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Country Living

How Two City Slickers Found Country Bliss

Leave it to two creatives to transform a dilapidated post-and-beam Dutch barn—“full of pigeons and rotting hay”—into an artfully layered Upstate New York retreat.

By Rachel Hardage Barrett / September 14 2020

Rebecca O’Donnell and Christopher Griffith have lived here, there, and seemingly everywhere—London, Paris, and New York, to name a few. “We did the math, and by the time our son, August [now 10], turned 7, he had called eight different apartments home,” says Rebecca. Their one constant: a country retreat in Stuyvesant, New York, serving as true north for the jet-setting city dwellers. “As an Aussie in New York, I found it essential to have a bit more green in my weekends,” says Rebecca.

When a broker brought the 1880s Upstate property to their attention, the couple, charmed by the views over the Hudson River into the Catskill Mountains and undaunted by the large-scale renovation, put in an offer.

After all, they’d made careers out of creating beauty. Rebecca, a consulting creative director, has designed ad campaigns, stores, and products for brands including Burberry and Laura Mercier; Christopher is a commercial photographer. And while Rebecca self-deprecatingly describes their current occupations as “shopkeeper and shepherd” (she owns apothecary The Quiet Botanist in nearby Hudson; Christopher has happily embraced farm life alongside photography), their collective well-trained eye and complementary aesthetic tastes played a key role in the home’s transformation.

“My taste is more European refined while Christopher’s is more industrial functional,” says Rebecca. “It makes for a nice mix, as the industrial makes the house not too precious, while the refined makes it more elegant.”

While the house was originally designed for weekends (read: no closet space), the couple updated the post-and-beam structure for full-time living, adding a saltwater lap pool, walled garden, and, yes, closets, leaving the globetrotters with a newfound appreciation for the expression sit and stay awhile.

“I still have moments, looking at the mountains or acres of wildflowers, when I realize how lucky we are to live where we do,” says Rebecca. For Christopher, that feeling comes when the family eats dinners at sunset, listening to the poplar trees blow in the wind while admiring their insane orange glow. “There is really nothing else I want or need.”

Read the full article here.