The Saint James: Our Kingston Metamorphosis (The House)


Photo credit: Maxwell Tielman. Photo source:

One of my favorite aspects of this journey as a full-time Upstater has been transforming my Kingston home, The Saint James, into a livable retreat. So far, the renovation efforts of my partner Philippe and I have both challenged us, and brought us closer to our new community in ways we had never expected at the outset of this creative project.

Home renovation, as we learned, is not easy. The first year of work was very intense and very rewarding.

Here’s what the house looked like when we first found it on the market:


Here’s how it looked after the renovations:


Our mission was to return the home to its original state, and this involved removing the coating of grime, mold, and graffiti that had accumulated on the walls and floors over the years. We stripped the walls to unearth the original 1890s plaster. With the additional layers gone, we could see that the pigmentation of the walls had morphed with the passage of time, and featured a smattering of different neutral hues. To maintain the exposed aesthetic without the walls appearing worn and aged, we added a coat of clear glaze, and the resulting look is authentic and charming:


The Queen Ann Room of the Saint James showcases the historic beauty of the home with a warm, rustic palette.

We took a similar approach to the flooring: remove the excess and restore the wood back to the simple elegance of the late 1800s.

photo 1-1

The Formal Dining room of the Saint James is furnished with dark Windsor chairs that stand out against the lighter hues of the hardwood floors. Photo credit: Maxwell Tielman. Photo source:

There were many projects we were able to complete on our own, but for the others we dialed the nearest contractor. That was one of the many unexpected pleasures of the project – reaching out to local professionals allowed us to meet members of the community and learn even more about the history of the region.

Once the structure had been sanded, glazed, and painted back into an inhabitable space, we were able to focus on the final touches: the furnishings and décor that would evoke the drama and elegance of Victorian-era design.


Before: This is how we found the living room…


After: We knew we wanted to keep the fireplace, so we made it the focal piece of the room and furnished the space with a mix of modern and antique décor.


Before: The bathroom lacked color and character, and the floors were in desperate need of polishing.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 2.55.53 PM

After: We paired a claw foot bathtub and vintage side tables with crisp linen curtains and towels to give the space a nautical feel.

Philippe and I loved hunting for decorative pieces at local antique shops and galleries. Here are a few of our favorite finds:


Photo credit: Maxwell Tielman. Photo source:


Photo credit: Maxwell Tielman. Photo source:


Photo credit: Maxwell Tielman. Photo source:


Photo credit: Maxwell Tielman. Photo source:


Photo credit: Maxwell Tielman. Photo source:


Photo credit: Maxwell Tielman. Photo source:

The Saint James is now available to weekenders and upstate travelers as a vacation retreat, and has been featured in Ulster Magazine, and on the popular digital mecca of all things home and garden, Design Sponge. Does that mean we’re calling this renovation project complete, you ask? No way! Philippe and I are always brainstorming news ways to enhance our Kingston getaway, and, as is the case with most older homes, potential improvements tend to make themselves known! More on that later…

For now, let’s put interiors on the back burner for a sec – am I the only one itching to get back in the garden? Stick around to see what we’ve been up to in the backyard of the SJ!

– J

About Julian Lesser

Julian is a lover of the Hudson Valley. Born and raised in the valley, he has made it his permanent home. Originally from Westchester, educated in New Paltz, employed both in NYC, and Kingston, which he happily calls home. Promoting and cultivating the beauty and culture of the Hudson Valley is both his passion and full time job. Reach out anytime @

Read more from Julian Lesser

Read On, Reader...