In the 25 years that milliner and fashion designer, James Coviello, has owned his one-acre property in the Hudson Valley, he’s attended to every nook and cranny, reaching into his expertise of 19th-century domestic structures. Liz Gardner and Taylor Hall O'Brien take a tour, discovering how the house has become Coviello's calling card.



James Coviello's 1840s Greek Revival home in the Hudson Valley has molded him into the person he is today © Taylor Hall O'Brien

I once read, “everything we touch turns into us”. If it's true, James Coviello has infused himself throughout his 1840s Greek Revival home in Hudson. Beyond the haptic implications of this sentiment, he also cites the relationship of house and self: “It molded me into the person I am, as much as I molded the house into what it is today.”

In the 25 years he’s owned the one-acre property in a hamlet just outside Hudson, he’s attended to every nook and cranny, including the gardens; reaching into his expertise of 19th-century domestic structures, as well as the decorative objects that would have been true to the era. “I’m fascinated with the idea that in modern times we move to a new house for more space, when historically, homeowners would add rooms to an existing structure to make it a homestead”, he says.

The incremental expansion of Coviello’s home during its nearly 200-year life span, is demarcated as one moves through its thresholds. Subtle changes in millwork, the way rooms buttress one another, remnants of fireplaces now reimagined, peeks of wallpaper and old plaster, and variations in floorboard width and direction; all speak to former iterations, former selves. Similarly, Coviello has chapters to his story.

For a large portion of his career, he worked as a fashion designer in New York City, where his eponymous line was filled with rich tones, thoughtful details and motifs that often, unsurprisingly, drew inspiration from historic wallpapers and 19th-century textiles. “This era was focused on collaboration,” he says. In addition to his own collections, Coviello created designs for Geoffrey Beene, Calvin Klein, Oscar de la Renta, Donna Karan, Anna Sui, to name but a few.

His upstate home was a weekend getaway. There, he was able to stow away from the hustle of the city, tend to his gardens, and thoughtfully hone his signature interior style, which orients on a theme, then embellishes it through collections of decorative fodder, sourced meticulously over time. His ability to create depth through layers and time-worn hues converges with a symmetry in the formal arrangement of objects resulting in “a visual sigh of relief”, he says.

This powerful expression of nuance is seen throughout the space: English Staffordshire spaniels flank a pair of American girandoles, both from the 1850s on the fireplace of the ochre-walled dining room. The living room is anchored by a gallery of bucolic oil paintings hung above a console filled with rustic, quartered firewood, and topped with a pair of verdant Chinese chinoiserie vessels. In the butler’s pantry, you’ll find delicately etched glassware, trays of silverware fingerprinted with time, stacks of china and a collection of Old Paris porcelain vases on a cast iron drainboard sink below.

The stairwell to the upper level is cocooned in demure peach antique wallpaper that appears perfectly worn (Coviello painstakingly installed it as such). It’s peppered with taxidermy on a variety of wooden mounts interspersed among American Empire-style gilt framed mirrors c.1830. Turn the corner and Black Forest cuckoo clocks, which remind James of his childhood home, adorn the walls above the crewel coverlet of the guest bed. A spacious bathroom includes fixtures painstakingly restored to their original function, with every spigot, trap and drain post considered.

Coviello cites an adolescent love of Émile Zola and Charles Dickens to opening his eyes to the wonders of 19th century aesthetics. They were naturalists whose writing style was geared towards describing everything that met their eye. “It was more realistic and made me curious about the objects held in the pages. As I honed my knowledge of what I was looking at, it really resonated with me, all the decades within that 100-year span, there’s so much jammed into them. Eventually, I could single out movements - aesthetic, federal, american - they speak to me.”


A cozy ochre guest bedroom in James Coviello's Greek Revival house in New York's Hudson Valley © Taylor Hall O'Brien


Since making the move to live upstate four years ago, he’s naturally embraced the business of interiors over fashion. The house has become his calling card. “[It is] entirely my style - people see that and want to emulate it.” With several client projects underway, he’s delighted to be a part of the interior design community he finds rewarding and generous. His collaborative background puts him in a prime position to work with clients and translate their vision through his taste.

“I put a lot of myself into the work - I think, and think, and think”. His design process draws from the corridors of fashion: mood boards are now floorplans, sample books are replaced with objects he’s collected and photographed, these convene in collage format - allowing them to move around and find their natural resting place.

And with a new interior design studio opening in Hudson, this can soon become a real-life practice of assemblage. With this expansion, Coviello has successfully made additions to his creative homestead. “It's my secret world - my personal spaces are now regarded as interesting and unique. I feel like I’m being seen for the first time”. Is he ever done with a house? He ponders. “It’s a part of me. I can’t leave myself”.

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