Farm to Table: Ulster County, NY

A farmhouse feeling permeates the kitchen tiled in glass subway tiles. Cabinets gleam with white varnish, their interiors a buttery yellow for a subtle change of pace. Counters are made of silestone.

An Ulster County design duo fulfill a primary directive to compose a bright, fun and happy environment for their client’s farmhouse in the foothills of Mohonk Mountain.

“I fired three designers before hiring Charles Farruggio and Michael Van Nort,” says self-characterized “not-easy-to-please” Nancy Cohen.

The project? Nancy and her husband Richard’s summer house in the foothills of Mohonk Mountain, close to New Paltz, NY and minutes from FRED, the designers’ popular home furnishings shop in High Falls. “It had a warm feel, all reds and mustards,” she recalls. “Pretty but so dark after our winters in Florida, where we’re bathed in sunlight, surrounded by turquoise and orange. I wanted it to reflect summer, bring the outside in, to have an almost beachy feel.”

Bought at a Housing Works auction, the walnut-stained bench is upholstered in a Mokum herringbone fabric. The rug is sea grass. The painting was found in a forgotten closet. Green Window Seat Fabric: Barker Weave Peridot by Duralee. Blue & White Botanical Pillow Fabric: Bleu Marine by Schumacher. Green & White Geometric Patterned Pillow Fabric: Duralee. Blue & White Diamond Patterned Lumbar Pillow Fabric: Kozar by Thibaut.

Farruggio explains that the farmhouse, built in 1850, was in good shape when he and Van Nort arrived on the scene. Spread over 3,976 square feet, the two-story home included three generously sized bedrooms, two baths, a living/dining room, a family room, and an open and a screened-in porch, which overlooks the fields, forests and streams that are sprinkled through the nearly 30-acre property.

The client clearly defined her budget, scope and style to the design duo; her primary directive was for the home to be bright and cheery. “Being able to translate that ‘happy’ into color schemes and furnishings is a talent that goes beyond technique,” says Cohen. “It’s about design sense and taste, something you either have or you don’t. Michael and Charles have it in spades.”

Created with plenty of storage space below, the window seat is separated from the kitchen with a wide entry hall, embellished with decorative columns. Blue Window Seat Fabric: Tumbleweed Chambray by Perennials. Green & White Checkered Pillow Fabric: Wexford Lime by Pindler. Large Green Botanical Pillow & Bolster Fabric: Giselle by Thibaut. Green & White Striped Pillow Fabric with Fringe: Hayden Lime by Pindler w/Trim from Samuel & Sons.

Initially, Cohen fell in love with a green, blue and white floral from Thibaut. Farruggio and Van Nort were able to design almost everything from that single fabric, covering the pillows on the blue-cushioned window seat with it and featuring it in the breakfast room.

Farruggio claims that time presented the biggest challenge. “With a fixed date for the couple’s return from Florida, there was scant room for delays among any of the numerous tradespeople, contractors and vendors involved,” he states. “Keeping everyone on schedule, therefore, was a big part of the job. Luckily, all went according to plan, and Nancy and Richard were able to experience the ‘ta dah!’ moment they deserved.”

The owner’s undistinguished pine corner cabinet was brought back to life with a coat of navy blue paint on the exterior and splash of lime green on the interior.

Much of the furnishings were the clients’, but were reupholstered or painted, as well as repositioned, to create a fresh look.

One never knows what might be found working with old pieces, and this project was no exception. While stripping the oversized wing chairs now in the library, the designers uncovered three layers of fabric dating back to the 1960s when the chairs were made.

Among several items that Cohen points out as 11s, not mere 10s, are the rugs bought specifically for the library and dining room, and the dining room chandelier, which was reimagined with blue beads – they had been red – and banded shades to pick up the color palette. As to the bench near the staircase, “We didn’t have time to determine what would be best in that space,” she recalls. “So, unbeknownst to me, Charles went out and found this at a Housing Works auction! One hundred-percent perfect.”

Framed by two ceramic lamps, circa 1970s, the bookcase was reorganized by the designers to emphasize a variety of artworks, including a contemporary, bronze sculpture and Chinese ginger jars.

Mindful of the sea, the blue, glass subway tiles wrapping the kitchen, an inch narrower than standard issue, reflect light, as do the white-lacquered cabinets lined in butter yellow. Country in feeling with its farmhouse sink, yet nothing short of contemporary, the kitchen is a workhorse with storage galore and all the modern conveniences.

One reason the house works so well, say the designers, is the “delicate balance” between the modern, clean lines of the furnishings and just a few, over-the-top touches. The mirrored, gilt sconces prove this theory. Those in the library are quite elaborate, while the others in the dining room are more streamlined. They stand out while at the same time harmonizing perfectly with the furnishings.

Little had to be done architecturally, but two alterations highly impacted the final look and beachy feel of the house. First, the designers widened the hallway entrance alongside the kitchen, adding pillars for oomph and carved out skylights in the ceiling. Second, they installed a skylight and French doors in the breakfast room to truly bring the outside in.

“We’d thought about selling the place in the past,” says Cohen, “but it has such a happy vibe now. We love being here so much, I doubt that will ever happen.”

In the library, ornate, mirrored sconces counter the clean lines of the window seat massed with patterned pillows. The walls throughout glow with Benjamin Moore’s “Marilyn’s Dress” blue-tinted white.

Both designers, Michael Van Nort (left) and Charles Farruggio (right), have weekend homes near their shop FRED in High Falls, and love the relaxed atmosphere, artistic inhabitants and bucolic surroundings. A great antidote to their warp-speed city life where they spend the rest of their time. These true-blue members of the community, bring together people from a variety of fields this summer for such events as book readings, art shows, benefits and cocktail parties. Why the name FRED? “It’s simple and unpretentious, and definitely memorable.”

FRED offers Modern, Vintage, New and Charming Furnishings – a play on the initials of the men’s names – including table-top and decorative objects, artwork, lighting and furniture in a wide range of prices, created by small artisans and large manufacturers, the well-established and the up-and-coming. FRED also provides custom pieces and interior design services. Open weekends and by appointment. 

Photography courtesy of Matt Petricone. 

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