As their family nest, a grand old Victorian in Yorktown, began to empty, Kip and Julie Testwuide took an anniversary trip to Vermont where Kip surprised his wife with a visit to an Icelandic horse farm. He knew that Julie was an equine fan. In fact, they’d shared a quarter horse as newlyweds, and with their three children grown and moving on, he thought she might enjoy getting back in the saddle.
As fate would have it, they both fell in love with Icelandics. The horses, sometimes erroneously referred to as ponies due to their relatively small size, are prized for their playful nature and steady tolt, so the Testwuides quickly determined that they would be the perfect choice for the couple’s return to riding. With the help of Bedford’s Nicki Esdorn of High Country Icelandics, they chose Fidla, a 13-year-old mare and brought her home to board at a Katonah stable. As Julie worked with Nicki on training Fidla, she found she loved riding on the local lanes, and soon the couple began looking for a horse property with direct access.
Not long after, a 1960s ranch house on the Bedford Riding Lanes became available. Set on nearly 11 acres alongside the Beaver Dam River, the house needed some updating and Julie’s creative touch, but thankfully, Fidla’s facilities were in move-in condition. The Testwuides hired architect David Graham to help them design a country lodge. “Kip works long hours in New York and loves to come home to the country where he can ride, fish, and watch birds,” explains Julie. “After many years vacationing in the Adirondacks, we have come to love the lodge style of architecture, so we asked David to help us create a home that would blend that rusticity with Bedford elegance.”
The first priority was to open up the house to the views of the property. “I wanted as many windows facing the horses, barn, and river as possible,” Julie continues. “We also wanted the walls to be neutral, so that the windows could simply frame the views.” While Graham began sketching, Julie, a salvager since her teenage years in Wisconsin, started scouring eBay and favorite salvage shops, like Amaghini Architectural and United House Wrecking, for doors, panels, moldings, and other architectural details to customize the interior.
A long-time fan of covered porches, Julie is developing a book of photographs that depict how people use and what they keep on those quintessentially American outdoor spaces. Not surprisingly, she was sure to include a few on the wish list she gave to David Graham, one of which now charmingly shelters the main entrance of the transformed two-story lodge. Inside, the foyer leads to Kip’s library and the kids’ bedroom hallway on the right.
Straight ahead is the living room overlooking the river. A vintage bar, salvaged from a shuttered Rhinebeck watering hole, stands ready to serve guests who love to settle in front of the stone fireplace. Opting to convert the dining room into a billiards room, the Testwuides reconfigured the old kitchen space to include a spacious fireside dining area.
When they’re not outside, Julie and Kip can often be found in the kitchen, where they both love to cook. She is a grill master, while he has perfected several wild fowl and game dishes. Just as there are at least a dozen different door styles in the house, the kitchen reflects Julie’s eclectic style, too, with sinks sourced from Architectural Antiques Exchange in Philadelphia, as well as appliance panels she re-fabricated from old furniture she found on eBay.
A staircase leads from the kitchen to a landing where a pair of vintage saloon doors swing open to Julie’s studio. A professional photographer, she left the corporate world years ago to work as a fine artist and hasn’t looked back. Her evocative work is displayed in the hallways and stairways with Adirondack and porch images featured most prominently. Sold in galleries and through juliearts.com, her work can be found in hotels, offices, and private collections throughout the country.
A few steps beyond the studio is the master suite. A tiny sitting area is tucked into a gable along the arched hallway that leads to the bedroom, and dozens of framed family photos line the walls and tables. Chandeliers, imported carpets, mounted antlers, and antique furnishings have been artfully combined to create a delightfully unique escape. Julie’s most endearing touch is the private hideaway she created by custom fitting a second gable with the elements of an antique bed. The perfect cocoon for an afternoon nap, the nook can be closed off by simply pulling the drapes.
The transition to being horse farm owners has been swift and blissful for the Testwuides, although the learning curve has been steep. In fact, it has gone so well, that they recently acquired Filly, a new Icelandic sister for Fidla. “We could have continued to live in Yorktown and boarded the horses elsewhere, but we really wanted the whole lifestyle of living with the horses,” says Julie, who looks forward to her evening rides with Kip after dinner. “And, I love that I can share this passion I have with other women my age. How wonderful to be able to send out an email to friends saying ‘meet me at my barn at 10:30,” and we’ll ride for an hour and then come back here for lunch’.”