Ross Alexander instantly clicked with the owners of this Hudson Valley home. The interior designer may be an industry alum—he’s worked for Mario Buatta, Charlotte Moss, and Robert A.M. Stern, to name a few—but the warm Art and Crafts–inspired home in upstate New York marked one of his very first independent projects.
Two years before Alexander came on board, architect Jeff Wilkinson had gutted and rebuilt the 1960s structure and had added a few rooms here and there in the process. Now it was Alexander’s task to conjure the warmth of an old space in the essentially brand-new structure. “I wanted it to feel as if it was familiar, like it had always been there,” he says.
Alexander and his clients’ shared appreciation for antiques was evident from the start—they all responded to pieces that don’t try to hide their imperfections. The homeowners already had a healthy collection of pieces for the designer to work with, including a prized Tiffany lamp. Alexander’s joyful use of pattern in wallpaper, upholstery, and textiles throughout helped to reinvigorate existing pieces from their collection. “I think it’s important to use what people have, if we can, because it adds more warmth. When you hire a designer and you bring in someone to [completely] redo a home, to specify everything, in a way it’s a little impersonal.” he states.
The collection of antiques gives each corner of the sprawling home its own element of surprise, be it the aforementioned lamp or the intricately carved bed in one guest room. Where possible, they reused old materials from Wilkinson’s remodeling of the home, like in the entry hall, where wood-and-brick flooring is made from remnants of the house’s original brick façade.
Beyond getting to know the clients’ taste, it was important to Alexander that the home speak to its locale. Establishing the property’s tone became a process of further familiarizing himself with the Hudson Valley’s design history. Alexander researched the iconic homes of the region, like Frederic Church’s Olana. And, though he had no interest in creating a period home for the family, echoes of Olana’s textured grandeur and warm palette are noticeable throughout the relaxed vacation house.
Alexander sees his work as a designer as interpreting any given client’s aesthetic, rather than stamping his own imprint on place after place. Nonetheless, one constant in his work is an appreciation for nature, “Whether it’s in a fabric or through incorporating plants, florals, or even just the color green,” Alexander explains. This focus comes through in both subtle details and unmissable elements. For instance, Alexander was sensitive to the way different types of woods would pair well with each other; in the dining room, Windsor chairs of various different woods commingle. On a grander scale, wallpapers and decorative elements are employed to draw the eye to views of the surrounding forest, and in some rooms botanical wallpapers function as an extension of those views.
A celebration of antiques, design history, and the outdoors—the project is a summation of Ross Alexander’s sensitivities as a designer and the product of a joyful working relationship with his clients. Naturally, since finishing this home, he and the couple have already begun working on another property together.