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Sentimental Archaeology

Kate Cummings & Griffin Stenger’s Home in Accord

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Last Updated: 09/12/2017 11:00 am
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Rock, Paper, Scissors

Over the ensuing five years, they have renovated the home into a light-filled, airy haven that integrates all the disparate elements of their lives into one eclectic, living collage. Each space, anchored with a piece from their respective pasts, is decorated with a mix of both high and low art; a blend of treasures they've gleaned from flea markets and antique shops, sentimental artifacts, and practical pieces from mainstream outlets. Colorful framed prints line the walls, interspersed with photos and mementos inspired by the wooded surroundings and patches of Fornasetti wallpaper depicting a stormy sky.

By tearing down a wall of one master suite, the couple extended the upstairs into a large L-shape with an open kitchen and living and dining areas. They added a picture window at the home's entrance and expanded the front door frame, replacing it with double French doors of glass. Along the threshold, rubber kitchen matts demarcate a six-by-fifteen-foot mudroom area—capturing seasonal debris while adding a twist of industrial style. Between the hall closet and the entrance area, an office nook serves as the couple's "renovation station," where Cummings has transformed two corner walls into a vision board pinned with sketches, postcards, magazine covers, and the even the occasional seed packet to provide inspiration.

The couple’s living room is decorated with a blend of pieces from each of their lives. “I’m trying to create a haven for people,” Cummings explains about her work. Successful interior design is a combination of understanding the integrity of an individual space, as well as the people who are living in it and how they want to live.” - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • The couple’s living room is decorated with a blend of pieces from each of their lives. “I’m trying to create a haven for people,” Cummings explains about her work. Successful interior design is a combination of understanding the integrity of an individual space, as well as the people who are living in it and how they want to live.”  

The kitchen's transformation exemplifies Cummings's technique of taking existing ingredients and tweaking them to fit a new story. The original corner kitchen included a woodblock island set at an angle. "You had to run a marathon around it to cook dinner," Cummings remembers. To maximize the space, they pivoted the island and then hired local blacksmith Jonathan Nedbor to build a six-by-seven-foot stainless steel Parsons table frame. Barra & Trumbore stone fabricators created a marble slab top and matching counters. They replaced all the appliances (including the diner stove) and added a white ceramic tile backsplash. The cabinetry was kept—but updated by replacing the center panels with frosted glass and painting the remaining wood white. The home's three upstairs bathrooms were similarly updated by framing the mirrors and adding new hardware to the original vanities.

Past the kitchen, the dining area and corner living room look out two south-facing glass sliders over the deck to woods and a fern gully below. Between the sliders, where there was once a wall, is now a white Malm fireplace on a black, rolled steel hearth created with help from architect Steven Keith and designer/builder Jack Decker. To extend the forest ambiance, Cummings found curtains printed with the stenciled outline of bare trees. Gray sliding barn doors separate the living area from a small guest room behind. The remaining master suite was left intact and has an additional glass slider leading onto the deck.

The couple’s bedroom overlooks the back deck and is decorated with pieces inspired by their wooded surroundings. The artwork above the bed, Ursa Major Lost At Sea by Aliene De Souza Howell, was purchased from One Mile Gallery in Kingston. - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • The couple’s bedroom overlooks the back deck and is decorated with pieces inspired by their wooded surroundings. The artwork above the bed, Ursa Major Lost At Sea by Aliene De Souza Howell, was purchased from One Mile Gallery in Kingston.

The Hullaballoo

Downstairs, the furnished but not quite finished walk-out basement is a nostalgic ode to creativity, childhood, and the couple's evolving story. Two guest rooms and a studio space are all connected by radiant heat concrete floors shaded red and glass sliders leading into the backyard. Cummings's old writing desk and textbooks sit under a framed map of Paris in one room. The second is outfitted with two sets of bunk beds and a large costume closet for the couple's seven nieces and nephews. A hidden shelf of Stenger's old toys sits behind the bunkbeds, and the room is decorated with artwork from their school days. "These rooms are filled with great memories," Cummings says.

The couple’s dog, Jonsey, keeps watch over the home’s light-filled entrance. - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • The couple’s dog, Jonsey, keeps watch over the home’s light-filled entrance.

Case in point: The remaining downstairs room—windowless and empty when they moved in has been reinvented with a projector, screen, and comfortable seating. Once the couple bought the home, they decided it was the perfect setting for their next act: They were married in the backyard. After the ceremony, family and close friends piled in to watch a movie. This time, however, there were no tickets to tear, the couple sat together, and the show was less high art and more hijinks: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery set the tone for their next chapter. "You always take your old story with you," Cummings says.

The whole family gathered on the back deck. Decorated with simple awnings and a beer garden table, it’s a popular summer spot. A high powered telescope—a wedding gift from Stenger’s office—helps them take advantage of the dark, upstate nights and keeps them starry-eyed all year long. - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • The whole family gathered on the back deck. Decorated with simple awnings and a beer garden table, it’s a popular summer spot. A high powered telescope—a wedding gift from Stenger’s office—helps them take advantage of the dark, upstate nights and keeps them starry-eyed all year long.  
“Something I love about Kate the most are her collages, which are everywhere and always slightly different—it’s like a living house,” explains Stenger. “Once I was up here when I was horribly sick.  I was just lying on the couch, feeling terrible and looking down. Then I noticed, down in the corner next to the sliding door there was a little collage—even in that corner no one would normally notice. There are little collages everywhere.” - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • “Something I love about Kate the most are her collages, which are everywhere and always slightly different—it’s like a living house,” explains Stenger. “Once I was up here when I was horribly sick.  I was just lying on the couch, feeling terrible and looking down. Then I noticed, down in the corner next to the sliding door there was a little collage—even in that corner no one would normally notice. There are little collages everywhere.”

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