The Dutchess County Estate of "Project Runway" Winner Gretchen Jones | House Profiles | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

The rule of three is a recurring motif in Gretchen Jones's life. Like a gingerbread house, her part craftsman, part post-modern abode is tucked away in a pocket of woods above the Hudson River. Winding wooden and stone paths—almost hidden through most of the year by a riot of bright purple flowers—lead to her three-story home clad in split-shake shingles and topped with a steep gabled roof.

Bits of Christian mysticism are everywhere. The ecclesiastical pattern of three interconnected parts, representing the Christian trinity of father, son, and holy ghost, is repeated throughout both the larger and smaller details of her home's design. The three-by-three rows of glass panes dot her first-floor, open-concept living area and 30-degree curved walls are woven throughout her home's interior. Ornate, generous eves are propped up by three curvy buttresses on the east and west sides of the home. On three faces, giant circular windows bisected by crosses add to the home's fairytale appeal and cast mystical shadows inside. Down the hillside path, a pool and hot tub are in the shape of three interconnected circles forming a trefoil.

click to enlarge The Dutchess County Estate of "Project Runway" Winner Gretchen Jones
Winona Barton-Ballentine
Designer Gretchen Jones in the open-concept living area of her Red Hook home. Built in 2002, the traditional space features eclectic, contemporary flourishes. Jones, a strategic business advisor to creative entrepreneurs, painted the curved staircase wall black for emphasis. “It’s an interesting mish-mash,” says Jones of the home she shares with her husband, Derrick Mead.

The same interlocking, three-part tension is also the foundation of Jones's professional life. A former fashion designer turned business consultant, she recently launched her business Weird Specialty, which offers business advising, studio space in Tivoli, and a Gertrude Stein-style salon. "The idea came out of a yearning for connection," explains Jones, who has a Rolodex of clients all over the country. "There's been a lot of disruption in the small- and micro-business world, which the pandemic accelerated. Those changes, and the rise of technology and the virtual world, have really impacted small businesses." Small and micro creative businesses have become her specialty. So, in 2022 when Jones recognized the same yearning in her various circles, she set out to create a space where a variety of entrepreneurs could share ad-hoc office space, widen their networks, and commune over creative problem solving.

Mastering the Art of Creative Tension

A Colorado native, Jones set out to become an interior designer but quickly set her sights on fashion design. "I've always had a strong independent spirit and a fire for entrepreneurialism," she explains. This led her to Portland, Oregon, where she cut her teeth working in the city's indie design scene. As her creative acumen and reputation grew, she faced challenges scaling her fashion line as her company's sole employee. Her work had also caught the eye of producers of the fashion design reality series, "Project Runway." When they called her for an audition, she decided to take the opportunity to scale up, and she moved to New York City to compete on the eighth season of the show.

click to enlarge The Dutchess County Estate of "Project Runway" Winner Gretchen Jones
Winona Barton-Ballentine
Jones and Mead converted the ground-floor den into a floor-through primary bedroom suite. They removed bookshelves and then recast the fireplace mantle with a smooth, rounded edge. They also added shape to a support pillar to play with the curviness of the home’s design. The apple head dolls above the mantel are by artist Mary Dwyer McAboy.

"In hindsight, it was the beginning of me realizing that I'm a very strategic-minded creative," she says of the experience. "I come from the world of skiing and was a jock as a kid. The whole experience made me think of how competitive skiers always know where their trail is and often memorize how they are going to handle each turn and obstacle in a course."

Jones planned meticulously for every detail of the show and credits those plans for helping her navigate the tough competition and eventually win. "I stayed focused," she says. "I realized, the more I planned ahead, the more I can stay focused." The show not only led to larger fashion opportunities, it taught her lessons she draws on today.

click to enlarge The Dutchess County Estate of "Project Runway" Winner Gretchen Jones
Winona Barton-Ballentine
Throughout the home, design flourishes often come in threes. In the living room, sets of three-by-three windows grace the north and east windows. A living room sectional by Egg Studio is matched with artwork by Brooklyn-based FAILE cooperative. “Most of our furniture is vintage sourced in the Hudson Valley or made by female designers and makers,” says Jones.

Taking Care of Business

After the show, Jones ran her fashion business until 2015. "I loved it until I didn't," she says. "Creatively, it was almost impossible for me to detach from the success of each collection. I've also always been a very sustainable-minded designer and I didn't like the fast fashion. It just wasn't fulfilling anymore." So Jones decided to get her MBA with the intention of returning to the fashion world from a different angle. "Instead, a bunch of my friends suggested, 'You really should try to help us,'" she says. "And that was it. I realized I had a gift for helping other creative entrepreneurs. Instead of going back into the field, I opened my practice and it's been going strong ever since."

click to enlarge The Dutchess County Estate of "Project Runway" Winner Gretchen Jones
Winona Barton-Ballentine
A second-floor bedroom also serves as ad-hoc office space for Jones. A former fashion designer, she started her creative consulting company in 2018 and recently opened Weird Specialty, a studio space and salon in Tivoli. “It’s meant to create a hive-mind for creative business people,” says Jones of the salon/studio. “People from different disciplines can commune with one another and get different perspectives on ideas from places they wouldn’t have tapped into otherwise.”

Meanwhile, Jones met her husband Derrick Mead, a fifth-generation Dutchess county resident. "My husband grew up on his family farm, Mead Orchards, and soon after I started dating him he brought me up here," she says. "Falling in love with this region came naturally." The two knew they'd eventually find their way to the Hudson Valley permanently and began searching for their forever home in 2019. They found their two-acre property close to Mead's family and moved upstate full-time in 2020.

Building Infrastructure

Built in 2002, the home was designed by a local architect to reflect his passion for Christian mysticism. Although he died in a motorcycle accident shortly after the home's completion, his philosophy and work live on through the home's thoughtful design details. "We tried to live in the space for a few years before doing any major renovations," says Jones. "In part because this is such a unique space, we wanted to understand the details we felt compelled to protect."

click to enlarge The Dutchess County Estate of "Project Runway" Winner Gretchen Jones
Winona Barton-Ballentine
Inspired by Workstead, Mead created the dining area chandelier. “We try to invest in small, independent businesses as much as possible beyond our own DIY efforts,” says Jones. “I am delighted by the amount of creativity, intellect, individuality, and accessibility there is here community-wise.”

Jones and Mead did bring the home back to some basics. A previous owner had painted the interior and trim purple and added a bronze tint to the home's windows. The couple repainted the inside a stark white to offset the shadow play and wood floorboards. They painted the curved staircase wall a contrasting black and added lines of black interior trim to accentuate the asymmetrical edge of a second-floor lofted landing. They removed the window tint to add more light to the home, and then repainted the roof and window trim black to accentuate the cross motif throughout the exterior design.

A den at the home's ground-floor level was completely reimagined as the couple's primary bedroom. With the help of local builder Ryan Virag, they removed a wall of bookshelves and built a contemporary white stucco fireplace casing around a gas insert. "We wanted to keep playing with the home's curves," says Jones, who extended the curviness to the primary bathroom with a playful, geometric brown and white wall print. The couple also added a covered porch right outside the backdoor.

Holy Intersectional

The couple have outfitted the home's two second-floor bedrooms into combination office and guest spaces. "Each room is totally different design-wise," says Jones. The northern most room is filled with light from three faces of rectangular windows. Mead uses the room as a work-from-home base. In the south-facing bedroom, Jones keeps a desk for the days she's not at her studio in Tivoli. The rest of the time it serves as sleeping quarters with an extra dose of early morning inspiration for guests. "There's a loft in the corner of the room, which I couldn't figure out," says Jones. "Was it for sleeping or for storage? Then overnight guests pointed out that the loft's cutout was designed to shine light in the shape of a cross into the room at dawn."

click to enlarge The Dutchess County Estate of "Project Runway" Winner Gretchen Jones
Winona Barton-Ballentine
Jones created the giant, three-bulb paper lantern, and collected the bird’s nests on the windowsills from the two-acre wooded property. “We love the feeling of living in a treehouse,” says Jones. “The strong personality of the house has encouraged me to embrace and get creative with design.”

The second-floor landing needed a little of Jones's consulting expertise to uncover its potential. "There were two large closets blocking the space and nowhere to sit," says Jones. "They also blocked the view." Jones and Mead removed the extra closets and now the open, lofted space is awash in light from the three circular windows—one to the east, one to the west, one skyward—all bisected with crosses.

The oversized windows capture the surrounding Dutchess country landscape in sacred, stark relief. That light, deft touch is what Jones tries to bring to her consulting work. "My mission is to help people who want to bring integrity and purpose into their practice," says Jones. "I think we need to redefine success in a way that's true to ourselves, and build our businesses around that. I want to help build businesses around the things that make people light up."

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