Friday, March 8, 2019

Christopher Spitzmiller's Clove Brook Farm: Before and After

If you aren't already familiar, Christopher Spitzmiller is the world renowned ceramist who has cornered the market on beautiful, handmade designer lamps. It used to be that all rooms in shelter mags had a high-end Hermes blanket visible somewhere. Now, that token high-end covet-worthy piece is a Spitzmiller lamp or two, by the way - a pair of these handcrafted masterpieces can run you upwards of $10,000.

His pieces are gorgeous, and are probably the mostly beautiful glazed pieces you'll ever find. His shapes have been copied over and over by a variety of home decor manufacturers looking to provide the "look for less" to budget conscious shoppers, but nothing will ever match his signature ability to create a lamp that shines brighter than the bulb. For more info on the lamps and how they're made, I highly recommend taking a look at this One Kings Lane interview and article on Spitzmiller's studio.

Christopher is best friends with designer Bunny Williams and her antiquarian husband, John Rosselli. He also consistently rubs elbows with the likes of Carloyne Roehm, Jeffrey Bilhuber, and Martha Stewart to name a few.

Recently, I was on the phone with my friend Joni of Cote de Texas, where I found out that a post I had been working on was one she had already touched on here, and I realized I had to start over. I went to my books and magazines, looking for inspiration, and I realized the inspiration was everywhere, room by room, book by book, page by page - Spitzmiller lamps. While his Hudson Valley farm had been featured a few times, I realized that there was no ONE place to find all the pictures of the farm house, including comprehensive before and afters. That ends today, with this post!

Reader note: It's not a short post. Grab some coffee, or wine, or vodka ... you're gonna be here a while.

The House

The earliest portions of the house were built in the 1700s, and it has been reported that it was finished in the 1830s, and also in the 1870s. I'm not sure which is accurate. With a variety of ownership over the last 250+ years, the house had a fair share of renovations and revisions. When Christopher bought it, he enlisted the help of NYC architect Jonathan Parisen to help with the work, but it was his long-time friend and mentor Albert Hadley who designed the new layout of the first floor to better fit Christopher's needs and to give the house better flow.

A moderately sized home for a family, it's quite the vacation residence for one. A little over 2,600 square feet, the house had serious needs when Christopher bought it in 2005.

Before and After




Changes included new roof, new windows, shutters, changes to the third floor attic windows, porch replacement and repair, a complete gut renovation of the interior, and an extensive replanting of the grounds, a fieldstone patio, custom fencing, and top to bottom decoration by Spitzmiller and Hadley alum, Harry Heissman.

There are very few photos available of the foyer. It's a small space in what appears to be a rarely entered front door of the farm house. However, the foyer boasts one of the most amazing hall trees I've ever seen:

As I said before, the entire house was gutted, save for the antique moldings and trims which either stayed in place or were loving removed and reapplied. Below, a picture of progress:

This landing on the second floor is just outside of the master bedroom, and provides a great place to read a book, and a desk for keeping track of the extensive gardens at Clove Brook Farm. For now though, we will head back downstairs, starting with the living room.

Architectural Digest showed the farmhouse to the public in 2015, 10-years after it had been purchased and all renovations had been completed. In 2016, Quintessence did a video with Christopher at the farm, but most every room that was shown were the rooms of the AD article.

Thanks to instagram though, there are more photos of the rooms available today. Including this one from Christopher's instagram

Here you can see the detail a little better on the upholstery of the leather side chairs. The red twill trim is carried around the room in the other upholstery, fabrics and accessories. The walls are painted in a welcoming yellow from Benjamin Moore.

Interesting note. When Christopher was a younger man (I mean, he's still young), he was discovered while he was an artist in residence at Mecox Gardens in Southampton by none other than famed interior designer, Albert Hadley. Hadley had been a mentor to Christopher, and before Hadley moved to Nashville from Manhattan, he sold and gifted Christopher with iconic pieces Hadley had owned for years, including the hooked zebra hide rug, and Mark Sciarillo cocktail table in the living room at Clove Brook Farm. 

When Christopher went to Hadley's NYC apartment to pick up the rug, Hadley hadn't told him that it was glued to the floor! Christopher spent hours with a spoon and goof off carefully removing the rug so as not to cause damage to it, or the floor. Can you imagine? 

After the AD article, Christopher switched out the rug in the den for one with a red twill border:

In an earlier decoration of the room, AD time period but not photographed, there was a bookcase and television in the den. 

Today, that has been replaced by this bar set up on a small library table. Love the composition here. 

The dining room is probably my favorite room at the farm house.

Up close shot of the birds in the wallpaper

The hand painted wallpaper had been originally hung in the 1930s in the home of a family friend to Christopher's mother. When they sold the house, the new owner didn't want it, and had it removed. Thankfully, someone with great taste and the good sense to save such gorgeous paper kept it stored in a basement for 20+ years in black garbage bags. Christopher asked for a small sample from his mother thinking he might find a client who would want the paper but decided after seeing it that it was the perfect solution for the dining room at Clove Brook, which he calls a "bowling alley of a room". 

The kitchen is the original 1700s dated structure. The rest of the house sort of was built around this throughout the 1800s. You can also see more of his kitchen in this video. Above, in a before, it had been renovated (probably in the 80s) prior to Christopher buying the house. What he did with it was incredible! 

What a lovely space. I love the painted floors - original to the house, and covered by layers of linoleum.  When this room was first furnished, Christopher had a long table in the kitchen, mimicking what his mother had in hers. But when designer Markham Roberts saw the room, he told Christopher he really needed a square table in the space. Christopher got on the phone with antiques dealer, David Duncan, and shortly after grabbed the table you see here, which Bunny Melon had once owned.


You can see here the windows have been changed from the two small to the triangular window with diamond mullions.

Notice how the eaves of the room have been turned into storage, and the HVAC tube is hidden beneath the built in window seat. So smart! 

Here a view of the finished storage space, complete with magazines marked with notes, books, and a television. The window seat is covered in the fabric matching the wallpaper, and pillows. 

This room is actually the cover image of the new book from D. Porthault: The Art of Luxury Linens.

Another guest room on the third floor.

On the second floor, a guest room has a beautiful John Roselli canopy bed:

AD gave us only a peek into the Master Bedroom, but through instagram, other pictures of the room have surfaced.

It's a stunning home - warm, inviting and comfortable. There's nothing about this house that feels fake, staged, or incongruous. It's a retreat, in all senses of the word. That  brings me to the next phase of this post, and the only thing that might be more beautiful than the inside of the farmhouse: the Gardens, designed by P. Allen Smith and Christopher.

The Gardens

The farm sits on six acres of land, and it was always a part of the overall plan to have gardens and out buildings as part of the entire campus of Clove Brook Farm. Here, the first garden from plotting to planting to fencing. When this was done, Christopher decided it was time to add a folly to the Garden. 

He had this dovecote designed, and built in the middle of the existing garden.

The dovecote may have been the first folly, but it wasn't the first out building to be constructed. 

When Christopher bought the house, the 1920s era garage really provided little more than space to store firewood for the house. It had to be torn down, and re-imagined. 

Now, the two car garage has a similar porches to the kitchen wing of the main house on both sides, and abuts the garden providing a partial wall to the space that is otherwise protected by a hedgerow and custom designed fence. 

Looking off into the back acres, you can see that there are a few Adirondack chairs, and a pile of wood just waiting to be turned into an epic bonfire. Of course, Christopher had plans for this space, too. 

Looking a bit different, right? The oval pool was inspired by a photo of a garden in the scrapbook that Albert Hadley gave him. Here it is, poured and awaiting the final coats of black pebblefina, and next to it, a square of concrete. The footings of part pool house, part folly. 

Christopher was inspired by Bunny Williams and this folly, which was designed by Isabel and Julian Bannerman, the husband wife power duo responsible for some of the most gorgeous landscapes in the UK and beyond since the 1980s:

This folly in the garden of Arundel Castle was designed by the Bannerman's, who have a book, Landscape of Dreams, which I also highly recommend.

Are you ready to see how Christopher's turned out? 

Pretty cool, huh? Christopher opened his house and garden up to visitors as part of The Garden Conservancy of Dutchess County and their open gardens series, and some lucky visitors posted pictures of his gardens and the pool house: 

including this picture of the pool house bathroom, in progress: 

I mean, what!? This is going to be as gorgeous as the interiors of the farmhouse, that's for sure! The fence to the pool house is also as garden folly as it is necessary. 

Newly planted hedgerows will eventually create a verdant green fence for the pool and gardens, with access via a gate that matches the others near the farm house, but in black. Stag horn busts guard the entry, and an iron statue with a beautiful patina looks out over the pool. 

Before I close up on Clove Brook Farm, I wanted to show just a few pictures of the porches and patios Christopher has so lovingly adorned: 

Fieldstone patio off of kitchen

Porch attached to the garage

Pool house porch

Side porch to kitchen, opposite of patio

Like most great design, it doesn't come together with one pair of hands alone. So if you're interested, here's more on the great people who have inspired and helped to shape Clove Brook Farm to the beauty it is today. Design advice and guidance from Harry Heissman, Markham Roberts, Bunny Williams, Albert Hadley, and Furlow Gatewood.

Books by Christopher's garden designer, P. Allen Smith, and creators of the inspiration for his pool house, Isabel and Julian Bannerman: 


  1. One of your best posts EVER! Thank you for this in depth examination of Mr. Spitzmiller's beautiful, calm and bucolic creation. Can you fall a little in love with someone through their work? I have.

  2. Did you know that Christopher Spitzmiller graduated from the Park School of Buffalo? He donates a lamp to their auction every year.

  3. yet another wonderful post Artie! Loved how you put it all together and such great stories. So inspirational- just in time for spring! I'm going to have Dan read it:)

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