March 3, 2016

Joseph Stabilito Updates the Colonial Farmhouse Vernacular

At his weekend house in Columbia County, Joseph Stabilito takes a fresh, urbane approach to the country gentleman lifestyle.

by Judith Nasatir interior designer Joseph Stabilito photographer Joshua McHugh architecture Joseph Stabilito


Some people really can do everything, and it looks like Joseph Stabilito is one of them. A New York-based interior designer, artist, and collector with a long-stoked passion for all things Americana, Stabilito has designed this 3,400-square-foot, three-bedroom Columbia County getaway for himself and Toby Butterfield, his spouse of 25 years. In his case, though, "designed" feels like an understatement.

In the front entry of the country house Joseph Stabilito designed for himself and spouse Toby Butterfield, simplicity prevails with a Walker Zanger stone tile floor and an antique portrait from Stair Galleries in Hudson.

Like many visual savants, Stabilito makes what he can't find—the backstory here. Stabilito explains that he had dreamed of an updated, stripped-down take on the region's Colonial farmhouse vernacular when he and his partner were looking to swap their first, admittedly lovely, old place for a larger, more urban version. Coming up empty housed, he set to work doing what he does: translating dreams into tangible reality. The result is this high-ceilinged, light-filled, ruggedly materialed domestic world of his own creation—inside out, outside in, foundation to roof beam. Of the masculine palette of building materials and interior finishes, including floors of stone and brick, and the reclaimed wood that provides texture and the whiff of history overhead and underfoot, he says: "We're two men."

In the side hall to the kitchen are Stabilito’s Dust (leaning), and Blinded by Your Light. Since his first exhibit in 1982, he has shown regularly in the U.S. and Europe

The layout of the place is masterful, with a 9½-foot-high front entry that steps directly down into a 10½-foot-high, well-windowed open volume where living and dining areas, each with direct access to the patio, sit side by side. A front hallway leads to the capacious kitchen, which also steps down into the dining area. A side door, the couple's everyday entry, spills into a mudroom, which in one direction steps down into the living room, and in the other to a brick-floored den/TV room occupying a smaller stone structure meant, in the way of an evolving Colonial-era farmhouse, to look like a later addition. On the opposite side of the house, a porch and patio provide visual balance. Upstairs is the master suite, plus two guest bedrooms.

Below Frost

He has fashioned the rooms with persuasive, ultra-sophisticated simplicity. His own artwork and trove of antique and vintage furnishings and objects amassed over the years—plus choice contemporary pieces—feel perfectly at home here. A palette of whites, creams, grays, and wood tones creates quiet vistas throughout, to which his paintings and antiques strike a harmonious, bracing contrast. Stabilito says, "I almost choose to live with neutrals because I don't want that much energy around me." Yes, because he's a powerhouse all on his own.

Stabilito’s Skin Deep.
Stabilito’s If Only

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