Creating memories in every corner of their house
Photos by Lisa Vollmer
A single piece of furniture, acquired during an off-season trip to Nantucket, was all the inspiration Jen and Katie Rudolph needed to begin looking for their first home together. “We call it the bar that started the house search,” says Jen, motioning to a custom-built leather bar cart standing flush against the chimney of their 1852 farmhouse. The couple, who were living in Manhattan’s West Village at the time, were keen on finding a getaway outside of New York City and had dreams of being by the water. After scouring hundreds of listings, only to find that most properties had been misrepresented by talented photographers, they lost hope. And then they stumbled upon a home in Sandisfield.
“We fell in love with the house the minute we saw it,” recalls Jen of the day, two years ago, the couple made their inaugural trip to town. They arrived via Route 8, stopped at the former stagecoach stop–turned–New Boston Inn for a beer, then traversed the winding track that is Route 57 west to the town center. Lulled by the seclusion and a house that needed almost no work, they made a quick decision to buy. As luck would have it, September has loomed large in their lives ever since. The Rudolphs closed on their home in September 2016, were married on the property in September 2017, and will celebrate their one-year anniversary on September 30.
The home, known as the Sandisfield Center Parsonage, a 2-1/2-story Greek Revival, originally stood west of the Sandisfield Center Church. It became a private residence in 1887 and was ultimately moved across the green in 1902 to its current location, where it sits on remnants of a 1700s foundation. The owner at that time, Mary Swift, was the widow of Charles Smith, a lawyer and early mayor of Poughkeepsie, New York, who served on the inaugural Board of Trustees at Vassar College. The extended Swift family summered there until it was sold in 1931.
Affectionately dubbed “Little Neptune”—a moniker derived from the marriage of Katie’s hometown of Little Falls, Minnesota, and Jen’s childhood home on Neptune Avenue in New Rochelle, New York—the 4,000-square-foot home on 5-1/2 acres is infused with a modern flair, truly in a world unto itself, one rife for escaping the rigors of fast-paced careers.
Jen is the co-founder of Scientific Global, an agency based in New York and London that provides strategic solutions for healthcare brands in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry; Katie is a PGA and LPGA certified golf professional who serves as the chief operating officer of The First Tee of Metropolitan New York, a nonprofit youth development organization that focuses on teaching life skills through the game of golf to those who otherwise would not have access to the game. As to the allure of Sandisfield? “We love how remote it is,” says Jen.
The kitchen, added in 2007, is what sold the house for the couple—and it is the only room that they haven’t changed, save for repositioning the top of the center island, reputed to be an old ship’s door prized for its durability and imperfections. Moving it 18 inches off its base allowed for a marble prep area near the sink and a more comfortable space for bar stools opposite. Chestnut countertops lend warmth to the bright, airy space punctuated by vintage beams and sporting the home’s only eating area. “We were really adamant that there be no dining room,” explains Jen of their inclination to let the kitchen be the natural gathering place.
And gather they do. The Rudolphs are consummate entertainers who have created a place for their friends and families—more than 160 of whom joined them for their wedding bash last fall. “When we look out on the lawn, we remember moments of our wedding really easily,” says Jen of the ceremony at which her father officiated. Visible reminders of their union permeate nearly every room.
Katie proposed in the library at Christmas, and the champagne cork to commemorate their engagement, along with one from their nuptials, sit side by side in tiny glass boxes on the built in shelves. On the wall above the stairs leading to the guestrooms, glass frames edged in brass soldering hold candid shots of the happy couple who enjoy cooking together, listening to music, and traveling.
For a house that needed no work, the couple has done nothing but work on it over the past two years, inside and out. Just off the bluestone patio, tucked beneath a jaunty nautical-striped canvas awning, is the living room—a warm space arranged around a massive fieldstone fireplace. The newest interior remodel is the parlor, a project the Rudolphs consider a labor of love. Keeping the original sloping floors, they created a perfect retreat for reading, relaxing, playing a game, or having a drink.
While this pair of homeowners has successfully managed to escape the city, the city has not completely escaped them. Conference calls are squeezed into the spaces between puttering in the yard, biking with their dogs, and paddling around nearby West Lake. Every morning, they take to the front stoop to enjoy coffee, brewed in the vintage percolator Jen’s parents got as a wedding gift 58 years ago. “Memories have been created in every corner of the house,” says Jen.