Visit this media insider’s ever-changing Hudson Valley home

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There is what you can see in a house when you visit or look at photos: the furniture, the fabrics, the wall coverings, etc. But there are also the unseen powers of decoration – the way a room functions or makes you feel when you’re inside. Rita is a master of both.

Graphic flooring painted by Dave Merandy defines the airy screened porch.

A vintage silk suzani draped over the large center ottoman/table brings a vibrant pattern to the summer lounge.

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Archivio Lante decanter and glasses by Domitilla Harding

Autumn fruits and flowers watercolor by Emma Tennant; price upon request. katiepertwee.com

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Blue-Rim Plates by Roro Pottery

In many ways, I’m a less than ideal decoration customer. I don’t have a big budget; my husband, Jacob Weisberg, and I each accumulate things that sometimes don’t go well together; and I’m constantly rearranging, not always for the better. Even looking at these photos, I hear Rita wishing I styled them differently, removed a few (several) offensive objects. She is clear and direct about what she thinks, but also open-minded and happy that I bring my own interests.
flowers and gardens and crafts—in the house. She was patient and we made changes bit by bit over the years as time and money permitted, revisiting and sometimes improving one room before even tackling another. It’s now been over 15 years of tweaking and renovating, decorating diving and retreating.

My husband and I bought this modest 18th century Dutch colonial house in the Hudson Valley in 1995, so that I could make a garden. The house is a jumble, having started life in the late 1700s as a one-bedroom inn on the old Albany Post Road that ran from New York to Albany. There were rooms added to it in the 1920s and some later old-style modernizations in the 1950s and 1960s. The house was owned by Dallas Pratt, heir to the Standard Oil fortune and co-founder of the American Museum in Britain , a collection of decorative arts, in Bath, England. It was by far the most modest of his many homes, and perhaps his favorite, although he visited it most years only in October, when the weather cooled and the leaves turned. By the time we arrived the house was an odd mix of some good American period details, plus bathrooms with plastic shower stalls on shag carpet, built-in sinks in the bedrooms and locked behind paneled doors that looked like a cross between a confessional and a telephone booth, and an attached garage that had been transformed into a lookalike of the set of The Brady Bunch.

With the exception of a kitchen restoration and renovation with the very talented architect Jim Joseph (AD, February 2014), a specialist in old houses, we have done little for nearly a decade except continue to live and enjoy the place and its quirks.

A Twigs wallpaper dresses a bathtub. Sink and aqueduct fittings; Visual comfort wall lights.

Needleman’s well-stocked flower arrangement room; old soapstone sink.

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Boston Double Arm Functional Bookcase Lamp by Chapman & Myers

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Finally, in 2005, we got down to trying to really smooth things over with Jim and our friend Dave Merandy, a local craftsman-carpenter who eventually became mayor of the next town while being a dedicated, good-looking builder. Before Rita came on the scene, we had already decided to move the kitchen into the Brady’s Bunch room, add a large living room opening onto a screened porch and a new master bedroom above. Rita began by working on the architecture of spaces with Jim. She fine-tuned the plan to have two guest bedrooms share an enlarged ensuite bathroom for a sense of privacy for visitors, maintaining a small common hallway and keeping the tub and toilet in separate rooms from each side. In the living room we were building, she found an old fireplace mantel that matched the wall molding Jim designed, making the room look like it had been there all along. The windows in this room needed to be quite a distance from the wall, so she suggested old mirror panels angled next to them to reflect lost light back into the room. And in an awkward leftover space between the kitchen and living room, she designed a flower arrangement room for me, reusing an old soapstone sink Dave had found at an antique fair for his kitchen remodel. ‘origin.

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