Just Wait Until You See the Reading Nook in This Modern New York Renovation

living room with black and white rug and patio
Photo: Björn Wallander

A creative couple rolled up their sleeves to turn a small 1800s house in Red Hook into an expansive home.

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living room with black and white rug and patio
Björn Wallander

As a general rule, traditional houses have just two doors, front and back. But Raina Kattelson and Robert Butscher are not traditional homeowners. Although the couple were happy in their Tivoli, New York, place of more than 20 years, they had never been totally satisfied. "There was no easy flow from indoors to outdoors," says Kattelson, an interiors and prop stylist and avid gardener. In 2013, when they heard that the resident of an 1880s Federalist house in neighboring Red Hook might be willing to sell, they left a note in the mailbox—and nabbed the place before it even went on the market.

Why the blind leap? They saw loads of potential in the solid frame and big yard, with its giant rhododendrons and rare Sargent's weeping hemlock. Inside, the floor plan was a warren of small, dark rooms, but the overall structure was L-shaped, which Butscher, an architect, knew was ideal for adding a big open-air porch. They hired a contractor to demolish nearly every interior wall (while preserving the place's structural integrity), remove a staircase, install large windows, and raise the upstairs ceilings to carve out airy bedrooms for themselves and their daughters, Maeve, 21, and Romi, 17. To save money, Butscher, a resourceful self-taught handyman, installed the plumbing and electrical himself, while Kattelson masterminded a high-low mix of furnishings, blending IKEA and flea-market finds with midcentury collectibles. But her favorite spot in the finished home is the patio off the living room and kitchen, accessed via three sets of French doors. "When it's warm," she says, "we pretend it's Southern California and practically live out there."

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Outward Bound

living room with blue wall
Björn Wallander

Raina Kattelson and Robert Butscher's living room opens onto a spacious covered patio. Kattelson describes her aesthetic as "spare and calm, yet tactile, handmade, and inviting." The vintage daybed is upholstered in a Mari­mekko textile, the table was made by her father, the Bruno Mathsson chair is from the Brimfield flea markets in Massachusetts, and the rug and pouf are from IKEA.

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Easy Entries

cat sitting outside back door black walls
Björn Wallander

The family cat, Otto, sits outside the home's back door.

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Statement Stairs

original staircase with blue front door
Björn Wallander

The staircase in the front hall is one of few remaining original features. A glossy door (painted in Benjamin Moore Evening Blue) and wallpaper by midcentury Finnish designer Birger Kaipiainen give it new life.

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Outdoor Living

back porch with sectional couch globe light
Björn Wallander

Kattelson and Butscher (with dog Charlie and daugh­ter Romi, at right) built the roomy up­ holstered porch sectional, and lined the ceiling with inexpensive bamboo fencing using a staple gun. A Nogu­chi lantern casts a lunar glow at night.

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The Book Nook

woman sitting in window seat in mudroom
Björn Wallander

Romi kicks back on the mudroom's glassed­-in window seat, which is cushioned with a twin­ size mattress (covered in a repurposed IKEA curtain) and pinch­-hits as an extra bunk for over­ night guests. "You feel like you're floating in a bubble in the garden," Butscher says. The stool is also from IKEA, and the dog bed is from CB2.

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A Masterful Mix

dining area with vintage green chairs
Björn Wallander

The dining area features a custom live­ edge table by local woodworker George Smith and vintage bent­ wood chairs, painted two shades of green for "extra liveliness," Kattelson says. She found the vintage étagère at a Habitat for Humanity thrift shop, and the light fixture is a Lindsay Adelman chandelier built from a DIY kit. The spruce plank floors and ceiling beams are orig­inal to the house—the beams had been covered, but the couple exposed them to give the room extra height.

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Sitting Pretty

open walnut shelving in kitchen
Björn Wallander

Butscher built walnut shelving in the kitchen to display Kattel­son's vintage pottery collection.

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A Well-Crafted Kitchen

quartzite counters in kitchen with white cabinets
Björn Wallander

The island, custom­ designed by Omega Cabinetry (along with all the cabinets), is topped with walnut to match. On the facing wall, white cabinet fronts and stain resistant quartzite counters blend seamlessly with Miele appliances, and a backsplash of handmade tiles from local studio Tivoli Tile Works offers texture.

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Soaring Storage

oak plywood wardrobe in bedroom
Björn Wallander

The second ­floor ceilings were origin­ally just seven feet, two inches high, so the couple extend­ed the bedrooms straight up into the attic. The added air space allowed Butscher to design an oak plywood wardrobe to hold his clothes, leaving the walk-in for Kattel­son. The bench at the foot of the bed is another Brimfield find, updated with a textile Kattelson found in Stockholm.

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Pale Victory

master bedroom with light pink walls blue bedding
Björn Wallander

"At first, Robert wasn't crazy about the idea of a pink master bedroom," Kattelson says. "But we found a very soft, grayed out shade that didn't feel too feminine." (It's Farrow & Ball's Calamine.) Pared back furnishings, such as an IKEA bed covered with a quilt from the Rhinebeck, New York, shop Paper Trail and sconces from the furniture line One Forty Three, keep the room in solidly neutral territory.

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Salvaged Essentials

bedroom closet with refurbished door and blue floral wallpaper
Björn Wallander

All the interior doors, including this one to Kattelson's closet, were rescued from one of Butscher's work projects; the wallpaper inside is by Neisha Crosland.

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Fresh Finishes

built in cabinets in bedroom
Björn Wallander

Butscher constructed built-in cabinets in Romi's room. To paint them, Kattelson thinned down Farrow & Ball's All White paint with water, brushed on a coat, let it dry, and sanded it lightly to let the wood show through. The vintage chair is a yard sale find, with a seat covered in an Erica Tanov textile.

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