“Real Housewife” Heather Thomson shows her earthy side at her Berkshires getaway.
Crashing a wedding can be risky.
When a friend of interior architect Ritch Holben, who works out of the Berkshires and Florida’s South Beach, “invited” him to crash what was sure to be a raucous wedding up the road at Gedney Farm, he figured, Why not? He had a fantastic time, whooping it up with Tommy Hilfiger and the like. Two weeks later, Holben showed up for a meeting with a new client, only to be confronted by none other than the bride and groom.
The newlyweds were fashion designer Heather Thomson, founder and CCO of the Yummie shapewear line and star of Bravo’s reality series The Real Housewives of New York City, and her husband, Jonathan Schindler, a principal in a real estate firm. Holben fessed up, and the trio had a good laugh. “It immediately set the tone for an easygoing relationship,” he says.
Originally planned as a pool house, Heather Thomson’s home—with its farm inspired silhouette and luxe detailing—gained a new purpose as her family grew.
That was more than 10 years ago. Today Holben is still the designer-oncall for the couple as they continue to develop ideas for their 26-acre Berkshires property, which straddles the New York and Massachusetts state lines. The idea was to create a getaway that Thomson envisioned as “a modern New England farm situation”—a large main house along with a barn/studio and a pool house/guest house, all overlooking the Catamount Ski Area in the Taconic Mountains. They built the pool house first, sensing that the 1,500-square-foot structure with a loft would be the perfect size for getaways together or with friends. “The loft was going to be the flophouse, where friends could crash for the night,” says Thomson.
But when she got “knocked up” (her words) during construction, Holben revised the design, transforming the would-be pool house into a comfortable family weekend home. Eight years in, and up another child, the couple loves its intimacy. “It’s all we need right now,” says Thomson. (The Real Housewives gang had its share of fun there, too, over a weekend during the show’s most recent season.)
The living room.
The design of the house ref lects that of an outbuilding, appropriate for a farm-inspired Berkshires compound, but with industrial elements and luxe detailing that render it thoroughly of-the-moment, as though sprung from the trendy design site Remodelista. Rather than employ conventional construction methods, Holben hired Acorn Deck House Company (852 Main St., Acton, 800-727-3325) to turn his design into a precut kit, which a contractor then assembled on-site. This allowed for an upgrade in materials: While the exposed cedar ceiling and mahogany window frames, for example, are standard for Acorn, they would have otherwise pushed the project way over budget.
The main living space is open and airy, with a cathedral ceiling and a double story of windows facing the mountains, which makes for spectacular sunsets. The poured concrete slab floor is stained warm gray, and the walls are painted in Benjamin Moore’s Murmur, a pale gray with a green tinge. “Its character changes with the light throughout the day,” Holben says. A black leather Chesterfield sofa, a wood slat bench used as a coffee table, and an Arco lamp by Achille Castiglioni sit atop a russet colored area rug. A skinny, asymmetric fireplace, clad in pale gray cement board that is normally used as a base for tile work, anchors the space.
The living room features a catwalk inspired by an old train bridge and a skinny, asymmetric fireplace.
The home’s pièce de résistance—a three-foot-wide steel-grate catwalk inspired by an old train bridge in Great Barrington—hovers above. It overlooks the living room and is accessed by a floating staircase made from mahogany, steel beams, and stainless steel cables. The interior, like the exterior, is simple but exciting, industrial yet warm. “We broke the modern architecture rule: It’s lived in,” Thomson says. “You can lie on the couch and pull a blanket over you, but look up and be wowed by the lines.”
Although there are no plans now to build the remaining structures, there will be. “It really is the beginning of the story,” she adds. “We’re a team, and we’ll be together to the end.”