Konstanze Zeller's Colonial Stone House in Marbletown | House Profiles | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram
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Konstanze Zeller's Colonial Stone House in Marbletown 

click to enlarge Konstanze Zeller’s rehabbed stone house. While others might have been daunted by the home’s extensive fire damage and dilapidated state, Zeller saw pure potential and was glad the previous “flipper” had left the home relatively untouched. - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • Konstanze Zeller’s rehabbed stone house. While others might have been daunted by the home’s extensive fire damage and dilapidated state, Zeller saw pure potential and was glad the previous “flipper” had left the home relatively untouched.

Konstanze Zeller, founder of Cocorau, rejuvenated this colonial stonehouse in Marbletown.

"When I first walked in, the house just took my breath away," Konstanze Zeller says, describing the down-on-its-heels stone colonial she found in Marbletown in September 2016. The 300-year-old, 3,400-square-foot home had seen better days. Slowly falling into ruin in recent decades, the abode was finally left empty five years earlier, when a fire destroyed the interior and burned through the roof. Signs of neglect were everywhere: The cracked pool had turned into a swamp; bathrooms were piled with garbage and old paperwork; and debris and cast-offs littered the grounds.

Following the fire, the property lapsed into foreclosure and then was bought by an investor at auction, who intended it to be a quick flip. "He cleared the grounds and put in a few windows," Zeller remembers. "And a new roof—but it was barely attached. It was still a little scary."

But Konstanze Zeller wasn't looking for superficial beauty. "I've always wanted to rebuild a house," she explains. The East Village-based make-up artist and hairdresser had spent years using her skills to create the illusion of beauty for the camera. She was glad the investor had left the property relatively unchanged—a tabula rasa for her vision. Built on a hill with a view to the Catskills, the home was clearly thoughtfully sited by the original builders, and while the interior needed extensive rehabilitation, the home's ancient stone foundation and exterior walls stood strong. "It had been glorious once," Zeller explains. "This was one of the first houses in the early days of America and once was an important rest stop. It's a part of history." She felt certain she could coax the historic gem back to its former splendor, so made her offer, and by October, the property was hers.

George Washington (May Have) Slept Here

click to enlarge The three-season porch required extensive renovation. Once a covered porch, Zeller refinished the floor and walls, then installed new windows and insulated the ceiling. Now a dining area, it offers extensive views of the pool while retaining much of the stone house’s antique charm. - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • The three-season porch required extensive renovation. Once a covered porch, Zeller refinished the floor and walls, then installed new windows and insulated the ceiling. Now a dining area, it offers extensive views of the pool while retaining much of the stone house’s antique charm.
Zeller has never been one to shy away from a challenge. A native of Salzburg, Austria (her first name is pronounced Con-stan-zah, after Mozart's wife) she began her professional life in her family's hair salon, working up from apprentice to full hairdresser, before taking over the business. Even then, Zeller revealed her ambitious streak, entering multiple contests and almost competing in the hair dressing world cup. (Yes, that's a thing.) Her need for stimulation inspired a move to Berlin, where she mastered make-up artistry, and then another to New York City, where she entered the high-stakes world of fashion and print advertising.

Ten years in, burn out, back pain, and chronic laryngitis lead Zeller to seek out alternative healing modalities. Working with a naturopath, she went on a detox diet for seven months and studied everything she could about the connection between food and wellness. "When I finished the detox and felt healthy again, I was craving chocolate, but I didn't want to eat sugar or any other additives," she explains. So she did what any good self-starter would do and learned to make her own. She brought the chocolates with her when she went back to work, sharing them on photo shoots where they were eagerly devoured. Realizing there was a market for her health-supportive treats, Zeller lunged headfirst into her next challenge—launching Cocorau, a line of raw nutrient-based snacks and adaptogenic herb powders.

As she grew her food business, Zeller searched for a Brooklyn fixer-upper to bring back to life. But after four years of waiting and a foundered short sale, she was desperate, and friends encouraged Zeller to venture Upstate where there was plenty of characterful old housing stock that could use her attention.

The six-acre property in Marbletown was the first, and only, house she saw Built in 1791, right after the Revolutionary War, the home was once the seat of a large cattle farm. Along with a barn and an original ice house, the property came with a historic registry describing the generations of births, lives deaths, and marriages that had occurred within the home's two-foot-thick stone walls.

The property's location, on a knoll along the original route to Kingston, made it a well-known rest stop, and preceding generations turned the home into an inn. Out front, an antique mile marker, carved with the words "Seven Miles to Kingston," dates back to the earliest days of the house.

An Adaptogenic House

click to enlarge Zeller’s yard is perfectly configured for rustic entertaining. - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • Zeller’s yard is perfectly configured for rustic entertaining.

As soon as the home was hers, Zeller set about protecting her investment from further damage, rebuilding the roof and replacing dormers and windows. By November 2016, the exterior was sealed and she was able to turn her sights on the interior. Staying at a friend's cabin in Kerhonkson through the winter, Zeller spent her days working on the house and her nights researching. She familiarized herself with the nuances of masonry building and other construction methods and investigated ways of improving the home's efficiency without compromising its historic integrity.

From the front, the stone house features the tidy symmetry of a classic colonial, with two windows on either side of the black front door and brick chimneys at either end of the roof. The front door opens into the foyer where a wide staircase leads upstairs to a second floor landing. Zeller removed low ceilings from the upstairs bedroom, revealing extensive fire damage and a collapsing roof. She was able to reconstruct the high ceiling, but had to close the second floor fireplace because of damage. At first, she intended to sheetrock the upstairs walls, but she loved the look and feel of the original stone. So, instead of plaster, Zeller and the team at Lopez Construction cleaned and repointed the stone walls. They then created two smaller guest rooms at the opposite end of the landing, adding closets and installing a full bathroom with white subway tiles and a repurposed sink from Building Green in Manhattan.

Downstairs, through two original exterior doors—one white and arched, one small and rectangular—the living room leads to the home's back porch. Zeller removed a bathroom and refurbished the porch area to create an open, three-season dining room, which overlooks the saltwater pool. In the back wing of the house, she removed walls to create a large chef's kitchen, adding a central island and stainless steel appliances.

click to enlarge Zeller enlarged the downstairs kitchen by removing walls and then added stainless steel appliances and an island. Although she spent many years in the fashion industry, cooking has always been a passion. - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • Zeller enlarged the downstairs kitchen by removing walls and then added stainless steel appliances and an island. Although she spent many years in the fashion industry, cooking has always been a passion.

At the back of the refurbished kitchen, behind another tiny door, a narrow, winding staircase leads to a separate master bedroom suite. Once an attic, Zeller believes the space was expanded by previous owners into a bedroom by adding dormers to the north- and south-facing walls. Almost completely destroyed by the fire, the space had to be rebuilt from the floor up. To contrast the home's colonial feel, Zeller laid simple wood floors and plastered the walls giving the space a modern, almost Southwestern ambiance. A giant, freestanding headboard doubles as closet wall, opening from behind into a bathroom area and another repointed stone wall. Zeller installed a clawfoot tub at the south edge of the room and, tucked away in the corner, an open concrete shower. In the west, Zeller replaced the burnt-out walls with large triangular windows that offer a grand view of the Catskill Mountains.

click to enlarge DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid

Throughout the house, Zeller salvaged the original cherry wood floors by hand-scraping the mismatched planks of varying widths. Three large downstairs fireplaces (in the dining, living room, and kitchen) retained their original mantels and were still operable. Throughout the first floor, the paint was damaged by fire, but instead of stripping it, Zeller decided to clean and gloss the peeling walls as a visual reminder of the home's many-layered history. With help from interior designer Clemens Kois, Zeller repainted the wainscoting and trim a blue-grey, offsetting the wood floors and the multihued walls and ceilings.

Inspired Living

click to enlarge Some products from Cocorau, Zeller’s line of raw nutrient-based snacks and adaptogenic herb powders. - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • Some products from Cocorau, Zeller’s line of raw nutrient-based snacks and adaptogenic herb powders.

"The house—I loved it from the beginning. But I didn't really know the area," Zeller admits. "Later, I realized what an amazing road I'm on." She has been so inspired by her new Hudson Valley surroundings that in September 2017 she decided to move her healthy chocolate and adaptogenic herb company upstate. A former wine cellar in the basement has been transformed into her second, professional kitchen and the base of operations for Cocorau. Building the brand upstate is Zeller's next big challenge—one she's ready to tackle. "I don't like getting bored," she admits.

Zeller continues to revel in how well the house has sprung back to life and takes joy in the tidbits of the history she uncovers regularly. "Everyday I wake up and feel so fortunate to be able to live here," she says. "I'm just waiting to find a part of the Constitution hidden in the walls."





click to enlarge Zeller’s master suite has an open vintage tub and views to the Catskills. “The house brings me back to Austria,” say Zeller. “It reminds me of an Austrian mountain house. It’s almost like a fortress, the house has stood 300 years, why should it crash down now? It’s very different than a wood house.” - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • Zeller’s master suite has an open vintage tub and views to the Catskills. “The house brings me back to Austria,” say Zeller. “It reminds me of an Austrian mountain house. It’s almost like a fortress, the house has stood 300 years, why should it crash down now? It’s very different than a wood house.”


click to enlarge The view from the master bedroom - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • The view from the master bedroom
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