Family Home in Upstate New York
Greek Revival mansion on 25 secluded acres in Germantown
When George Abbott and Michael Lupo decided to purchase a property in the Hudson Valley, just north of New York City, they yearned for “extended-dorm-early-20s-type time with pals.” Abbott writes, “During the early epidemic, we leased houses with our friends and had such a great time hanging out with them.” “It was so amazing that we wondered whether we might find a venue where the sole purpose was to have adult sleepovers with friends,”
It didn’t take them long to locate and fall in love with an 1859 Greek Revival mansion on 25 secluded acres in Germantown. Abbott and Lupo envisioned the residence functioning as a retreat for LGBTQ and BIPOC-owned or -oriented groups and artists, in addition to serving as a gathering spot for friends.
Never do it twice
They soon recruited Nina Garbiras, the founder of FIG NYC, to oversee the design of the property. Abbott and Lupo were drawn to Garbiras’ “never do it twice” architectural philosophy, while Garbiras was inspired by the couple’s vision for their house. Consequently, it did not take long for a creative alliance to form.
Abbott and Lupo desired to construct something lavish and grandiose, the contrast to their minimalist New York City residences of the preceding decade. Garbiras comments, “We sought to create an environment that was eccentric yet elegant, warm yet sophisticated, and definitely verging on decadence.” “They requested that I create a conversation between the more elegant Greek Revival home and the more naturalist, meandering, and even overgrown gardens, pond, and farm.”
Limits might be possibilities
The den, which Abbott describes as “one of the house’s ugliest rooms,” served as the impetus for the entire undertaking. Garbiras believed that these limits might be possibilities and that there was a way to make the space function, despite the room’s peculiar layout and disproportionately big fireplace, which the couple was prepared to remove. “Since it’s the only functional fireplace, it seemed wasteful to remove it, especially since it’s going to be freezing up here in the winter,” she added.
A bespoke mantel welcomed the fireplace’s asymmetry, and Garbiras recommended the Flight wallpaper by Phillip Jeffries, which could stand up to the chimney’s enormous footprint. “She showed us this wallpaper one day, and we never looked at anything else,” Abbott says. “We were all like, ‘Of course, we’re going to do this.'” A granite table in the corner resembled a breakfast nook, and an antique, curving velvet sofa brought the rest of the space together. “That was a slam dunk, and it became the house’s first genuine layer,” Garbiras said.
The house is finally complete
Therefrom, everything was constructed. “It was essential that we achieve a balance across the rooms, with some being bolder and others gentler,” explains Garbiras. We attempted to use color and pattern wherever possible without overwhelming the viewer. She was determined to infuse the design with a sense of collaboration, and practically every major and little decision was decided together. Pandemic supply chain problems compelled them to turn to vintage, and group excursions to vintage markets and sales became the norm. “Nina was fantastic at editing because we were always emailing her and asking, ‘What if we did this? What if we did that?” asks the pair.
After two years, the house is finally complete, but the three of them have plans for attic restoration and some landscaping. “It’s odd that this project took so long,” says Garbiras, “but [George and Michael] enjoyed the ridiculous amount of choice in all fabrics, wallpapers, wall colors, and every style of chair and sofa known to man, and I, for one, refused to halt that adventure.”
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