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A Catskills Home with More History Than Meets the Eye

by Shannon Grant

When it comes to historic homes, the common phrase, “they don’t make them like they used to” often applies in unexpected ways. Take the home of Jeffrey Monteiro and Clayton Dean Smith in Peakville, NY, in the Western Catskills. It is part of a small hamlet surrounded by seven other houses, including what was once a general store/post office, a hotel and bar and a one-room schoolhouse, among others. Eager to make the historic space their own, Jeffrey and Clayton have taken on a number of projects and worked around a few structural challenges in the six years they have lived there.

From discovering wall insulation made of denim jeans paired with 1930s newspaper, to working around the lack of a basement (at the time it was built in 1890 it originally had earthen floors), they are continually striking a balance between modern convenience and historic charm. Perhaps the most surprising experience was a couple of years ago when they were shoring up the stone wall attached to the house. While working on the wall and the slope near it, the stone mason happened upon what was once the burial ground for unwanted household items, including ceramics, utensils, tin toys, intact glass bottles, boots, belts, clothing, tools and other household detritus to the total of 5 tons that had to be carted away. Which explained why that particular slope was pitted and unstable — it wasn’t earth that was under there! It only added to the sense of history that we appreciate about the hamlet. To this day, the occasional cup and saucer emerge from the front lawn.”

Whether it’s gardening, decorating or digging up archaeological curiosities, it is always a work in progress, but the two realize that just being in there is part of the process. There are certainly more projects on the horizon, such as solving the awkward layout of a bathroom that adjoins the master bedroom with the guest room (privacy please!), but they are content with the tranquility and connection to nature that the space affords them. When they aren’t busy working around the house, Jeffrey, who has a background in design and fashion, runs J.M. Generals, an online store showcasing American Cashmere along with an array of American-made lifestyle and body care products. Clayton is an actor working in film, television and theater, currently finishing Off Track Betty, a film he wrote and directed to be released later this year. —Shannon

Photography by Maxwell Tielman

Design*Sponge Home Tour
Jeffrey and Clayton love this room for the sunlight and the view into the yard. They have enjoyed many a holiday meal at this dining table and it's also where they like to host their card nights. The dining table came with the house as it was built specifically for the space.
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They also love the built-in pantry, it has a great modern farmhouse vibe with the chicken wire on the doors and it houses all the culinary necessities in easy view.
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The guest bedroom is a nook of a room with a vaulted ceiling. Jeffrey says, "It has the charming quirk of being directly off the bathroom, which you have to go through to enter the room. It makes for close living, which is part of the fun of having guests."
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The kitchen, viewed from stairs. Jeffrey and Clayton love their bright and airy kitchen. I always admire people who master the art of open shelving that still looks organized and beautiful, as I have yet to master that myself. Despite its size, the kitchen is very functional and can easily accommodate four or more people, cooking and preparing meals at the same time, which, Jeffrey says, has happened on many occasions.
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The kitchen island is multifunctional and essential in a smaller kitchen. It has lots of storage for appliances underneath, is a great food prep area and also serves as the breakfast counter.
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Jeffrey and Clayton are able to keep those open shelves looking great because they thoroughly utilize the space under the counter. They simply cover it with a chic linen curtain. "Under the sink in the kitchen is always one of those places in the house that is difficult to manage for me. Both in terms of tidiness and storing unsightly items, so I covered this area with a curtain I made." says Jeffrey. They love their Dualite toaster in the background, for both its functional and aesthetic appeal. They try to recreate this balance throughout their home. Jeffrey recounts how he felt a great pride recently when he replaced a damaged heating element in the toaster with the help of a Youtube video. It was gratifying to fix rather than just replace the item.
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Much like the toaster, the Chemex coffee pot is again one of those kitchen essentials that is both functional and has aesthetic value, so much so there is even one in the permanent collection at MoMa.
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The fixture above the stove is a Deco clamp light found at a Memorial Day yard sale near Walton, NY. It was completely covered in rust spots and although Jeffrey liked the patina, he cleaned it and discovered the chrome was in excellent shape. It now handsomely and functionally illuminates the stove top when they are cooking.
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Jeffrey and Clayton love this classic, simple kitchen scale. Clayton is an avid baker so the scale gets plenty of exercise and a couple of their favorite cookbooks also are on prominent view.
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Design*Sponge Home Tour
Design*Sponge Home Tour
View from bathroom into master bedroom. The walls in the bedroom are painted with Benjamin Moore American White, one of Jeffrey's favorite shades of light grey.
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The master bedroom. They love the vaulted ceiling in the bedrooms on the second floor. The floor boards are original to the house, and the different widths and textures of the planks really add character.
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The chest of drawers doubles as a nightstand for books. The photos are from a trip to Marfa, TX.
Design*Sponge Home Tour
Design*Sponge Home Tour
This light fixture was another vintage find. "I love the 1920s parlor feel, but I think it was actually a schoolhouse light fitting at one time. It had a long chain that I shortened to compensate for the lower ceilings in the bedroom, but I kept the original light pull on, which I think is a very charming feature," Jeffrey says.
Design*Sponge Home Tour
The wood burning stove adds a dramatic contrast to the white-washed aesthetic throughout the house. It was one of the first additions they made to the house, as well as adding more windows. This room used to have one small window in the middle of the room. "It is now light-filled and has given us better Catskill Mountain views." The Bluestone hearth is from a local Delaware County quarry. Jeffrey recounts the process behind that: "It took a lot of persuading to get the contractor to inlay the blue stone so it was flush with the floor. It was quite a battle and so glad the contractor acquiesced. It is a small room and to have a raised hearth would have intruded on valuable floor space. The Black Flokati rug we feel grounds the room."
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Sometimes it pays to hold out for what you really want. Jeffrey shares, "I have always wanted a George Smith Sofa, but they are well beyond my means. I often trawl Craigslist and eBay looking for listings of them (they rarely come up). I couldn't believe it when I spotted this one. The seller had just had it reupholstered in striped linen and decided it didn't work. I happened upon it shortly after it was listed and emailed right away with an offer and the owner accepted it. I arranged for a pick-up and since it was in NY, it was easy to transport and within a couple of days I had my dream sofa.
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Jeffrey and Clayton use the shelf on the wall in the living room for framed pictures such as these snapshots from their wedding, where they had a photo booth set up. They have some great pics of the guests expressing themselves that they truly love and cherish.
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The sunroom, Jeffrey's favorite room in the whole house. "The daybed in this room is perfect for reading and napping, and a desk, with tranquil and inspiring views for working at," he says.
Design*Sponge Home Tour
Design*Sponge Home Tour
The Peakville baseball team from the early 1900s and a photobooth picture from their wedding.
Design*Sponge Home Tour
Jeffrey collects vintage Porcelain Lab Vessels that are used for tealight candles and for serving condiments.

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  • What an amazing property. It sounds like Jeffrey and Clayton stumbled upon the house’s former privy. Working in historical preservation, we sometimes find multiple abandoned privies in the yards of centuries-old homes. Outhouse pits were also used to discard unwanted garbage (pre state-sponsored land fill days). When a pit was no longer viable, it was “closed up” and the privy was relocated. You can learn a lot about people from their garbage!

    • Kate

      It’s amazing what you’ll find in walls up here. I know one woman in the valley who found her old home’s walls stuffed with dried wildflowers! :)


  • The gray is American White, but I missed the white in the kitchen? LOVE IT. MUST HAVE IT.

  • Oh, how funny…I looked at and considered buying this house when it was on the market six years ago! It was gorgeous then and now. In fact, the painted flooring on the first level of the house was my primary inspiration when I made my own kitchen floor out of painted plywood planks. SO nice to see that it wound up in the hands of people who love the same things about it I did when I saw it. :)

    Well done, Jeffrey and Clayton. (And good luck with that bathroom between the bedrooms!)

  • What a gorgeouso, bright and airy home!

    Tell me–what’s your strategy for keep all those beautiful white floors clean? We just have one room in our house with a painted, white floor and I’m befuddled as to how to keep it white.

    • Hi Jordan,

      We have a no shoe indoor policy, that certainly helps and having a – we can always repaint philosophy for spills and dings.

  • So airy and light and lovely. And I’m totally stealing the idea with the empty picture frames on the pegboard!
    Denim insulation is available commercially now. Made from recycled denim pre- and post-consumer. It’s a pretty shade of blue, in case you care to coordinate with your insulation.
    (don’t judge me, but how I would have loved to dig through the old trash pit….)

  • I am curious to know what type of paint you used on the floors and the color of white you choose. I have relatively light painted wood floors in my house and they seem to show everything — even with a no shoes policy. I want to go white… but. Thanks for your comments.

  • are the kitchen countertops painted wood? if so, i’d love to hear more about their technique! i’ve never seen this before!

    • Just love these house tours! Would you consider adding a button to view the article on one screen without it having to be a slideshow?