Jhe White House doesn’t often provide interior design inspiration — remember Melania Trump’s 2018 Christmas decorations? — but Tyler Lory and Michael Rauschenberg’s gray-painted clapboard house in New York’s Hudson Valley reflects 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in a specific way. “As a child, I was always impressed by the rooms in the White House: the blue room, the red room, the green room,” says Lory. “I wanted our rooms to each have their own identity.”
Here, the mono effect is achieved with a different mood and richly patterned wallpaper for each room. The papers are layered with atmospheric portraits and the rooms are full of antiques collected over a lifetime.
The dining room features an intricate lace-like pattern providing a delicate backdrop to the couple’s collection of silverware and crystal. Upstairs, four rooms have been designed as “jewel cases”: a whimsical desk is lined with exotic flowers on a dark background; a blue room houses a menagerie of birds on a powder blue background; a yellow bedroom is more traditional, with pink flowers on a buttery background; while the couple’s black and white bedroom is boldly monochromatic.
The effect is cocooning and intimate. Lory’s friends call her decorating style romantic: “I think that’s a fair statement of what we did. I want people to feel special, like someone is taking care of them. Gold, glass and silver accessories bounce the light around the rooms, which are all impeccably dressed, pillows plumped ready for the next house full 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, friendly house in Chicago full of patterns, china and portraits. Jim died of AIDS in 1989 at the age of 33, and the Red Hook house is, in part, a tribute to their friendship.
Lory and Rauschenberg’s 1920s kit house sits on the crest of a hill in Red Hook, about two hours north of New York City. From the porch you can see the Catskills. “That’s what helped me choose the house,” Lory recalls. “It was a unload. But as soon as I got out and looked across the road, I saw the mountains and all the colors that accompany them.
The couple spent 17 years restoring what was a dilapidated, partially prefabricated house with four square rooms on each level. It was randomly enlarged 50 years later. “When we bought the house, it looked like 1973,” says Lory. “I can say that because I was born in 1956, so I was there in the early 70s.”
Red Hook is in historic Dutchess County; for Lory – a lawyer spending the week in New York – that was also part of the attraction. Franklin D Roosevelt’s family home is here; its presidential library is near Hyde Park; Bard College, the private liberal arts college attended by the couple’s adopted son, is 10 minutes away.
Lory got all the wallpapers from Thibault, America’s oldest wallpaper specialists. He remembers ordering over 70 samples (large scale sheets, rather than stingy samples) before settling on one color and pattern combination. The decision-making process was instinctive – “much of decorating is about emotions and feelings” – but her first and only rule for buying paper is simple: “You have to like it”. Try not to be swayed by the latest collections or colors. Order samples of what naturally appeals to you and tweak them until you’re left with something you can live with.
Lory grew up in a heavily wallpapered house and remembers the pattern continuing inside every built-in closet. He’s replicated that here, which customers find intriguing. “It causes a reaction,” he says. “Besides picking something you like, I think it should be interesting – something to talk about.”
This edict also applied to Lory’s choice of artwork, most of which came from an estate sale in Palm Springs. In the living room, a portrait of a society woman in a cloche hat watches over the debates. (The artist is Alexander James, nephew of the novelist Henry James.) In the dining room, a man with a trimmed mustache guards the silverware. “Of course, these people are not our real ancestors, but they watch over us,” says Lory. “We talk about them and create stories for them. They belong to our family, in a way.
The furniture here “came in over time” and includes heirloom pieces and items from local antique shops. Lory’s favorite is the mahogany dining table, which seats up to 12 people and is surrounded by reproduction Duncan Phyfe chairs that once belonged to her grandmother and have been traveling with her since the mid-80s. the couple’s own bedroom, Lory upholstered a tattered $200 lounge chair in monochrome canvas. Set against the larger scale flowers of the wallpaper and anchored by a moody portrait above, it creates a focal point in an otherwise underutilized space.
This instinctive layering of patterns and paints was, Lory says, “a labor of love.” Steeped in memories of her friend Jim and her own childhood home, Lory has created a home that is – above all – welcoming. “I want the place to be comfortable for people,” he says. “I want it to be an inclusive place, which for gay men hasn’t always been the case…I wanted to create a really welcoming space for everyone.”