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This Renovated Stone House Hasn’t Lost Its Handmade Charm

Architectural Digest logo Architectural Digest 6/24/2020 Shoko Wanger

a living room filled with furniture and a large window © Architectural Digest When photographer Chris Mottalini learned he’d placed the winning bid on a 1950s stone house in the Hudson Valley, his reaction was more akin to dread than jubilation. “I thought, ‘Oh, god,’ ” he recalls. “My wife was taken with the space and saw its potential. I didn’t.”

The front door was painted dandelion yellow, after a series of old slides, abandoned in the basement, revealed that it had originally featured a similar shade. © Architectural Digest The front door was painted dandelion yellow, after a series of old slides, abandoned in the basement, revealed that it had originally featured a similar shade.

a tree in a forest: “The house has a really rough feel,” Chris says, “every window proportioned a bit differently from the next. But that’s because one guy did all the work himself—that’s pretty cool.” © Architectural Digest “The house has a really rough feel,” Chris says, “every window proportioned a bit differently from the next. But that’s because one guy did all the work himself—that’s pretty cool.” With a little backstory, it’s easy to understand why: Built by hand by an Irish stonemason, the 70-year-old abode boasted 22-inch-thick walls and a thoughtfully designed layout, but it had fallen into disrepair when its previous tenant’s health began to deteriorate. There were now mold and odor issues to contend with, as well as a sizable stash of relics left behind from decades past: forgotten furniture, cat-food tins, and newspapers from the 1980s strewn across the floor.

a living room filled with furniture and a large window: “I could hang out here all day long,” Chris says of the living room, which is home to a pair of Hem sofas, a Malick Sidibé print, and a hodgepodge of found treasures, including a gray cabinet and a child’s green chair, rescued from a Brooklyn curb. © Architectural Digest “I could hang out here all day long,” Chris says of the living room, which is home to a pair of Hem sofas, a Malick Sidibé print, and a hodgepodge of found treasures, including a gray cabinet and a child’s green chair, rescued from a Brooklyn curb. When they purchased the home, Chris, whose photography centers on architecture and interiors, and his wife, Nepal Asatthawasi, who works in urban planning and policy research, were first-time renovators and full-time Brooklyn residents—and with a baby on the way, there was little time to spare on a lengthy overhaul. Chris took on much of the work himself, starting by removing acoustic ceiling tiles to reveal wooden beams that were later painted white. (“I wore a Tyvek suit on the hottest day in August—it was gross,” he remembers.)

a kitchen with wooden cabinets: The kitchen’s clean lines are the work of Erik Blinderman of EB Joinery, who used a combination of plywood and maple to craft custom cabinetry and countertops. © Architectural Digest The kitchen’s clean lines are the work of Erik Blinderman of EB Joinery, who used a combination of plywood and maple to craft custom cabinetry and countertops. In other cases, the couple enlisted help from professionals and, in some instances, from friends. Bookshelves and kitchen cabinets were custom-built by Los Angeles–based woodworker Erik Blinderman of EB Joinery, who drove the parts cross-country in the back of a station wagon so that he could install them himself.

a close up of a blue door: A burst of unexpected brightness comes courtesy of a few coats of Farrow & Ball’s St Giles Blue paint. © Architectural Digest A burst of unexpected brightness comes courtesy of a few coats of Farrow & Ball’s St Giles Blue paint.

a room with a book shelf: Custom shelving by EB Joinery keeps the couple’s collection of books in order. © Architectural Digest Custom shelving by EB Joinery keeps the couple’s collection of books in order. Additional projects included eliminating closets to maximize space in the structure’s smaller rooms, and sanding and refinishing the home’s red oak floors. (Rotting linoleum in the bedrooms, meanwhile, was replaced with whitewashed pine.) Despite the changes, the pair chose to preserve the house’s handmade aesthetic wherever possible, opting to keep its original layout, its imperfectly sized windows, and its often uneven walls. “We did a decent amount of renovation in the end,” Chris says. “But at the same time, I wanted to do as little as possible.”

a living room filled with furniture and a large window: In the dining room, chairs left behind in the basement find new life around a cork table from IKEA. “We left the concrete wall in the back rough and unpainted to preserve a trace of how the walls looked when we bought the house,” Chris notes. © Architectural Digest In the dining room, chairs left behind in the basement find new life around a cork table from IKEA. “We left the concrete wall in the back rough and unpainted to preserve a trace of how the walls looked when we bought the house,” Chris notes. Further honoring the home’s history, the duo chose to partially furnish their new space with items left behind in its basement. Paired with their own collection of furniture, decor, and art (including several pieces of Chris’s own work and paintings by the couple’s now-three-year-old son, Nino), the dwelling has come to reflect a harmonious blend of high and low, new and old, and city and upstate influences—a far cry from its ramshackle beginnings.

a bedroom with a bed in a small room: Another print by Chris hangs above a lacquered dresser by Jasper Morrison for Cappellini. A vibrant Kazakhstani rug ties the eclectic color scheme together. © Architectural Digest Another print by Chris hangs above a lacquered dresser by Jasper Morrison for Cappellini. A vibrant Kazakhstani rug ties the eclectic color scheme together.

a living room with a red rug: In the main bedroom, a photographic print by Chris hangs above the DWR bed. The blue side table is by Hem, and the vintage Pendleton blanket is from Chris's childhood. © Architectural Digest In the main bedroom, a photographic print by Chris hangs above the DWR bed. The blue side table is by Hem, and the vintage Pendleton blanket is from Chris's childhood. “It felt a little like I was fighting with this house for the first six months,” Chris says. “At that time, I couldn’t imagine it ever feeling like a home. But, you know, it does—and now I’m obsessed with this place."    

a group of people in a forest: Chris, Nepal, Nino, and their dog Burger pose for a family portrait outside. © Architectural Digest Chris, Nepal, Nino, and their dog Burger pose for a family portrait outside.

⚒ Do It Yourself

Work with what you’ve got. Original floorboards, ceiling beams, and window sills—imperfect though they may be—help older homes preserve their character. “Sometimes with houses like these, a big renovation job makes the interior look brand-new, so that it doesn’t fit the rest of the property. I wanted to be careful not to let that happen,” Chris says.

Pay homage to the past. In Chris and Nepal’s case, a bright yellow door recalls the shade originally used when the home was built.

a room with a couch and a table in front of a mirror: A Noguchi lamp and a Martin Basher painting accentuate a table found in the house at the time of purchase. © Architectural Digest A Noguchi lamp and a Martin Basher painting accentuate a table found in the house at the time of purchase.

a person in a white tiled wall: In the bathroom, Nepal paired white square wall tiles with black hexagonal flooring. © Architectural Digest In the bathroom, Nepal paired white square wall tiles with black hexagonal flooring. Go quirky with color. While crisp white walls keep the space feeling bright, strategic accents—a neon orange chest of drawers, interior stairs in a cool sea blue—add warmth and the occasional playful wink.

Use art to tell your story. Art is an opportunity to put your personality, and your personal history, on display. Chris and Nepal’s art collection includes work by friends, their son’s paintings, a historical Thai flag, and a few of the photographer’s own prints.

a bedroom with a red rug: Three-year-old Nino’s bedroom features a framed box of Thai military medals and the flag of Siam, both nods to Nepal’s Thai heritage. © Architectural Digest Three-year-old Nino’s bedroom features a framed box of Thai military medals and the flag of Siam, both nods to Nepal’s Thai heritage. 🛍 Shop It Out

Palo modular 2-seater sofa + armrest by Hem, $2,399, us.hem.com

Akari ceiling lamp 55A by Isamu Noguchi, $350, shop.noguchi.org

Wassily chair by Marcel Breuer, $2,459, knoll.com

Palissade side chair by HAY, $233, us.hay.com

St Giles Blue paint by Farrow & Ball, farrow-ball.com

a vase of flowers on a table: A vintage lamp and a framed print from Thailand add interest to a corner bench. © Architectural Digest A vintage lamp and a framed print from Thailand add interest to a corner bench. a green bench sitting in front of a building: Moss green chairs from HAY make for stylish outdoor seating. © Architectural Digest Moss green chairs from HAY make for stylish outdoor seating.

a young boy looking at the camera: Nino rests on the vibrant blue staircase. © Architectural Digest Nino rests on the vibrant blue staircase. a bedroom with a bed and a window: A “Viking” chair by local woodworker Scott Tumbletee is paired with pendant lights by Muuto and a rug by Hem. © Architectural Digest A “Viking” chair by local woodworker Scott Tumbletee is paired with pendant lights by Muuto and a rug by Hem.

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