Fred J. Johnston's Former Residence The house was redesigned in 1960 by Fred J. Johnston, an antiques dealer who counted DuPonts and Rockefellers among his deep-pocketed clients, for owner Flossie Pratt, a well-heeled civic enthusiast. Johnston is remembered as the benefactor of the museum which bears his name on the corner of Wall and Main Streets. He was one of the founders of Friends of Historic Kingston. Llewellyn was president of the preservationist group last year, winding down a decade in which he devoted most of his energies to not-for-profit organizations. He has a few private design clients, and has begun looking for more, while debating whether to open his own antiques and decorative objects boutique, possibly in a converted industrial space.
"I've also been writing a cookbook for decades," shares the designer, quasi-famous for his dinner parties. Typical menu: corn soufflé, roast pear salad, pork loin, and a white French burgundy such as Pouilly-Fuisse to drink. "But now the holidays are upon us, and we're on the Christmas tour again this year, so lots of decorations to consider and put up, plus several parties to give. I'll think about the other work later."
Llewellyn knows a lot of famous decorators, socialites, and set designers, but won't divulge names. "Our front hall is painted the same shade of purple as was used in the dining room of the film Grey Gardens; we know the set designer. And recently a dear friend who is downsizing gave us her fabulous collection of English Majolica, huge vessels, quite valuable—I'm still gasping at her generosity, we love them so much. I found the perfect spot for them on a ledge above the back stairs."
Repurposed Pillars from a Torn-Down Church The home's stately Doric columns aren't original to the house, built for the Philips family, otherwise forgotten in Kingston history. They came from the original St. James Methodist Church, which was torn down and replaced; Llewellyn thinks they were added to his house in 1850.
Johnston installed a large bay window in the dining room and added bookshelves throughout the house. Llewellyn puts them to effective use displaying his collections of busts and other interesting objets d'art.
The only major structural change Llewellyn and Swenson made to the house was enclosing the former servant's entrance to create a small, walled garden. The house otherwise does not have much of a yard on any side; the front landscaping was redone by Llewellyn. "It's a true townhouse in that way. I like to call it Kingston's first mini-mansion," he says.
Llewellyn pays tribute to his favorite interior designers and historic homes. "The dining room is painted the exact same yellow as used originally in Monticello, it took eight coats to get right. The downstairs sitting room is wet-gardenia leaf green, a Billy Baldwin color. And the parlor is Nancy Lancaster yellow, an impossible shade to match, but now you can get it in C2, a line of hand-crafted paints using artist pigments. I bought it from Joan Ffolliott, the color expert Chronogram featured a while back, at Cabinet Designers, Inc. on Route 28 in Kingston," says Llewellyn.
"We Throw Parties. We Travel. We Do Not Hike." Swenson and Llewellyn give and attend parties, sail and fly to places with nice beaches—they're sort of looking for a boat—and in general find myriad ways to savor the Hudson Valley. But they never, ever hike.
"Shortly after we moved here Gary went hiking with a friend to Kaaterskill Falls. It was like that scene in Auntie Mame when Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside plunges to his death taking a picture in the Alps. Our friend was standing backwards, taking a photograph, and suddenly he just fell, many, many feet, and nearly died, breaking lots of bones. I wasn't with them. It was just awful. I had to call his wife," the designer recalls. "So that was it for us and hiking. We do not hike."