This Stately Georgian House in Upstate New York Gave One Homeowner a New Sense of Community

·5-min read
Photo credit: Francesco Lagnese
Photo credit: Francesco Lagnese

Alyse Archer-Coité knows design. That much is evident in her work: as an editor at several independent print and digital art and interiors titles; as former programming director at the defunct Brooklyn architecture and urbanism incubator A/D/O; and, now, at Apple, where she leads research for the tech titan’s industrial design team.

What she did not know, until recently, was just what moving herself full-time from Brooklyn to the hamlet of Poughquag, New York, two hours north of the city, would mean, beyond the evident allure of space and fresh air. “The day after I got the keys, we got a foot of snow,” says Archer-Coité, recounting her earliest days in her stately 1770 Georgian retreat, all hipped roofline and elegant red brick. “When the snow stopped, I realized I didn’t have a shovel. It was a very quick initiation to life in the country,” she adds, laughing now, but with an air that indicates the story is only funny in retrospect.

Photo credit: Francesco Lagnese
Photo credit: Francesco Lagnese

Before the storm, Archer-Coité had enlisted two friends—fellow “city-ots,” she jokes, using a local term of not quite endearment—to help her settle in overnight. With her car snowed into the garage and no way to dig themselves out, they decided to go on a run. Along the route, her nearest neighbors offered to plow her driveway; they struck up a conversation about the house, and an enduring friendship ensued.

Easily forging genuine connections is something of a gift for Archer-Coité, a knack that seems to be inherited from her mother, Gloria, who lives an hour and a half north in Albany. It was Gloria who encouraged Archer-Coité to consider the anchoring benefits of owning a country house away from the crush of the city. But leaving the warm embrace of familiar connections—and, no less, for an aging house, the upkeep of which would demand a high level of time and effort—was daunting. “Buyer’s remorse set in pretty quickly,” says Archer-Coité. “I was like, ‘Oh, my god, I’m a single person and I’m moving to a remote location. Is this the beginning of my Grey Gardens?’”

Photo credit: Francesco Lagnese
Photo credit: Francesco Lagnese

A friend reminded her that she traveled to the world’s biggest cities on business and suggested that when she was home again, the house would be a place where she could spend quality time with friends over a weekend, rather than the kinds of quick drinks or meals typical in the city. That conversation got Archer-Coité questioning her ideas of family and community in new ways. And the house complicated her answers. “I found myself asking, ‘Who are your people, really? Who is your tribe, really? Who do you want to host? Who’s going to come?’ You just realize how much geography plays a part in community,” says Archer-Coité. Interactions with close friends willing to make the trip and commit to a weekend together felt “more nutritious,” she adds. “The city is a sugar high.”

Photo credit: Francesco Lagnese
Photo credit: Francesco Lagnese

The house, which has the four-over-four floor plan and central staircase typical of Georgian homes of the period, was built as a tavern by the local Noxon family several years ahead of the American Revolution and later became a Noxon family homestead. Over the years, it passed hands among Noxon descendants and eventually became the fixer-upper project of a couple who took to the house’s period charms (and flaws). When the pair sought a buyer in 2020, they felt they had found the right steward for the place in Archer-Coité, who they sensed would keep the house “weird” as they intended rather than smoothing its rougher edges.

With “nutritious” interactions as the goal, Archer-Coité’s urbane and relaxed decorating is a sort of mise en place: To play against the house’s symmetry and complement its original details, she layered furnishings and lighting in a mix of midcentury and modernist sensibilities alongside period-appropriate antiques and decorative objects. You may, for example, turn a corner and find a heavy, metal chair with a Surrealist flair atop a section of wide-plank red-pine floor original to the house; in the second-level library a sleek Vitsœ shelving system sits feet away from a thrifted floor lamp with a rough-hewn wooden base.

Photo credit: Francesco Lagnese
Photo credit: Francesco Lagnese

On a recent visit, two Shaker-style high-back chairs were installed like art in the entry hall, mounted upside down on the pegs of a wooden wall rack Archer-Coité found in an upstairs closet during a cleaning spree. “It’s very clear the house is old,” she says, noting that she didn’t feel a need to underscore that in the furniture and accessories. “And if you forget, the occasional mouse will remind you.”

Archer-Coité’s collection of contemporary photography—which includes works by Joshua Woods, Shaniqwa Jarvis, and Kate Friend—also helps cut through any potential preciousness. Rather than collecting with a specific aesthetic aim, she explains, she seeks out pieces that bring her joy, even if she doesn’t always know right away where they’ll end up. “I’ve moved that Shaniqwa Jarvis photo [of a swimmer] into every room in the house,” she says wryly. Now, it presides over her home office, where, she reports, it feels right to have work by a friend at her shoulder.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Styled by Bebe Howorth

This story originally appeared in the May 2022 issue of ELLE DECOR. SUBSCRIBE


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