No doubt you’re familiar with the global nonprofit Habitat for Humanity, which has been building safe, affordable housing in the U.S. and around the world since 1976. Twenty years later, Hudson Valley do-gooders in Ulster County joined the mission, establishing a chapter to help families build and improve homes. At press time, Ulster Habitat for Humanity (UHH) had just finished building home number 23, with a goal of building three per year going forward.
This past April, UHH joined forces with Kingston Design Connection (KDC), a nonprofit that focuses on connecting upstate New York builders, makers, and designers to foster professional and economic development, for a brilliant initiative. The big idea? Enlist pro decorators to turn blank-slate rooms in a newly-built UHH house into unique, memorable spaces. The designers shopped primarily at the UHH ReStore, a home improvement center that sells donated items at steep discounts (compared to what typical retailers charge). “The partnership between KDC and UHH is meaningful for both organizations because together we’re able to provide more impactful programming throughout the year,” says KDC founder and CEO Maryline Damour. “We’re excited to showcase more design pop-ups in the future, as well as a monthly speaker series where design-build professionals in the region can connect and discuss home improvement topics with homeowners.”
Take an up-close look at the rooms in this lovely house on Broadway in Saugerties. There’s inspiration in every corner!
Designer Michael Van Nort imagined the future homeowners to be a creative couple interested in photography, Americana, and abstract art. “It all started when I found the collection of vintage cameras at the ReStore,” says Van Nort. He grouped them on a white lacquer tray to create an intentional feel, then placed the tray on a textured cocktail ottoman, also from ReStore. The wire Ferris wheel on the entry table is yet another ReStore gem. “I love that it added a nostalgic yet modern sculptural element to the room.”
As for the commanding art on the wall, Van Nort knew he wanted to partner with abstract artist Melanie Delgado as soon as he saw the home. “Her work is so layered and colorful, I think it really brought the room alive and made a wonderful first impression.” In one corner he paired a collection of vintage American pottery from ReStore with his own art books on a primitive red bench from Maple Lawn 1843 in Stone Ridge.
Interior design is only one piece of Nancy Geaney’s personal creative puzzle—she’s also into working with textiles and does real estate staging. “I go to the Ulster ReStore quite regularly,” says Geaney. “It’s pretty incredible what you can find there, especially on Wednesdays when there’s fresh inventory.” For this primary bedroom, Geaney lucked into a cool industrial-style bench, to which she added an upholstered cushion. “That’s typical for me, adding a fabric component or a fresh coat of paint to something I pick up secondhand.” Another example: She threw a sheepskin on a beautiful rattan chair to soften it up and make a nest of sorts for a pair of plush pillows she made herself. Geaney reinterpreted wood crates as nightstands by simply turning them on their sides, positioning them to flank a bed crowned with a unique two-piece headboard she upholstered with wool boucle material. (It’s attached directly to the wall with a cleat.) Other finds include a vintage chandelier, a ‘70s-era chrome floor lamp, a drum side table, and a heavy bronze sculpture of an enigmatic woman. “Ultimately I feel good about spending money at ReStore, it’s a great cause and this way wonderful stuff stays out of landfills,” says Geaney.
Designer Brooke Lane is a huge believer in shopping secondhand. “Vintage pieces tell a story,” she says. “I prefer something old and interesting to something new and mass-produced, hands down.” The Ulster ReStore is among her frequent stops for décor items big and small. “Ninety-nine percent of my room for the Habitat project came from ReStore,” she recalls, “including the dining table, buffet, mirror, candlesticks, glassware and some pottery, sourced over three store visits.” Her best tip: Really lean into mix-and-match versus matchy-matchy to end up with visually interesting spaces.
For an eye-catching rustic modern place setting, Lane enlisted the help of fellow designer, Nancy Geaney, to dye cloth napkins to complement the neutral walls. She made the placemats with fabric found at a flea market.
“I knew right away that the wall behind the desk was going to be a key area of focus no matter where you were in the room,” says décor pro Ariana Winston. In addition to designing and installing colorful removable wallpaper to break up the basic neutral walls, she paired a gorgeous oak desk with a vintage ladder back chair from ReStore. On the desk itself, an old-school silver cup from ReStore holds its own among a flea market brass antelope, a floral-inspired lamp by Perch Objects and a clear glass candle holder by Steven Bukowski. “Mix old and new,” she advises. Another Winston gambit? Layer different kinds of art. Here, she pairs a stunning koi image by Hudson Valley photographer Peyton Bacha with a number of her own paintings.
The ReStore Story
Habitat for Humanity ReStores are independently owned stores operated by local Habitat organizations. They accept a wide variety of donations from companies, businesses, and individuals—everything from building materials, appliances, cabinets, and flooring to furniture, antiques, artwork and housewares—to sell to the public at a fraction of typical retail prices. Thanks to the diverse donor pool, inventory is typically quite varied. Buyers save money and divert still-useful items from landfills, and the Habitat organization makes money to put towards fulfilling its mission of building and repairing homes. Everybody wins! For more info on the Ulster ReStore, visit ulsterhabitat.org/restore.
Join Kingston Design Connection and Ulster Habitat for Humanity for their monthly speaker series, now through October on the third Tuesday of the month. The August 15 topic is “Home Improvement for High Return” to help homeowners get bang for their bucks. On September 19, attendees can pepper designers with questions in “Ask an Interior Designer.”
Location: Ulster Habitat ReStore, 406 Route 28, Kingston.
Time: 5:30 p.m.