This Kinderhook Home Renovation Is Full of Character

When a couple fell in love with a house in Kinderhook, they decided to take on a reno to add personality and create their dream home.

Stacie Billis and Michael Lebowitz’s search for a weekend home in the Hudson Valley officially ended with this porch—there’s a fan for hot days, a fireplace for chillier nights, even built-in speakers for music. And the view! Check out below for a peek inside their personality-packed Kinderhook dream house.

Stacie Billis and Michael Lebowitz fell in love with the Hudson Valley when they were students at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie.

Though they later settled downstate and started their family in the city, the couple rented a house in Claverack every summer when their children (two boys, now teenagers) were young. “We hemmed and hawed for years about buying a second home in the area, but we always ended up prioritizing working on our home in Brooklyn and traveling, which we do extensively with our sons,” says Billis. “Over the years we looked around for a home, but never found a place that felt quite right.”

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Plenty of soft, comfy places to sit was a must for this library, where conversation is encouraged.
Plenty of soft, comfy places to sit was a must for this library, where conversation is encouraged.

As a cookbook author and co-founder of the popular podcast “Didn’t I Just Feed You,” Billis could more or less work from wherever, but as founder and owner of his own business, Lebowitz was tied to the city. Then came Covid, and the need to go remote. It finally seemed like the right time to seriously consider a second home in the Hudson Valley. “Not so much because we wanted to leave Brooklyn, which we don’t, at least not yet,” says Billis. “But because Michael suddenly had so much more flexibility [for working].”

Still, it wasn’t a simple search. For one thing, Lebowitz is 6-foot-4, and many of the quaint old homes are literally too small to accommodate him comfortably. And frankly, they just didn’t feel like they could take on another old house that needed a lot of work, especially one they weren’t living in full time.

But finding a newer house that has comparable charm to an older country home is not easy. When they first saw this Kinderhook place, Lebowitz fell in love with the view and the land more than anything, according to Billis. Initially she wasn’t sold but came around to believing that with some changes, it could fit the bill.

Design Pro Tip: richly colored, pattern-heavy spaces always seem to be where families gravitate to hang out together.

They bought the house from the guy who built it originally in 2019 and lived in it for two years himself. Thankfully, it was in great shape, with all the latest mechanicals and systems. That said, Billis’ aim was to make it feel warm, cozy, and less ‘new.’ Also, they wanted to make thoughtful renovations to be able to host family and the boys’ friends. In other words, they wanted to venture beyond the usual space confines of city living.

For a good time, cue the belly dancers! This vintage Turkish rug—sourced through Chairish—happened to be perfectly sized and lends a fun note to the foyer.
For a good time, cue the belly dancers! This vintage Turkish rug—sourced through Chairish—happened to be perfectly sized and lends a fun note to the foyer.

That’s where Studio SFW, a New York-based full-service architecture and interior design firm, comes into play. The pros there had helped design and decorate the couple’s Brooklyn townhouse, and Billis felt extremely comfortable working with them.

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In a powder room, colorful wallpaper from Schumacher creates the trompe-l’oeil look of dozens of unique botanical bookplates.
In a powder room, colorful wallpaper from Schumacher creates the trompe-l’oeil look of dozens of unique botanical bookplates.

Originally, the downstairs included an eat-in kitchen, powder room, laundry room, living room, and smaller library/TV room, plus the primary bedroom and bath. All of this was kept as is, except for some SFW-suggested tweaks to create a more ensuite feel for the primary bed and bath. The second floor included two bedrooms, each with a bathroom, plus a TV room. To max out space, the SFW team recommended finishing the basement and adding a rec room, a pantry, and an additional bedroom down there. They also proposed finishing the garage and creating a new bedroom suite above it, which had actually been part of the original plans for the house.

This wood piece was custom built out of salvaged pine for the basement bar area. It is perfectly positioned to see plenty of action—it has direct access to a cozy family room on one side and to the backyard pool on the other.
This wood piece was custom built out of salvaged pine for the basement bar area of the Kinderhook home. It is perfectly positioned to see plenty of action—it has direct access to a cozy family room on one side and to the backyard pool on the other.

On the decorating front, SFW partner Erin Fearins led the charge to fine-tune Billis’ taste. “I love interior design, but I can get overwhelmed by all the choices,” says Billis. “I make much better decisions when I’m given a set of cohesive options.” A self-professed maximalist, Billis loves mixing, matching, and layering patterns. “SFW knows this about me and they are masters at doing it really well.”

house reno porch

Proof positive: The library. “The colors and patterns instantly make me happy,” says Billis. “I’m not a sit-and-chill kind of girl, but sometimes I will just sit and chill in this room because of how great it feels to me. It’s funny that a room that has so much going on design-wise is the one that calms me down the most.”

To learn more about Studio SFW and its retail showcase house in Rhinebeck, visit house-sfw.com.

Though kitchens are often slated for full-on renos, this modern one was in mint condition.

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This Kinderhook kitchen renovation
The kitchen in this Kinderhook home is light and airy.

Related: The Morningbird Café and the Aviary Spice up Kinderhook

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