New York’s Hudson Valley Offers All the Culture of New York City in a Serene and Picturesque Environment
New York City offers an endless supply of gallery openings, concerts, and new restaurants to sample, but sometimes you just need to get away for a weekend. And while the Rockaways and the Hamptons own summer weekends, the Hudson Valley, with its rolling hills, postcard-perfect towns, and winding country roads, provides the perfect escape for the cooler months of the year. What makes the Hudson Valley so unique is that it exists, both geographically and psychologically, between the solitude of the Adirondacks and the excitement of the city. It represents the best of both worlds: You can relax and enjoy the scenery without feeling like you’re hours away from the nearest bookstore or bagel.
So if you have an open weekend on your calendar, here are a few required stops on a design-centric Hudson Valley getaway sure to inspire and recharge.
Manitoga—Garrison, New York
The designer Russel Wright once described his home as “an exaggerated demonstration of how individual a house can be.” Wright made his name—and his money—designing a line of tableware called American Modern, which remains the bestselling line of American-designed tableware in history. The secret of American Modern’s success lies in Wright’s most famous quote: “Good design is for everyone.” Wright deeply believed that the American public would embrace modernism once they began to see how the practicality of his designs could simplify their lives. This same populist philosophy inspired Wright and his wife, Mary, to write a book titled Guide to Easier Living, which is one of the earliest examples of what we would now call a lifestyle brand.
Manitoga, the name Wright gave to his home and studio, is derived from the Algonquin words for “place of great spirit,” but before Wright bought the property, that spirit had gone dormant. Back in 1942, what we now know as Manitoga was just an abandoned rock quarry surrounded by 75 acres of forest that had been unsustainably logged. Wright spent the rest of his life restoring the spirit of the place. The house itself, in the tradition of organic architecture, was built into the existing environment, in this case, into the side of the quarry. Inside the house, one wall is made up of boulders from the quarry; pine needles are pressed into the ceiling plaster to further connect the house to its natural surroundings. Midcentury modern, with a heavy dose of Japanese influence, pervades the home décor, as does Wright’s signature of style mixed with functionality. For example, Wright designed all the wood panels in the kitchen and dining room so that they can be switched out with different color palettes when the seasons change.
As Wright himself said of Manitoga, “This is a design project that I am most pleased with, more than any other project in my career. I hope you will take joy from my home.” The estate offers guided tours as well as group tours that can be customized based on the group’s interests. Visit Manitoga’s website for more details.
Cold Spring Apothecary—Cold Spring, New York
The town of Cold Spring is a must-stop on any Hudson Valley excursion. As Main Street climbs the hill on which the town is situated, views of the Hudson River abound. While a walk up Main Street can be a workout, that workout can be spread across an entire afternoon because there is so much to see—antique shops, restaurants, galleries, historic inns, and a favorite must-visit of ours, Cold Spring Apothecary.
Cold Spring Apothecary is the brainchild of Stacey Dugliss-Wesselman, a former Brooklynite who produced small-batch hair and skin products in her apartment for a year before moving upstate and opening her store in Cold Spring in 2011. Now, all of Cold Spring Apothecary’s products, from shampoo to bath salts to candles, are created in its “lab” in the woods of Cold Spring. Cold Spring Apothecary focuses on the medicinal qualities, not just the scents, of its products, and that authentic philosophy is reflected in the store’s old-fashioned apothecary bottles and jars.
Like many businesses in the Hudson Valley, Cold Spring Apothecary’s charm is about more than just its amazing products. The storefront itself, with its wood-plank floors, uncluttered layout, and whitewashed walls, epitomizes the appealing design aesthetic of the Hudson Valley. After spending all week in the bright lights of the city, the calm simplicity of stores such as Cold Spring Apothecary serves as a detoxifying cleanse for your mind.
Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site—Hyde Park, New York
The relationship between Val-Kill, Eleanor Roosevelt’s modest home, and nearby Springwood, the grand estate of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is as complicated as the Roosevelts’ famously difficult marriage. The National Parks Service manages the two properties as a single entity, but they are separated by more than 2 miles of farm and forest. Considering the independent lives led by the President and Mrs. Roosevelt, this arrangement seems entirely fitting. Visitors can escape the crowds at the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, which includes Springwood and his presidential library and museum, and follow the same path that President Roosevelt would often drive when visiting his wife at Val-Kill.
Situated on a wide bend in Fallkill Creek, what had been a favorite family picnic spot was, in 1925, converted into Eleanor Roosevelt’s own private domain. Stone Cottage, built in the traditional Dutch Colonial style, became not only her home away from home but also the permanent residence of her friends Marion Dickerman and Nancy Cook. A year later, the three women oversaw construction of the larger Val-Kill building, which would house Val-Kill Industries, an idealistic venture meant to provide work for local craftsmen. Until its demise, in 1937, Val-Kill Industries produced well-made replicas and adaptations of traditional American furniture designs, many of which are now on display in the house. Also available for viewing are Cook’s sketches and designs, as well as pieces of Mrs. Roosevelt’s marketing efforts on behalf of Val-Kill Industries.
After her husband’s death, in 1945, Mrs. Roosevelt converted Val-Kill into the place she would call home for the rest of her life. It was here where she stepped out of her husband’s shadow and became a humanitarian and feminist icon. Ironically, her public transformation would not have been possible without the privacy of Val-Kill. As Mrs. Roosevelt herself said, “At Val-Kill, I emerged as an individual.”
Guided weekend tours of the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site are available throughout the fall, winter, and spring months. Check out its website for more details.
The Inn at Hudson—Hudson, New York
One of our favorite places to stay in the Hudson Valley is the Inn at Hudson, located in Hudson, New York. Hudson sits at the northern-most edge of the Hudson Valley. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Hudson was a booming shipping center, and recently it has undergone revitalization thanks to the antique shops and design firms that now line the town’s federal-era streets. On a single block of Warren Street, you can find Spotty Dog Books & Ale, the home-goods store Les Indiennes, Vincent Mulford Antiques, and FACE Stockholm, a Swedish cosmetics store. Hudson is so cool, and so design-centric, that Etsy opened offices in a renovated mill downtown. This is not your average river town.
The Inn at Hudson is run by Dini Lamot and Windle Davis, two new wave musicians who moved from Los Angeles to Hudson in 2000. Soon they discovered a Dutch-Jacobean mansion on the edge of town that had most recently been used as a nursing home. The couple spent years renovating the mansion, from uncovering an art nouveau wall in the entryway to cleaning plaster rosettes in the guest rooms to restoring the lobby’s incredible woodwork. During this years-long process, Lamot and Davis discovered what is known as a “fresh-air room” in the basement: Below the subterranean air vents sat a 3-foot-deep spring-fed pond meant to cool the entire house. While many guests come for Lamot’s famous breakfast or the elegant evening drinks in the library, the Inn at Hudson is worth a visit just to experience its transformation.
The Inn at Hudson is located close enough to the southern reaches of the Hudson Valley to use it as home base for a weekend trip, and it’s also far north enough to serve as a stop on an excursion into the Catskills or Berkshires. More importantly, the Inn at Hudson is within walking distance of Hudson’s vibrant downtown, which, like many other towns in the Hudson Valley, showcases all the art, design, and history that can be found in the forests north of New York City.
The Inn at Hudson features five completely unique guest rooms. Book yours now.
The Hudson Valley is home to so many hidden wonders. If you know of any unique shops or shrines to design that are off the beaten path, please let us know!