TThe White House doesn’t often provide interior design inspiration – remember Melania Trump’s 2018 Christmas decorations? —but Tyler Lowry and Michael Rauschenberg’s gray-painted home in New York’s Hudson Valley reflects 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in one specific way. “As a kid I was always fascinated by the rooms in the White House: the blue room, the red room, the green room,” Lowry says. “I wanted every room to have its own identity.”
Here, the monochrome effect is achieved with a different mood and rich pattern wallpaper for each room. The papers are laminated with portraits and rooms filled with antiques collected over a lifetime.
The dining room features an intricate lace-like pattern that provides a subtle backdrop to the couple’s collection of silverware and crystals. Upstairs, four rooms are designed as “jewelry boxes”: a moody room covered with paper with exotic flowers on a dark background; a blue bedroom with a zoo on a powder blue background; The yellow room is more traditional, with pink flowers on a buttery background; While the couple’s black and white room is boldly monochrome throughout.
The effect is cocoon and intimacy. Lori’s friends describe his decorating style as romantic: “I think that’s a fair statement of what we’ve done. I want people to feel special—like someone is upset with them.” Gold, glass, and light-silver accessories bounce around the rooms, all dressed elegantly, and plump pillows ready for the next home of visitors. You can practically smell the polish and the coffee.
The house is also inspired by their friend Jim, a close friend who lived in a large, cheerful Chicago house full of engravings, porcelain, and portraiture. Jim died of AIDS in 1989 at the age of 33, and the Red Hook House is, in part, a homage to their friendship.
Lory and Rauschenberg’s 1920s tool house sits atop a hill in Red Hook, about two hours north of New York City. From the front porch you can see the Catskills. “This is what helped me decide on the house,” Lowry recalls. “she was Foolish. But as soon as I went out and looked across the road, I saw mountains and All The colors that come with it.”
The couple spent 17 years restoring what was a dilapidated partly finished home with four box rooms on each floor. It was randomly extended after 50 years. “When we bought the house, it looked like it dates back to 1973,” Lowry says. “I can say that because I was born in 1956, so I was around in the early ’70s.”
Red Hook is located in historic Dutchess County. For Lory – a lawyer who spends the week in New York City – this was also part of the attraction. The Franklin D. Roosevelt family home is here. His presidential library is located near Hyde Park. Bard College – a private liberal arts college attended by the couple’s adopted son – is 10 minutes away.
Lory got all the wallpapers from Thibaut, America’s oldest wallpaper specialist. He remembers ordering more than 70 samples (oversized sheets, rather than faded ones) before settling on an array of colors and patterns. His decision-making was innate — “a lot of decorating is about emotions and feelings” — but his first and only rule of thumb for buying paper is simple: “You have to love it.” Try not to be influenced by the latest combinations or colors. Ask for samples of what you are naturally attracted to and edit them so that you leave something you can live with.
Growing up in a home full of wallpaper, Lori remembers the continuous pattern within each built-in wardrobe. He repeated it here, which guests found intriguing. “It causes a reaction,” he says. “Aside from picking something you like, I think it should be fun – something to talk about.”
This decree also applies to Lowry’s selection of artwork, most of which was obtained from the sale of a property in Palm Springs. In the living room, a portrait of a woman from the community wearing a beanie oversees the proceedings. (The artist is Alexander James, nephew of novelist Henry James.) In the dining room, silverware is guarded by a man with a clipped mustache. “Of course these people aren’t our actual ancestors, but they do keep an eye on us,” Lowry says. We talk about them and create stories for them. They belong in our family, in a way.”
The furniture here is ‘happening with time’ and includes heirloom pieces and objects from local antique stores. Lory’s favorite is the mahogany dining table, which seats 12 and is surrounded by replica Duncan Phyfe chairs that once belonged to his grandmother and traveled with him since the mid-1980s. For the couple’s private bedroom, Lory covered a $200 tattered chaise longue in a monochromatic toilet. Set against the oversized florals of the wallpaper and anchored by a brooding image above, it creates a focal point in an underused space.
Lowry says these instinctive layers of patterns and paintings were a “labour of love.” Imbued with memories of his friend Jim, and his childhood home, Laurie has created a home that is – above all – a welcoming one. “I want the place to be comfortable for people,” he says. “I want it to be an inclusive place that hasn’t always been the case for gay men…I wanted to create a space that feels really welcoming for everyone.”