Tour Eric Schmidt’s Gilded Age Estate in the Hudson Valley

In collaboration with Wendy, an enthusiast of architectural restorations, McBournie repaired or replicated wood panels, parquetry, swaths of marble, and intricate ceiling moldings, including the spectacular circular molding that crowns the great hall at Astor Courts, a colonnaded space measuring some 40-by-60 feet and used for social gatherings. “Eric and I love taking on the restoration of historic properties as a kind of shared hobby, to bring them back to life and to prepare them for the next century,” Wendy says, adding that it was also important to the couple to update the estate’s electricity and heating systems, which originally ran on coal and now use renewable geothermal energy.

While the Schmidts wanted to honor the estate’s original architecture and finishes, they also wanted the space to be livable, and to some degree, cozy. “The echo used to be crazy,” says McBournie. “We needed to add lots of layers and create a sense of comfort.” They found an old photo of Astor Courts taken during Brooke Astor’s tenure, and used it as a reference, but mostly they looked to British country houses for inspiration, as seen in the mix-and-match color palette (raspberry reds, muted greens, and deep blues with touches of yellow) and the incorporation of floral fabrics and wallpapers. One wallpaper particularly stands out from the rest: a custom de Gournay depicting scenes of the Hudson Valley, hand-painted in shades of blue over the course of many months, which now envelops a large foyer leading to the bedrooms. “They made a visit to the site to see the views, and made many drawings—this was the last thing we installed,” says McBournie, who has worked with the esteemed British wallpaper company many times over the years.

To furnish the residence, he and Wendy traveled to the top auction houses in Paris, London, and New York, where they found, among other things, a Regency rosewood cabinet, an oversized French panel painted in the early 1900s, a wrought-iron Italian chandelier from the 19th century, Louis XV armchairs, and various rolled-arm sofas. Eschewing a museum-like look, McBournie added a few midcentury and Parsons-style pieces, and had gilded mirrors custom-made by local artisans. It was a careful, lengthy process that resulted in a “collected” ambience that’s formal yet inviting.

Reflecting on the finished project, Wendy has a difficult time choosing a favorite room, but she does single out one space: the indoor pool, whose vaulted ceilings, marble walls, arched windows, and Corynthian columns have now recovered their original luster. “It’s a spectacular space, any time of year. It must have felt revolutionary at the time when it was built, overlooking the grounds when spring flowers are blooming, or during a snowstorm,” she says. “What a place to do the backstroke.”

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