Hello, Hinterland | House Profiles | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
click to enlarge Hello, Hinterland
Winona Barton-Ballentine
Designer and event planner Jennifer Salvemini converted her home’s former garage into a showroom for art, crafts, and design. Called Hinterland, the showroom features women makers and artists fostering a reciprocative, collaborative community. “It’s a sisterhood, but in a modern entrepreneurial context,” Salvemini says. The paintings and wall mural pictured were created by Katie Westmoreland. The hardware designs were forged by metalsmith Alison Zavracky. Soaps and oils by Babs Mansfieldare also on display.

In the summer of 2020—with Covid-19 walloping New York, the region on lockdown, and the presidential election looming large—Jennifer Salvemini opened an ice cream business. “It seemed logical,” says Salvemini, a designer and event planner. She had bought her Catskills home in 2017, but had been dividing her time between working in Manhattan and more creative pursuits upstate, until COVID forced her hand. When New York City went into quarantine that winter, she finally cut the cord, giving up her city apartment and fully decamping to her Shokan home.

Salvemini was grateful for the respite, but she’s also not one to sit still and wait for something to happen. Interior design is her bread and butter—she serves as a strategist for the Kingston Design Connection—but she’s also spent years in the restaurant and fashion industries, and has added some event planning into her professional mix. Her designs are an experience for all five senses, drawing from and inspired by what she hears, smells, sees, feels, and even tastes. But Salvemini also has a sixth sense: One for finding and creating community. With the onset of COVID all her design projects and business plans came to a screeching halt. “I really wondered what to do next,” she says. She didn’t have to look very far for an idea. Her 2,500-square-foot, cedar shingle-sided rambler sits on almost two acres sandwiched between the Ashokan Rail Trail and Route 28. Salvemini found opportunity right at the end of her driveway.

click to enlarge Hello, Hinterland
Winona Barton-Ballentine
Salvemini wears a Yardie jumper from Nyamka Ayinde’s Catskills uniform apparel collection. “I think the drive to create is a biological urge in a way,” she says. “For many women, self-care is at the absolute bottom of the list. Part of the showroom collective’s mission is showing up for each other.” Behind her, a large abstract painting by Caroline Burdette.

After some research, she realized there wasn’t an ice cream truck operating in her vicinity. So she found an ice cream cart, obtained a peddler’s permit from the town, and started her new socially distanced business right out her front door. It was a hit. “It was just like summer camp,” she remembers. “I spent days out there listening to music and scooping ice cream. It was a great way to connect with people and stay six feet apart.”

Salvemini met many of her neighbors, and began getting regulars from the rail trail. She even reconnected with the home’s previous owners. “I thrive on interacting with people,” she says. “And the connections I made felt very meaningful and special. It seemed like a sign that my random COVID pivot was the right thing to do.” From that point on, there was no turning around for Salvemini. “It was like, ‘No backslides,’” she explains. “When I moved up here I wondered where I’d find work and what my community would look like. Then I realized it was up to me to create both those things myself. If you build it they will come.”

click to enlarge Hello, Hinterland
Winona Barton-Ballentine
“My personal aesthetic is vintage eclectic,” Salvemini says. “I like to source previously owned vintage or antique pieces because the world has enough stuff.” She tends toward a tonal color palette with nigh contrast pops of color.

Martha Stewart Meets Global Design

Salvemini has been drawn to the Catskill Mountains for a long time. “I grew up in the suburbs,” says the New Jersey native. “I think I felt deeply deprived of nature as a child even if I couldn’t really express that growing up.” She moved to New York City in her 20s and studied anthropology at Pace University. “My academics evolved into a passion for aesthetic expression in all areas of culture, from architecture to mythology and textiles to cuisine.” However, it was a struggle to deny her love for home design.

“I grew up watching Martha Stewart and I’ve been obsessed with homemaking since I was very little,” she says. “Every year I would visit another design school and play with the idea of attending.” When she did begin her interior design practice, it took her a while to fully appreciate the profession. “I didn’t know how I was making the world a better place by beautifying people’s homes,” she says. “But I eventually realized that helping people create homes they love is actually a form of therapy. It improves their individual quality of life.”

click to enlarge Hello, Hinterland
Winona Barton-Ballentine
Salvemini added a wood insert into the home’s fireplace. Her living room design was inspired by the Coleman Hawkins’ song “Rosita.” “When I first saw the room, it reminded me of a swanky jazz song, with a bit of brass,” she says. “That musical influence gave me the design directive for the living room. Now whenever I walk in I can hear the slide part of the song.” The abstract print is by James Gilroy.

At the same time, Salvemini began exploring the Catskill region, first coming up on short weekend trips. “It seemed I was being called to these mountains,” she explains. “They’ve always felt very protective. I knew I was meant to make a life here.” Salvemini was also attracted to the alternative economy she found flourishing in the region. “I was so encouraged by the O+ festival and many other organizations out of Kingston,” she says. “This region offered the kind of life that I want to live: community oriented, slower, more connected to nature and sustainability.” She wanted to explore her professional interests in ways that were socially and environmentally responsible and community driven. “Being in a place with like-minded creatives who are interested in building alternative economic structures in communion with nature means everything to me.”

Rambling Home

She began searching the Hudson Valley for a property in 2017, however she was looking for a place that could be more than just a weekend retreat or even a full-time home. “I had these business plans in my mind and on a folder in my hard drive for almost 10 years,” she says. She envisioned a lifestyle destination that would include a studio for her design work, a place to share with others, and even a “culinary moment” where she could cater meals or hold larger events. She called the project Hinterland and went looking for a site that would suit her parameters. The property on Route 28 had been siting empty for almost a year when she found it.

click to enlarge Hello, Hinterland
Winona Barton-Ballentine
Salvemini closed walls in her living and dining room to create a separate short-term rental unit. “The windows are surrounded by old maple trees,” she says. “And it can feel like you’re sleeping in a tree house, waking up surrounded by shimmering leaves.”

Once a one-room hunting cabin in the middle of the forest, the almost 100-year-old home evolved over the past century from seasonal outpost into a rambling mid-century ranch with a rather strange layout and multiple additions. However, Salvemini saw tremendous potential in the funky house. “What I wanted to do was so site-specific,” she says. “When I saw the property, I realized it was perfect for me.” Like her former hunting cabin, the hamlet of Shokan seems to have grown in varying directions and additions over the past decades, evolving from woods and railroad track into a hodgepodge of antique stores, warehouses, eateries, and one repurposed rail trail. Like Salvemini’s rambling property, it also seems right on the verge of coalescing into a community.

Salvemini bought the property and moved in at the end of 2017, beginning renovations almost immediately. During that first winter, she lived in the garage while working with Jeremey Mecca Wood and Bobby Benjamin to replace the home’s roof and partial hardwood flooring, as well as the plumbing. By adding walls to the dining area, she created a self-contained studio for short-term rentals. Then Salvemini set her sights on redesigning the main two-bedroom living space for herself.

click to enlarge Hello, Hinterland
Winona Barton-Ballentine
Salvemini enjoys the home’s covered back porch throughout the warmer months with views to her back acreage. “The property feels both pastoral and wild to me,” she explains. “I think I’ve been trying to give myself a chance to be a dirty-faced, barefoot, little girl in adulthood. I feel safe exploring that here.”

Design Outpost

In designing the home, she’s come to appreciate its tangential nature. “It sort of rambles, there’s many entrances and it can be confusing,” she admits. “However, the layout has allowed me to utilize the space in a really special way.” Her black-and-white living room, with natural accents, was inspired by the Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster tune “Rosita.” “My personal aesthetic is vintage eclectic,” she explains. “I’m drawn to the Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Mid-Century movements. I love finding ways to design around the original period details of a space while integrating unexpected elements.”
click to enlarge Hello, Hinterland
Winona Barton-Ballentine
The primary bathroom required a complete overhaul. Salvemini found the blue mid-century sink, faucet, and handles on eBay. “That was a whole journey in antique plumbing that I never need to experience again,” she says. She restored the original blue tile and replaced the countertop. The blue and orange design, along with the orange pendant lamps, were inspired by her favorite orange-scented perfume. “I find great satisfaction creating meaningful sensory experiences for others in my designs,” she says.
Salvemini was inspired by her grandmother when designing her kitchen and dining room. “I imaged how her house must have looked when she was beginning a family in the 1940s,” she explains. The home’s primary bathroom needed a complete re-do. Her redesign pays homage to an orange-infused perfume she loves.

Initially intended to be her own studio space, Salvemini renovated the home’s garage into a showroom now open to the public and featuring women makers. Called Hinterland after her initial business plan, Salvemini got the idea during a holiday gift-wrapping session. “I was creating gift baskets that focused on all upstate, handmade items,” she remembers. “Without intentionally doing so I was including products from all women-owned businesses. It occurred to me that there is an abundance of women up here making and doing fantastic things.”

She developed the showroom around that realization, with an eye toward strengthening the local women’s maker and artist community, as well as providing support and opportunities for business growth. Salvemini is happy to see where this next inspiration leads her. “It’s a funky property and I’ve got some funky plans,” she says. “But I’m delighted to see these things come out of my head and into real life. It’s been incredibly surprising and fulfilling to see how my life up here has unfolded.”

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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