Stony Ford, a quaint country estate, was once used as a horse breeding establishment from 1864 to 1900, toward the beginning of its known history. During that time, owner Charles Backman entertained many dignitaries, including President Ulysses S. Grant (who enjoyed his last cigar here). After conversing about horses all day, the gentlemen would retire to the home’s smoking room (now master bedroom) and discuss the finer points of equine mating science. Over a hundred years later, new owners and pro photographers William and Susan Brinson have a different program in mind for their restoration, but still want to honor the history of the house. The old Greek Revival fixer-upper in Goshen, New York, within the state’s fabled Hudson Valley, originally enticed the couple by way of a historic homes website, where they watched and waited for three years before signing on the dotted line. The house needed lots of cosmetic attention, but first the basics like flushing out water treatment systems, installing a new boiler, and relocating 200 bats that had set up shop in the attic, took precedence. Now, repairing walls and making drapery to better insulate the 5,200 square foot, three-story home are goals before winter comes. One of the first spots to get a makeover is a guest room named for Young Duchess, one of the mares who once resided at the farm. In fact, the homeowners found books from the 1870s that list the horse names, and so named all the rooms on the second floor after the female horses. Modern horsehair wallhangings by Golden Pony Workshop reference the site’s horse history. The home can be tracked as far back as 1850, but it is unclear exactly when it was built.
For this guest room, the Brinsons collaborated with Pottery Barn (some more about the effort here) on striking a perfect balance between vintage and new. They love to plan every detail for their visitors, like having plenty of extra blankets around, clipping fresh flowers from the garden, and other little details that make people feel welcome. Susan took inspiration from the Greek Revival architecture. Though the style can sometimes feel grandiose and dramatic (like the names of fast horses!), softer elements, such as natural linens, reference the country setting. It is this balance between opposite forces that make the design interesting to the couple.
The makeover took about two months to complete, as William and Susan did all the work themselves (along with the help of some industrious friends). About half of that time was spent removing the 1950s wallpaper, repairing the stress cracks in the walls, which meant first anchoring the plaster to the lath, then embarking on a pretty hefty patch job (check out the blog post here), and stripping, sanding, and repainting the original doors. For the decoration, Susan selected lots of shiny metallic accents mixed with organic textures like linen upholstery and cotton bedding. The new gold furniture elevates the worn vintage pieces to their current level of sophistication.
The house has changed much over its 165+-year history, but thankfully, many of the original details remain. The Brinsons are undertaking a huge restoration project over the next several years to bring Stony Ford back to its original glory. Because renovating an old house doesn’t happen overnight, follow @houseofbrinson on Instagram for regular updates, or search hashtag #PBandStonyFord for more on the collaboration between the Brinsons and PB blog Inside & Out. —Annie
Photography by House of Brinson