Growing up in Miami, Ana Claudia Schultz liked to re-do her bedroom every couple of years and move her furniture around a lot—but she didn’t think she was on to something career-wise. “My mother could’ve been a decorator, but she preferred to focus on her home and kids,” says Schultz. Furthermore, her mom believed that professionally decorated homes lacked the owner’s personality and character, which cooled any potential enthusiasm Schultz might have had for the field. She chose to study business in college, then veered into architecture. “Later I worked in retail furniture sales, and that’s where I got passionate about fabrics and furniture layout,” says Schultz. “With my architectural background and furniture experience, I realized that interiors was my true calling, especially when my retail clients were asking me to design their homes.”
In the meantime, as her professional life was taking shape, Schultz followed the path of many college grads and moved to New York City. Her college roommate invited her to a Christmas party being thrown by her brother, Aaron Smyle. The two—who had never met, despite having gone to the same high school—hit it off right away.
Fast forward through a few years of living together in Brooklyn, and Schultz and Smyle were ready to start scouting a weekend place. Though she was their official design pro and he was a tax accountant, Smyle has a sizable creative bent, so they both had lots of ideas. Their broad initial search included Windham and The Poconos, but a couple of nights at a B&B in Beacon sealed the deal for the central HV.
The first house they bid on, in Hyde Park, was bought out from under them by an all-cash buyer. Then Schultz recalled a nearby estate sale she’d gone to and asked her realtor to find out if that house was going to be coming on the market. The answer was yes. Loving the location, set on a hill, and offering clear views of the river, they bought it without ever setting foot inside.
Built in the late 1950s, the midcentury-inspired 5-bedroom and 3-bath house hadn’t been updated in six decades. “We did a gut reno before moving in,” says Schultz. They removed interior stone walls dividing the kitchen/dining and living rooms to open up and brighten up the space, and fully renovated the kitchen and two bathrooms. They retiled the fireplace, replaced windows, and upgraded the insulation. The update made the house significantly more fit for life in this century, without losing any of its bones or natural integrity.
In the living room, the big priority was plenty of seating facing the outdoors so they could fully enjoy the view. Devoted animal lovers, they chose durable fabrics and patterns not just to add depth, but to hide any stains. (Their current brood includes cats Dusty and Ellie and dogs Obi and Clay). The eye-catching blue-and-white chairs and ottoman are covered in fabric by American designer Kelly Wearstler. The fireplace tile by Clé Tiles is inspired by Copacabana. “I’m Brazilian and my husband loved the pattern from when we visited Rio de Janeiro,” says Schultz.
For cool contrast in the kitchen, out went the aged linoleum, cabinets, stove, and fridge. In came modern white lacquer cabinets from Ikea, strikingly contrasted by quartz countertops, Moroccan-inspired zellige tiles, stainless appliances, and a wood island. Opening up the kitchen to the dining and living rooms resulted in lots of natural sunlight.
Red Hook-based artist Rowan Willigan created a remarkable modern mural behind the bed in their bedroom and also painted the unique custom lamp shades. “Rowan helped me create custom pattern rugs for the 2019 Kingston Design Showhouse and I loved her abstract work which inspired our pattern,” says Schultz. The other two bedrooms in the wing now serve as a TV room and a home office.
To enhance the primary bathroom, they kept the finishes simple but added pattern with subway tiles in a herringbone pattern and contrasted it with a penny tile shower. Iridescent pendants placed above each sink complete the picture.
Clearly, statement artwork plays a huge part in the home’s vibe. “We are slowly purchasing more art from local artists,” says Schultz. “I always wanted to collect art and my first pieces were the dining room artwork by a friend, an American contemporary artist known as Ryan the Wheelbarrow. I moved from many apartments and always took his pieces with me.”
Plants also bring color, texture, and life throughout the house. “We keep a lot of cacti and succulents because they’re low maintenance,” she adds.
“Our home is very loved by my husband and me, and our dogs and cats,” says Schultz. “It’s a lot of energy and sometimes chaotic, but I think you can feel love when you’re here.”
As if gutting, reimagining, and redecorating a 60-plus-year-old house wasn’t enough of a challenge for Ana Claudia Schultz and Aaron Smyle, the couple more recently took on another sizable task: co-founding The Beck, a by-appointment-only design gallery in Rhinebeck that showcases Hudson Valley makers and artists. Interior designer Schultz and tax accountant Smyle both run their businesses out of The Beck, and they curate and rotate window displays of area artists’ work. They recently added an online shop to The Beck’s website, to broaden their sales capabilities beyond what they can accommodate onsite at The Beck. For more info, follow @thebeckrhinebeck on Instagram.
Related: How to Update Your Bedroom for Spring and Summer in the Hudson Valley