing if it is electric baseboard or a boiler heat radiator type system? If it’s the boiler system, I’m curious to know if you will leave the current baseboard radiators. Thanks!

  • Congratulations! I am so excited for y’all! Just wanted to say that I hope you won’t feel any pressure to rush any part of the process for the sake of blog content. I know you didn’t purchase the house for that reason – I just mean that I hope you won’t let your readers’ curiosity make you feel rushed at all! People will be thrilled to see your progress whenever it comes. I think some blogs let their readers’ demands to see progress in their personal homes (maybe YHL?) take a toll on them and rob them of the joy of taking their time and making thoughtful decisions. Of course your blog is very different since it doesn’t rely on content like that… Just throwing it out there!

  • GUYS! Just catching up with the internet world after a few weeks of being a bum. So excited to hear this news! The house is wonderful and you guys will make it perfect. Can’t wait to watch your progress. If you ever need a hand, let us know! x

  • Love your house! I haven’t been to your blog for a little while and it was great to come across the new design and the exciting news. Can’t wait to see how home ownership will influence the blog!

  • I’ve been reading since almost the very beginning and I can’t wait to see what you do with the place. :) Just bought a nearly 100-year-old house myself and getting it safe and sound has been interesting! Wishing you all the best!

  • What a wonderful time you both with have. I am so happy for you and Julia. That porch, the kitchen (yowza for sure on that copper surface!!!), those windows….. and a claw foot tub… sigh.

    Cannot wait to witness the reno adventures you’ll have. Your mind must be swimming with inspiration and priorities!

  • Hi Grace
    Welcome to the neighbourhood! I saw your new home listing on the realtor’s Pinterest board and thought it had wonderful potential. How great that you will be giving this home so TLC.

  • What an amazing house! Grace, I must say I haven’t been to your blog in a while, but I popped back to see where you were at and what a change! You site looks beyond amazing and I love that we’re seeing/reading more of the personalities behind Design Sponge. You are a very strong woman and such an inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing with us! Cannot wait to hear more about the house!

  • This is a beautiful post. Good for you for taking on the old house challenge. My partner and I bought an 1853 brick beauty in Vermont about six months ago. It is awesome to own and of course there’s so much to learn…I never knew I’d be so interested in heating systems, R-value, proper drainage…we just finished renovating the kitchen and a big one for us was putting in a wood stove, which has become the total magnet in the house. Expensive, yes, but SO worth it. Congratulations again and I plan on checking in a lot as it’s so much fun to see someone else going through a similar experience.

  • Welcome to Ulster! My husband and I (both media freelancers) made the move from NYC to Accord full time in February. We bought a cottage and have been doing renovations little by little too. If you need a great plumber or contractor let me know! Enjoy the house and congrats!

  • I have to say…the retro pic up top is AMAZING. Congratulations and lots of happiness, health and great times in your new home.

  • OMG Grace! I’m freaking out for you! This is super amazing and I am so so excited for you and Julia to have this beautiful home to call your own. Can’t wait to read about the updates to come. :)

  • Your new home is breathtaking! The acres upon acres of windows, the pool, the grounds…just lovely! Congratulations to you both!

  • I’m so late to this post! Congrats Grace! You guys are our neighbors. How excited you must be and what a gorgeous place to call home. Scrolling through the pics, it just kept getting better… the pool, the light filled kitchen, the 5! bedrooms – couldn’t help but think of all the memories waiting to be made in such a special place. It was April when we bought our place in Olivebridge 5 years ago and a Japanese Plum blossom (that only blooms for 1 week) was in full bloom. It now marks each new year we’ve been here. I bet you’re excited to see your new place when Spring rolls in. Enjoy every minute of it! (and don’t hesitate to reach out for some local resources) ~ Dana

  • Just seeing these first photos of your home, and I’m in love! This home is absolutely gorgeous, with so much character + awesome history! Also, that pool really IS a dream! You are going to have so much fun fixing up this beauty and making it your own, I can already tell. Congratulations!

  • Your house is absolutely lovely, a dream and will bring you years of love. Your suggestions sound great, just clean, repair and give a coat of fresh paint. I can see some renovations to come, but what a great house, you will make it beautiful.

  • Congrats! Pool area reminds me of Martha Stewarts Turkey Hill home. She had 2 glorious wisteria trees flanking the steps going down to the pool…spectacular! You should google it, just to get some ideas. :-) enjoy your home

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