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A historic home on New York's majestic Hudson River is transformed into a rustic respite for its owner and her twelve grandchildren. Tour Midwood and the many benefits of its sophisticated camp setting.
Joan K. Davidson has made Midwood, her house in Columbia County, New York, a haven for family and a crossroads for all who are dedicated to the Hudson River Valley. With architect Harry van Dyke and master carpenter Bob Dolfax, she has restored this beautiful home and its surroundings to their former glory.
The 87-acre grounds surrounding the commodious 1888 house are continuously enhanced by Davidson and Boston-based landscape architect Eleanor McPeck.
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Joan K. Davidson -- reflected in her porch mirror with guests -- often serves dinners on the porch.
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The Front Porch
The front porch is decorated with strategically placed mirror "landscapes."
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Midwood sits on a bluff above the river.
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Just some of the sun-dappled trees that live on the 87 acres surrounding Midwood.
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With architect Harry van Dyke and master carpenter Bob Dolfax, Joan doubled the size of the living room and parlor. The painted wall designs are her friend William Hodgson's interpretation of Pompeian frescoes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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In the dining room are a Chinese sideboard and a mantel mirror found at a local antiques fair. The landscapes were painted by Gonzalo Fonseca, Davidson's late brother-in-law.
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The Hall Table
What Davidson calls her "tourism desk" stands under the main stairway, piled with books about the Hudson Valley, maps of the area, and board games; the table, in Livingston hands for three generations, is a "carpenter design of 19th century New York, when anything went," she says.
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The Hall Chair
William Hodgson added local birds to the classical swans in the neo-Pompeian murals; The chair that sits in the main hall is local folk art.
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The Entry Hall
In the entry hall hangs an unfinished portrait of Davidson's daughter, Betsy, at 20, by Horacio Torres, who also painted her sons John Matthew and Brad.
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The Mantel Mix
In a corner of the sitting room, a David Levine drawing, a Dogon bust, stacked French landscapes (gifts from Davidson's sister, Elizabeth), and two small paintings by daughter-in-law Drew McGhee (married to Peter) all mingle.
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Bedroom-door nameplates are also by daughter-in-law Drew McGhee. Teddy is Brad's 13-year-old.
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The Living Room
John Matthew Davidson donned a cape and hat for a Horacio Torres costume portrait; a table by Duncan Phyfe ("We think," says Davidson) displays more books, including a Camp Midwood nature album.
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Davidson's desk holds the letterhead for Midwood and Furthermore, the nonprofit publication program she started through her family's foundation.
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The Library Table
An antique Spanish rug, given to Davidson by her mother, the renowned collector Alice M. Kaplan, drapes the living-room library table, which is piled high with books on art, photography, and architecture. Davidson's son Peter, at 18 gazes from a portrait painted by his cousin Bruno Fonseca at 19. The bronze sculpture to the right of the doorway is by Elie Nadelman.
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The Bedroom Mural
This bedroom river mural plays off the real view.
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The robustly carved Eastern European armoire in front of the Hudson River mural came from Alice and Jack Kaplan's house in East Hampton, New York. Atop it is a birdhouse found in nearby Hudson, a town rich in antiques.
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Ebonized faux-bamboo beds in a guest room are two of the "eight crazy pieces" Davidson snatched up years ago at an Armenian church auction; the set was made in 1888, the year the house was built. ("Some instinct told me there would be the right room to put them in someday," she says.)
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The four-poster in the Washburn Room, named for a former mistress of Midwood, was purchased with the house.
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The subtle vistas Davidson and McPeck have created are in the spirit of the great Hudson River Valley landscape gardener Andrew Jackson Downing.
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A dressing table in an upstairs guest room belongs to the same faux-bamboo set as the beds.
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On the second-floor landing, a floor-to-ceiling bulletin board serves as a changing autobiography of the house. It is overflowing with family art, photos, outlines of original plays, and notes from almost everyone in the clan. The freewheeling spirit of Midwood resounds in a "to-do" list made by Davidson's grandson Jack, at 9, whose plans for one day included "swimming, running, soccer, climbing trees, twirling, swinging, and cartwheels." The previous owners' massive gilded pier glass "took five men and a week" to move upstairs, says Davidson.
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Art- and-Crafts Room
Davidson outfitted a special arts-and-crafts center for her grandchildren on the second floor. An adjoining playroom features a tiny stage with even tinier "wings," where many an original Camp Midwood play has been produced.
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