Alexandra Collins’ military brat upbringing gave way to her love of art and design, her frequent moves teaching her about crafts from Germany and the U.S., England and Holland. She collected wooden puppets in German markets and clunked around Swiss tulip fields in wooden clogs before moving stateside at age 10. All that impermanence didn’t result in culture shock for Collins, but instead in an appreciation for the history and subtle in-betweens of culture.
“I've [always] loved creating, collecting products and art that bring me joy or made me feel some kind of emotion,” Collins tells Chronogram. “The mix of past and present, the used versus untouched has become everything to me.”
In 2019, Collins and her husband uprooted once again, from Seattle, Washington, to the Hudson Valley—and she found a niche in interior design that seamlessly connects the old and new, domestic and foreign. While designing the second floor Airbnb (styled as a home office) of the Kingston Design Connection Showhouse, she decided to evoke history through subtle techniques rather than obvious signifiers.
Her biggest influence is never designer x, y or z—but the four walls she happens to work with. “I've started to realize how important a house and its state of being is to my design process,” she says, considering the Kingston Design Connection Showhouse’s original front door, brass lions’ head knocker and marble molding. “The home was built in 1890 and you can feel it, even when you walk up to the front door,” she says.
With the character of the house as a springboard, Collins headed for local antique hole-in-the-walls. “I really wanted to find the perfect antiques from the area and blend them with more modern pieces,” she says. This includes a new Scandinavian storage armoire by designer Braxton Alexander, contrasting against more antiquated details like vivid green batten walls.
For Collins, evoking the past has everything to do with scale and harmony. “Rooms and people were all generally much smaller back in the 18th and 19th centuries,” she says, and, to that end, she positioned a large wooden desk in the center of the home office to create a “homey, inviting” atmosphere. “I want visitors to notice the old versus new, but feel like they mesh smoothly and comfortably,” she explains.
A visit to Collins’ Instagram shows her clever dance between the past and present—antique books and paintings by a minimalist bed frame and shelving unit, aged picture frames offsetting a beachy-chic sitting room. Some of these items were picked up at her favorite antique shop, the Coxsackie Antique Center in Coxsackie, New York.
Her favorite find for the showhouse on these antique jaunts? “A vintage cast-iron gooseneck lamp from the 1930s,” she says. “It has an art deco/steampunk look to it that I find incredibly fun to add, especially layered with a modern floor lamp.”
Although vintage touches are everywhere, expect her Airbnb/home office to err on the side of minimalism; it won’t be a museum. And for this upstate New York transplant, the Showhouse will be a fitting introduction to a fresh , worldly new local designer.
All in all, Collins’ work is marked by a sense of exploration, play — and a love of local history. “I'm having such fun exploring all the antique stores in each small town and taking in the area’s history,” she wrote recently on Instagram. “Who knew I’d be such a history junkie?”