A Georgian Townhouse in Cold Spring | Chronogram Magazine

On a frigid February day, with ice shoves and sheets knocking along the nearby Hudson River, walking into Todd Seekircher and Tom O'Quinn's Georgian townhouse is a bit like stumbling onto a warm and arid oasis. Long rays of western sunlight reach through floor-to-ceiling sash windows, across the home's formal dining room, along the dark hot chocolate-colored floorboards and into the cheery green and white trimmed kitchen.

Greenery abounds: Cactus and succulents line window sills; potted majesty palms and birds of paradise flourish in corners and a philodendron winds along a marble fireplace mantle under an artfully hung rack of pans.

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Winona Barton-Ballentine
Tom O’Quinn and Todd Seekircher’s open, first-floor kitchen looks out onto their quarter-acre backyard. After five years of renovations, the couple finally rehabbed the kitchen space with an eye toward practicality and streamlined design. “We tend to keep things on the simpler side, relying on textiles, art, and plants to bring spaces to life,” says Seekircher. “There are more than 70 indoor plants on my last count.” He sourced most of the greenery from WYLD on Main Street in Cold Spring.

Throughout the 2,800-square-foot, four-story space the ambiance—and temperature—is remarkably and consistently warm. Achieving this modern convince was no small feat in a home abundant with original 19th-century windows, two coal fireplaces and which, until recently, was solely heated on the first floor.

Modernizing the space while preserving the home's antique detailing and restoring the elegant, symmetrical architecture set O'Quinn and Seekircher on a home renovator's odyssey; beneath floorboards, behind walls, up into the rafters and deep into the recesses of the home's basement. "It was totally and completely DIY," explains Seekircher, the head of Seekircher Steel Windows. "We did all the renovations ourselves."

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Winona Barton-Ballentine
The first-floor sitting room features a bay of windows and a plethora of art by Seekircher and friends. The couple have decorated much of the home with local finds, including the couch pillows from Palmera on Main Street in Cold Spring. A custom glass console table, and two side tables, were created by Seekircher’s company, Seekircher Steel Window, especially for the space.

The couple admits they didn't quite set out to undertake a five year remodel. "Otherwise," explains O'Quinn, a design director for PepsiCo, "I don't think we could have mentally handled it." However, like pulling a proverbial thread, one project lead to another—and then another still—until the two ended up completely rehabbing the three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-ish bath home. However, their rehabber's naivete had its benefits. "We rolled it out slowly, so each step felt natural for us," says O'Quinn. In the end, the couple's ability to creatively collaborate and their intuitive sense of design, lead to a bright, open home, reveling in 19th-century village charm.

Townhouse by the River

Seekircher grew up in nearby Garrison and wasn't really planning to come back to the area full-time. After college, he worked and travelled internationally before moving to New York City, where he met O'Quinn—a self-described Canadian army kid—and the two settled in Greenpoint. In 2016, they began looking for a small weekend place upstate and found themselves quickly drawn to Seekircher's old stomping grounds. "Because I'm from the area, I was really averse to moving anywhere that felt remotely 'suburban,'" Seekircher explains. "But Cold Spring has such a unique vibe among the towns of the Hudson Valley. It's so small and so connected to the Hudson River."

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Winona Barton-Ballentine
“We clearly like black and white,” Seekircher says of the couple’s decorating style. They elected to paint the dining room ebony and then added a large custom white dining table and black-painted rattan pieces for either side of the fireplace. The painting above the fireplace was bought from Garrison Art Center and artist Darren Waterston painted the collection of prints on the far wall. The dried flower collection is from Now in Bloom in Cold Spring. “We sometimes refer to the space as Polynesian Goth,” Seekircher says.

They found their townhouse with its deep, lot-through yard surrounded by historic buildings. (Seerkircher actually attended one of the neighboring churches as a kid.) The couple loved the simplicity of the Georgian architecture with its elongated street facing windows and brick facade. Inside, the stacked floors of the original 1850 structure revolved around an open circular staircase. A late 19th-century addition added a sitting room, a second-floor bedroom, attic, and basement space along the home's north side. "The house occupies quite a small footprint and especially from the front, reads as a very beautiful but unimposing home," explains Seekircher. "From the rear, it's much taller and, oddly, has a little more of a 'wow' factor."

Meanwhile, Seekircher was about to take over his father's company, Seekircher Steel Windows. Based in Peekskill, the company specializes in window repair and restoration and features a stock of vintage steel casement windows and antique handles. "It really felt like everything was sort of falling into place," he explains of the timing. With a plan to travel back and forth between Greenpoint and Cold Spring, the two bought the home in 2017.

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Winona Barton-Ballentine
O’Quinn’s second-floor office was converted from a small bedroom. The far wall includes some of his own work as well as artwork by friends, including Brian Rea, Martha Ridge, and Sol Cotti.

Tearing it Up

By the time O'Quinn and Seekircher bought it, the house had changed hands many times since 1850. Over the years, rooms had been chopped up piecemeal into smaller spaces, sections around the staircase were walled off, arbitrary closets were added, and some rather eccentric plumbing was installed in the first-floor bathroom. However, the first thing they decided to tackle were the floors. "We loved the wide planks, but the floors were like a shiny pine gymnasium floor," says O'Quinn. "We knew they needed to go two days after we closed on the house. "They decided on a basic black and white scheme for the first floor, painting the floors dark chocolate and the dining room walls ebony. The kitchen and sitting room walls were painted a warm white.

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Winona Barton-Ballentine
The covered porch at the back of Seekircher and O’Quinn’s home looks out onto their restored backyard. The couple rehabbed the space with vintage steel casement windows sourced from Seekircher Steel Windows.

Seekircher restored the home's original wooden window frames, replacing upwards of fifty broken panes and reglazing all the glass. He replaced exterior aluminum storm windows with less intrusive interior energy panels. To complement the color scheme, and pop the window's design, the couple painted the restored wooden trim black. "It's amazing, because they don't detract from the beautiful 19th-century windows but they seal the window frames very well," he explains. Adding a new central heating and cooling system was also a priority. This required tearing through layers of linoleum and ancient floorboards along the second floor and attic space to run ductwork. "We found a cache of toy soldiers, marbles, and a baby portrait from 1929," says O'Quinn. "There were also stock certificates and ,under one layer of linoleum, laid-out newspapers from July of 1953."

To complement their central heating endeavor, the couple decided to insulate the vaulted attic ceilings. To do this they had to tackle the attic's warren-like design which had been chopped up into three small maid's rooms. An added wall and door at the top of the staircase covered the railing and bannisters. "The ceilings were very low, the plaster and lath was falling off everything, and the wood floors were covered with linoleum," says Seekircher. "I don't think the space was touched in over 50 years." They gutted it. By ripping out the interior walls—including the staircase wall—they created one large, open space. Then they reframed and insulated the roof, sheet rocked the interior, and installed wood paneling on the ceiling and dormers. Decorative wood beams add character to the entirely white painted room which has views of both the backyard and the front streetscape.

The Final Straw

By the spring of 2018, the home was "pretty good and livable," says O'Quinn. The next step was renovating the concrete basement. By reclaiming salvaged pieces from the attic and main floors, they extended the home's square footage and aesthetic. Floorboards salvaged from the attic were reinvented as the staircase treads and risers; the staircase wall panels match the first-floor hallway. They added a bathroom and extra office space at one end of the basement and a kitchenette and gym at the other. Seekircher also replaced the rotted basement windows with restored, vintage steel windows sourced from his company. White oak floor boards further brighten the space.

A previous owner had installed a bulky laundry closet to the primary bedroom. "It completely disrupted the symmetry of the room and blocked the space," says Seekircher. The couple tore out the closet and temporarily located a new washer and dryer in the adjacent bathroom, then created a laundry corner in the rehabbed basement. On the first floor, a half bath with a shower head—but no shower—was inadvertently turned on, leaking into the basement. "We went into the bathroom wall and realized the shower pipes had never been connected," says Seekircher. After repairing the piping, and the basement ceiling, the peculiar shower is mostly decorative.

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Winona Barton-Ballentine
The home’s primary bedroom features an original fireplace and village views. When they moved in the home had very little light. They added a variety of minimalist hanging light fixtures to the home’s nine foot ceilings. The couple also replaced the coal-burning fireplaces in both the sitting room and primary bedroom with a gas insert.

An incident with the second-floor shower rod set off the home remodel's final phase, which included both the kitchen and primary bathroom. "We didn't really like the primary bathroom," says O'Quinn. "There was an old clawfoot tub that was always cold. Then one day the rod came out of the wall and hit me while I was showering. We knew it was time." They replaced it with a walk-in shower, a smaller tub, and new vanity, then finished the space with dark penny tiles. The kitchen was another chopped-up space they didn't know quite what to do with. "It wasn't very user friendly and had odd, apartment sized appliances," explains Seekircher. They added a central island, recycling some of the original cabinetry but painting it green, and topped everything with white quartz counters. Larger stainless steel appliances complete the space.

As they got deeper into their home's walls, floors and ceilings, the couple also became more deeply entwined deeply with the surrounding neighborhood. A year and a half into their remodel, they let go of their Greenpoint apartment and embraced Cold Spring full-time. "We've made such great friends here," says Seekircher. "We always dreamt of living in a beautiful townhouse. Now it feels like we're able to have the best of both worlds living in this house, in this great community."

Mary Angeles Armstrong

Mary writes about home design, real estate, sustainability, and health. Upstate, she's lived in Swiss style chalets, a 1970's hand-built home, a converted barn, and a two hundred year old home full of art. Now she lives with her son in a stone cottage outside Woodstock.
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