Giverny in the Catskills | House Profiles | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Giverny in the Catskills 

click to enlarge Anne Hall's refurbished 18th-century farmhouse sits on 155 acres of land. To Hall the entire project—first the rehabilitation and total renovation of the home and then the establishing of the resident flower farm—may seem almost opposite in nature, but Hall sees commonalities. “There’s definitely a very elemental thread through all of this,” she explains. “It’s taking things down to their most basic processes, appreciating those and then finding new ways to work their basic elements.” - WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE
  • Winona Barton-Ballentine
  • Anne Hall's refurbished 18th-century farmhouse sits on 155 acres of land. To Hall the entire project—first the rehabilitation and total renovation of the home and then the establishing of the resident flower farm—may seem almost opposite in nature, but Hall sees commonalities. “There’s definitely a very elemental thread through all of this,” she explains. “It’s taking things down to their most basic processes, appreciating those and then finding new ways to work their basic elements.”

In 2015, when Anne Hall first encountered her historic 1783 farmstead, she didn’t see a stone house that needed major renovations, or 35 acres that wanted planting, or even the attached modernist barn-cum-studio washed in light waiting for makers to make some creative hay. “I just saw one huge canvas,” she remembers.

Hall admits she has a hard time doing anything on a small scale. A photographer who was living and teaching in New York City at the time, she was drawn upstate by the timeless landscape and the area’s abundant flora and fauna. The stone house and surrounding 155-acre farm seemed to offer enough creative and logistical challenges to capture her imagination.

click to enlarge Anne Hall and her partner Kate Steciw enjoy some down time between tending to their creative work and flower gardens (and the resident flock of chickens). “When the temperature warms up, we spend most of our time on the back patio surrounded by a blooming magnolia tree, red-winged blackbird males stalking their territory, chickadees flitting, and the mountains, distant but ever present.” - WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE
  • Winona Barton-Ballentine
  • Anne Hall and her partner Kate Steciw enjoy some down time between tending to their creative work and flower gardens (and the resident flock of chickens). “When the temperature warms up, we spend most of our time on the back patio surrounded by a blooming magnolia tree, red-winged blackbird males stalking their territory, chickadees flitting, and the mountains, distant but ever present.”

Handcrafted from local bluestone and ancient hardwood, the 1,500-square-foot farmhouse was built by French Huguenot settlers during the 18th century and retains many of the original features of that bygone era. The original structure was added onto over the years, most notably in the 1970s when former owners moved an abandoned 18th-century wooden barn to the property, attaching it at the northern end of the stone house and effectively doubling the footprint to 3,000 square feet. Hall, who has traveled extensively since childhood, has a deep appreciation for anything handcrafted. “My mother instilled a love of the handmade in me,” Hall explains. “Wherever I go I pay attention to the local handcrafts—the plaster work in the humblest places in Mexico or Morocco; French-style kitchen cabinets that have screens rather than glass; and the Japanese attention to both texture and imperfection in their designs.” When she first entered the stone house, Hall recognized the original builder’s detailed handiwork immediately—even 250 years later. “I was so excited, I had to touch the house,” she remembers. “I slapped my hand down on the 18-inch deep window sill and was completely delighted by the solid slab of rock.”

Set in Stone

The abiding nature of the entire property appealed to Hall. Tucked between the Schoharie Creek and a ridge of the Rusk Mountain Wild Forest in Greene County, the 155-acre farm included 35 acres of flat fields supplied with water from the neighboring mountain slopes and unfettered exposure to the sunshine. “The possibility to have that amount of land as a place to sculpt and interact with inspired me,” she explains. The property’s ample acreage is further buffered by surrounding forever wild forest. “I love knowing that the mountains I look at from the window will always look that way.”

click to enlarge Hall stands in the front doorway of the home’s front rooms. She was able to keep most of the first floor’s original features, including the plaster walls, wooded beams, and window sills. The home’s previous owner was an antiques dealer who added a few interior doors throughout the home complementing the home’s antique style. Multiple works by Hall and other artists hang throughout the home, including the original Alice Neel 1978 oil on canvas Geoffrey Hendricks and Brian. - WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE
  • Winona Barton-Ballentine
  • Hall stands in the front doorway of the home’s front rooms. She was able to keep most of the first floor’s original features, including the plaster walls, wooded beams, and window sills. The home’s previous owner was an antiques dealer who added a few interior doors throughout the home complementing the home’s antique style. Multiple works by Hall and other artists hang throughout the home, including the original Alice Neel 1978 oil on canvas Geoffrey Hendricks and Brian.

Before she could begin any agrarian project, Hall needed to tackle the major rehab of the historic home. While renovating the 3,000-square-foot space, she tried to stay as true to the original architecture and construction as possible. Preserving the integrity of the handmade design while at the same time modernizing the spaces for comfort, shoring up the foundation, roof and walls, and adding some of her own creative touches became a two-year long undertaking. Luckily, Hall had the help of her partner, the artist Kate Steciw. Steciw, who moved from New York City to nearby Willow at the same time as Hall, was happy to pitch in with both the physical work and re-imaging the design. (Hall also brought in a construction team from Brooklyn, putting them up in trailers on the property for part of the rebuild.)

The home’s stone facade and original wooden front door were well preserved. Hall brightened them up by painting the window trims and door a robin’s egg blue. She kept most of the original first-floor rooms intact—only removing a small wall between sitting and dining rooms to create one open space that seems to not have changed in three centuries. Wide-plank wooden floors stretch throughout and the low ceilings are reinforced by exposed, rough-hewn, dark wood beams—all from some long-forgotten tree. To repair the original sky blue plaster walls and staircase, Hall and Steciw took historic preservation workshops in early American trade techniques at the Historic Eastfield Village outside Albany. Hall was also able to preserve the two giant bluestone fireplaces and wooden mantels. To create a cozy sitting area, Hall added a fireplace insert to one and found animal hair insulation tucked between the wood and stone.

click to enlarge Downstairs, Hall converted a former second kitchen into a full guest bathroom. Influenced by a trip to Morocco, Hall wanted to capture the colors, textures, and lighting she’d found while traveling though the country. She found bronze and beige handcrafted ceramic tile for the bathtub wall and paired it with mother-of-pearl mosaic tile for the floors—all from Mosaic House in Manhattan. - WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE
  • Winona Barton-Ballentine
  • Downstairs, Hall converted a former second kitchen into a full guest bathroom. Influenced by a trip to Morocco, Hall wanted to capture the colors, textures, and lighting she’d found while traveling though the country. She found bronze and beige handcrafted ceramic tile for the bathtub wall and paired it with mother-of-pearl mosaic tile for the floors—all from Mosaic House in Manhattan.

At the back of the house, the home’s kitchen and entire back wall required a complete restoration. Looking eastward to the nearby mountains, the kitchen area had been split into two spaces by previous owners. Hall tore out both sets of aging appliances, counters, cabinetry and even the floors and then replaced the windows and back wall siding. At one end of the space, she installed an entirely new kitchen with marble countertops, stainless steel appliances, bright blue cabinetry, and black-and-white floor tiles. Hall updated the adjacent sun room with Moroccan tile floors. The second kitchen area was transformed into a full bathroom, finished with earth-tone tiles in multiple patterns but complementary in color and texture.

Hall reconfigured the upstairs spaces to include two bedrooms, a full bathroom, and a walk-in closet. (An additional guest bedroom is on the first floor.) After replacing the roof and dormer windows, she added an opulent bathroom with both tub and walk-in shower. Hall finished the tub with hand-painted green and white tiles collected from a trip to Italy as well as a handpainted green and white sink from the same trip. The upstairs shower is finished in a mix of glassy green and matte white tiling.

click to enlarge The home’s original kitchen was completely gutted and rebuilt from the studs to the roof. Hall kept - the original wood ceiling beams, but lightened the space with a white wash of paint to the ceilings and walls. Marble countertops and cobalt blue cabinets modernize the space and black-and-white Moroccan-style tiles accentuate the floor. - WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE
  • Winona Barton-Ballentine
  • The home’s original kitchen was completely gutted and rebuilt from the studs to the roof. Hall keptthe original wood ceiling beams, but lightened the space with a white wash of paint to the ceilings and walls. Marble countertops and cobalt blue cabinets modernize the space and black-and-white Moroccan-style tiles accentuate the floor.

Nothing but Flowers

The surrounding 35 acres of farmland are occupied by a project of a more ephemeral nature. “It was really inspired by my love for color,” explains Hall of the small-scale regenerative flower farm she began two years ago. Named Crespell Farms after the family that built her stone farmhouse, Hall operates the flower farm as a community-supported agriculture initiative, growing acres of both rare varieties and common favorites—all of the blooms curated to connect members to the seasons. Hall was inspired to farm flowers after a trip to Japan in 2011. “It’s traditional there to have a shrine that brings the outside indoors,” she explains. “It’s very seasonally tethered. The idea of having the presence of the passage of seasons inside the house appealed to me. It allows you to experience the different transitions through a single plant.” Hall is also inspired by Monet’s home and gardens at Giverney. “Life there was lived between the kitchen and gardens,” she says. “I love working in the dirt and learning about plants.”

click to enlarge Hall organizing her weekly late spring flower harvest. Crespell Farms, her flower CSA, delivers throughout the Hudson Valley from spring through the autumn—making weekly drops in Kingston, Hudson, and New York City. Its popularity is growing. “I’m building a crew of some outstanding women who can take more of the reins next season,” she says. - WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE
  • Winona Barton-Ballentine
  • Hall organizing her weekly late spring flower harvest. Crespell Farms, her flower CSA, delivers throughout the Hudson Valley from spring through the autumn—making weekly drops in Kingston, Hudson, and New York City. Its popularity is growing. “I’m building a crew of some outstanding women who can take more of the reins next season,” she says.

Currently Hall divides the fields between seasonal staples, such as tulips, snap dragons, and dahlias, as well as varieties that are rare and special. Italian anemones with black petals, colorful butterfly ranunculus, vintage roses and even eucalyptus plants dot the farm’s flower fields. “It’s an exhausting amount of work,” she admits. “But I have a hard time saying no to sumptuously gorgeous flower varieties.”

Her work growing flowers has inspired Hall’s creative practice as well. After rehabbing the stone house, Hall and Steciw turned their attention to the attached barn, refurbishing the exterior and replacing the giant west-facing artist’s window. The ample split-level interior has enough area to give both Hall and Steciw studio space.

click to enlarge WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE
  • Winona Barton-Ballentine

Lately, Hall’s work is all about the flowers she cultivates. “I’ve been obsessed with Edward Steichen’s 1936 delphinium show at the Museum of Modern Art,” she says. Working with a friend at the Liberal Arts Roxbury gallery, Hall has tracked down some of Steichen’s hybridized delphinium seeds and plans to recreate the show sometime in the future. This autumn, however, she’ll begin with another show at the same gallery, dominated by plants she’s grown. “It will propose a post-human vision of a place dominated by plants,” Hall explains. For Hall, the spillage of her farm work into her art is completely natural. “Working with plants and flowers that are so jaw-droppingly stunning is a creative act,” she says.

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