The Young Duchess Room Makeover with Pottery Barn

We're renovating, exploring style and design with a dash of cocktail making and cooking thrown in. 

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It has warmed up in the Hudson Valley for spring and we’re excited to open up the house and let some fresh air in. The hint of warm air brings guests to Stony Ford so it’s high time we fixed up one of the guest bedrooms. We lived in the house for a year before taking on a full-blown decorating project.  I finally know what I want to do and how we want the house to look, and feel. We’re excited to partner with Pottery Barn for this makeover. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have an obsession with great bed linens. We also have two dogs, big dogs. I have used a Pottery Barn duvet for almost 15 years. No joke. I was talking to Will about this, and I said, I bought that duvet when we lived on Dekalb Avenue in Brooklyn and it was in 2001! I’m thrilled to share why we love their products and to show how we’re using them in this room.

The room we are making over is called the Young Duchess Room. Sounds silly, yes, a bit. All the rooms are named after horses, and in the 1870s the horses had crazy names. We want to honor Stony Ford history and keep its past, present. The Young Duchess Room is our best guest room for a few reasons. It’s on the west side of the house, which is quiet and secluded, and it has an en suite bathroom. This is pretty awesome. Visitors stay at Stony Ford and it’s like a hotel. We’re not going to get into the bathroom renovation, that’s a different beast. But we will redo this bedroom head to toe. I also love that this room has three windows, which lets in lots of natural light.

Before we can make the room pretty, we have to get ugly! We spent days, taking down two layers of old wallpaper. We found the signature of the person who hung the wallpaper in 1939. By removing the wallpaper we noticed there used to be two windows in the back of the house. We’ve always wanted to know which room in the house was the Stony Ford Smoking Room. It’s kinda famous! Ulysses S. Grant smoked his last cigar in it. We’ve thought it was our bedroom, but now we are thinking it’s in this part of the house that was altered sometime in the 30s. We have an old picture of the room, but we’ll have to spend more time figuring it out. Removing the wallpaper made me think of Les and Fred, the previous owners, and their Mad Men-style. The swanky 1950s wallpaper has seen better days so it’s time to remove it. Below that, we found a beautiful floral, which I love. I wish I could make a textile out of the pattern. I love the hints of bright orange. I can only imagine how that would have looked in the 1930s.


Our current mismatched guest bedroom.


I’m keeping this piece of furniture, but moving it to another location. 


The Young Duchess Room is our premier guest room because of these windows.


I’d like to make this into a reading nook.


Fab 50s lighting. 

Now that the wallpaper is gone, we have to get into the wall repair, securing plaster that’s loose, patching and sanding. This room is missing the ceiling medallion, so I’ll order a new one. We have to remove all three doors (room, closet and bathroom) before stripping the many layers of old paint off the walls, repairing and sanding, then repeating the process on the doors. This is time consuming, seemingly endless work but so worth it. Before we paint the room, we paint the radiators, another painstaking process. We paint them with a spray gun to get in all the cracks, so we have to tape off the surrounding areas. We did this in our dining room and the radiator blends into the walls seamlessly, and doesn’t distract from the decor of the room.


Removing wallpaper from 1939.


Pattern of 1939 wallpaper.

We do all this work ourselves! Thankfully we have friends coming to help us this weekend and it should speed things up a bit. We like doing the renovations — it’s good to have sweat equity in our house. It makes Stony Ford personal, beautiful and affordable.


Signature from 11-28-39 wallpaper paster.

Decorating Stony Ford is tricky for me, it has to be the perfect balance between country and elegant because this house was an estate home. The scale of Stony Ford is very grand, but the surroundings are a simple country landscape. I mentioned country style, and to me I think of materials that would have been used when living in the country 100 years ago, simple linens, rustic wood and natural textures define country for me. Plus, I want our guests to have a great experience when they are here, and what’s better than a luxurious guest room? I’m not a professional interior designer, so I struggle with making choices. Sometimes I have to see something to know if it works. I do have a degree in design, so I try to apply the principals of universal ‘good design’ when working on our house. And I never want to forget about having a surprise or wow factor in each room.

Here’s my decorating check list:

– Have some statement pieces. I’d like to use a dramatic wallpaper and bed frame that really feel over the top. There has to be some glamour that is dramatic and adds to the estate feel of the home. Gold? I love gold! I have something up my sleeve from Pottery Barn for this one!

– Reuse existing furniture. While I love new furniture, I have to find a home for an armoire we’ve had since college that I still love but don’t want to use everyday. Also a vintage sofa I’d like to put in a low traffic part of the house. The sofa is velvet and beautiful, our dogs cannot lounge on it.

– The table/desk size challenge. We have a space for an odd-sized desk/table and I’m not quite sure how I’m going to solve the size issue just yet. We often have company come on Thursday night and stay the weekend, but they might work a bit on Friday. A traditional sofa table is too small and a traditional table size too deep. I’m going to look for vintage that I can squeeze into this space. That way, when guests stay for a period of time, they can have a space to charge devices and work on their lap top.

– I’d like to incorporate a few items that share the history of the house, like something related to horses. I’m not quite sure yet, but I’m looking around. I don’t want to do anything too predictable or contrived. I think this would be a nice place to show a modern interpretation of the horse theme.

I hope you enjoy following along on social media using the hashtag #PBandStonyFord. We’re sharing the whole process, from the renovation to the decoration. It doesn’t happen overnight! You can see how long this takes us and watch the room come together. Check out the post on the Pottery Barn Blog Inside & Out.

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This post is in collaboration with Pottery Barn. Thanks for supporting the partners that keep House of Brinson going!

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