One year, shortly after a January blizzard, my husband, Jerry — completely unbeknownst to me — set out with a real estate agent to look at a property at the top of a hill near our home in Millbrook, New York.
Inspired by the rural architecture of northern Europe, the house was designed by architects .
There, he discovered a 200-acre farm from the 1700s — a magnificent frozen landscape lined with old stone walls and fences, and with views of the valley in three directions. He returned home to tell me about it but had to drag me there. “I so don’t want to do this,” I told him.
Hendrix, a Maine Coon, surveys the great room in Cathryn Collins and Gerald Imber’s weekend home in Millbrook, New York. An Italian Empire daybed is draped with a cashmere throw from Collins’s textile collection, ; an antique Italian bench is topped with a hand-loomed Moroccan textile; the 16th-century limestone mantel and antique wrought-iron candle stands were purchased in Florence.
We had already renovated two other homes in our six years together. (Jerry is a plastic surgeon; we met in his Manhattan office when I made an appointment to have a mole removed.) I trudged up the hill in my snow boots. When I got there, I had the sensation of standing at the edge of a canyon. An 18th-century road — now a path — meandered through the woods. You could see the Hudson River and 100 miles beyond. It was magnificent. So we bought it.
In the great room, a row of French doors affords panoramic views of the Hudson Valley. The couple’s French spaniel, Georgie, rests on a custom velvet sofa. Collins purchased the antique console, wooden chest, and wingback chairs on trips to Italy. The 19th-century limestone columns are from New Delhi, the custom lanterns and laurel reed–and-leather rug are from Morocco, the pendant above the sofa was fashioned from an antique Italian tole lantern, and the curtains are of a .
The original farmhouse was near the road. We lived in it while planning a new house that would take advantage of the beautiful location. The architecture was inspired by the rural farm structures of northern Europe, where I spend a lot of time for my business, I Pezzi Dipinti. I design scarves, knitwear, and home textiles that are handmade around the world.
From the outside, the house is low, rectangular, and quite minimalist. It gives little away. But then you step inside and find a warm, cozy surprise. There are five bedrooms, a library, a gym, and a studio.
When people arrive here, they wander off and find a corner to lie down in with a book, or a garden to explore, or a forest path to walk. The house has many entrances, like a great piazza in Rome. You can come and go unnoticed. Then at night, everyone convenes in the great room.
With walls paneled in antiqued Tennessee pine, the library “is my husband’s sanctuary,” Collins says, “although our guests love it, too.” A chair is draped in a linen and textiles from Pakistan, India, Indonesia, and Italy. The antique Italian bench is covered in a 16th-century tapestry fragment, the bookcase light is by , and the 1929 pastel portrait is French.
I love to cook — in the evening, I’ll make osso buco, pasta e fagioli, soups, all kinds of things with artichokes. We’ll plan on eight for dinner but often end up with 18.
The 18-foot antique oak refectory table came out of a Colombian monastery. “The wood has knots and holes that go all the way through, and the base is made of Spanish trestles from the 1600s,” Collins says. “It’s so crazy and fabulous.” The oak-framed chairs are upholstered in an linen-cotton, and the table is set with custom linens, handmade ceramic plates from Florence, and striped glassware by , and topped with vintage American ceramic lemon sculptures.
I have been traveling all my life, since I was a child growing up in Chicago. My father, child psychoanalyst Robert Kohrman, was an art collector and a voracious globe-trotter. There are a lot of things in the house that represent an accumulation of both my life and my husband’s: antiques, textiles, books, and objects gathered from all over.
The master bedroom’s custom headboard is upholstered in a crewelwork fabric by and dressed with linens. An antique Italian commode (left) and an antique Chinese Chippendale console serve as nightstands, and the caned bench is from the 19th century.
But I also hunted down many things specifically for this project. I found a pair of 16th-century stone mantels from a dealer in a back alley of Florence. In Lucca, I bought a set of old Spanish doors — they had an austere look that was just right for this house. The dining table is from a monastery in Colombia; it’s 18 feet long and made of one continuous piece of oak. The portico’s black-granite columns are from New Delhi. They were $50 apiece. It was kind of mad to ship them back, but worth it for the wildly dramatic statement they make.
“Almost all of our guests want to stay in this room,” Collins says. The Shaker-style maple bed has a canopy in an African textile, a coverlet from Pakistan, and pillow fabrics from India and Africa; the hand-painted I Pezzi Dipinti nightstand was made in Florence, the antique gilt-frame mirror is American, and the 19th-century print of a Turkish bath is French.
In the end, the main controlling logic for the house was that it should feel linked to the view and to the land. Every room has windows on both sides. There isn’t a single place here that isn’t connected to the outdoors.
This story originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of ELLE DECOR.