Once upon a time, there were three women who needed a home of their own. For years, Elizabeth Van Gaasbeek and her nieces, Anna Beekman Van Gaasbeek and Alice E. Van Gaasbeek, had lived in the family house. It was crowded, noisy, and all too close to their butcher shop. The three women, all spinsters, set out to address their discomfort by building a home. And so, from the moment the house at 60 Maiden Lane in Kingston, New York was envisioned, it wasn’t a family home. It wouldn’t play host to raucous family gatherings nor see generations grow up under its roof. Instead, it was designed and built in 1901 as a house for three single women, uninterested in changing their marital status, and seemingly quite content to live together, but not too close.
All three women would live in the house until their deaths, Elizabeth in 1911, Anna in 1914, and Alice in 1931.
When we were invited by Kingston Design Connection to design a room for the 2022 Showhouse, we didn’t yet know what the house looked like or what room we’d have, but we did know that we wanted Worth Preserving, led by Kate Wood, alongside us in the process. The Hudson Valley city of Kingston has astonishing architectural history stemming from centuries as a colonial city, shipping port, and manufacturing hub. We knew Kate would be able to bring her particular take on preservation to the project in a way that would respect and honor that past, and it was through Kate’s passion for knowing the history of the homes she touches that we learned about the three spinster sisters.
Upon learning the history of the property selected for the 2022 Kingston Design Showhouse, it clarified many of the original design and layout decisions in the home. There is an emphasis on private spaces, and while it is by no means a modestly-sized home, it isn’t designed to accommodate a large number of people. The halls, however, are spacious, and there are many beautiful original details (panelling, pocket doors, and stained glass in the stair) that have weathered subsequent owners and even the conversion of the house in 2004 into a commercial property with offices in what had once been Alice, Anna, and Elizabeth’s bedrooms. The Kingston Design Showhouse offers the house a new chapter, and the opportunity to once again become a home.
When we were assigned an upstairs bedroom, we swiftly decided to turn it into a study fit for the spinster sisters and anyone else interested in reading, writing, creating, and simply existing in a space of one’s own. Virginia Woolf, unsurprisingly, inspired the name: “A room of one’s own.”
The first step in this transformation was turning a poorly-designed closet into a perfectly-situated nook equally ideal for reading or an afternoon nap. Luckily, the closest structure wasn’t load bearing, so while the process did include a few hiccups (namely, a huge portion of the plaster ceiling crashing onto Ben’s head — luckily, he was unharmed) it feels meant to be.
Now only about a week into the project, and less than a month from opening weekend, there is still much to be done, but we’re excited to be able to share a few pictures to help you dream of what’s to come. We’ll be sharing more as the room progresses, include the nearly dozen local artists and craftspeople who are contributing work, but the best way to see it will be in-person in October.
The Kingston Design Showhouse opens October 7th, 2022. Follow Kingston Design Connection on Instagram to find out when tickets go on sale.