Hillsdale Haven

Master Class with Charles O Schwarz Interior Design

Entry Hall12

Charles O. Schwarz Interior Design in House Beautiful, March 2013

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“I love that this house is not fashionable or chic.  This house is about everything that comes in and out of its doors; dogs and cats, flowers and vegetables, family and friends, food and wine.  This is what life is about and it is what my client and I understand keeps the soul and spirit in this house alive.”

-Charles O. Schwarz

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I first discovered Columbia County, New York in 1989.  I’d been invited to spend the weekend at a friends family compound in Canaan, in the northern corner of the county.  Six years later I bought my first house there in Claverack, and restored it to its 1822 glory.  Everyone who’s visited there understands there is something quite magical about Columbia County.

When my friends at House Beautiful told me that a historic Hillsdale House (in the southeastern corner of the county), restored and decorated by Charles O. Schwarz, was being featured in the March issue, I decided to catch up with Charles to talk about the home.  What follows is an excerpt of our conversation.

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How old is the building?  Do you know it’s history?

The house dates to about 1830.  The original family moved up from Dutchess County to farm what is very fertile soil and today supports extensive flower gardens.

When I bought my house in Columbia County, it was in dreadful condition.  Did this house require an overhaul?

Many of the areas in the house were renovated, the most extensive being what is now the red family room and adjacent boot room, guest bath and laundry room.  This area was a poorly reconfigured garage that was contemporary in style and had no relationship to the rest of the house.
     
The master bath and dressing area were also reconfigured, we flipped the two putting the bath in the corner to take advantage of garden views through new, almost floor to ceiling windows.
      
The kitchen was completely redone.  Cabinets made from rough barn siding were replaced with new custom cabinets more in keeping with what might have been there originally.  A new expanse of windows were again installed to take advantage of garden views.
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You’ve been incredibly sensitive to the original spirit of the house with regard to color.  Did you have to do much research?

My client’s Scandinavian background was a big influence regarding the colors selected for the house.  We were mainly inspired by an 18th century Swedish tapestry called a Bonad, that hangs over the mantle in the living room.  The colors in this tapestry are predominately reds and blues, these colors saturate some rooms and in others they are used as accents against more neutral backgrounds.  A string of rooms alternate between dark and light walls, giving each of the spaces their own personalty – but connecting them together by the repetition of the color scheme.
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I applaud your use of wallpaper in this house,  who are your favorite vendors of period designs?

Most of the paint and wallpaper came from Farrow and BallI love the colors and the painterly quality of the papers.  The designs are fresh, and they just ‘clicked’ with whatever we put with them.  I consider wallpaper a lot of “bang for the buck” – what else can transform a room so dramatically without any mess?  Many of the new furnishings came from Hudson Home, a shop in Hudson New York, that offers traditional designs with a contemporary edge, that mix well with the swedish antiques from Cupboards and Roses just to the east in Sheffield, Ma., and Hedstrom and Judd also in Hudson.
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You established your design firm 24 years ago.  How has the industry changed since then?  How have you adjusted to the changes?

The design world has changed quite a bit. The extravagances of the 1980’s and 90’s has been replaced by a sparer, cleaner, less fussy look.  Good design is more important now than ever before.  Clients are more conscience of our troubled environment and seem to be living smaller and smarter: and our jobs as designers is to help make that happen, and I for one hope it becomes the new normal.
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My special thanks to the Hearst Design Group for introducing me to Charles, and to Charles for sharing his thoughts about this enormously successful project.  You can see more of the images from the home on HouseBeautiful.com, as well as in the magazine – which hits newsstands today.  I’ve got a digital subscription, perfect for my iPad (and easier on my carbon footprint.)  Check out subscriptions here.

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