As a kid growing up in Loudonville, N.Y., Nathaniel Bette remembers being intrigued by the house next door. Built in 1840, it was older than the other homes in the neighborhood, with a sweeping view of the Helderberg Mountains. It had a pedigree; its previous owners included a Civil War general, a state assemblyman and several generations of a local brewing dynasty. The house even had a name: Prospect Place.
But when the house came on the market in late 2009, it had seen better days. "It was a big mess, kind of an eyesore," recalls Bette, now a contractor. However, Bette was determined to restore it to its former glory, while also enhancing it to accommodate modern living. "I wanted to salvage a nice piece of history," he says.
For help, he turned to a team of local designers and to Vanguard, the volunteer arm of the Albany Symphony Orchestra. For 31 years, Vanguard has partnered annually with local design professionals to transform an area home into a designer showcase.
The Vanguard committee knew Prospect Place was a perfect candidate for this year's fundraiser. "It's an incredible house," says chairwoman Barbara Richer. "Folks really enjoy historic homes."
And the fact that it really needed help was an added bonus. "It was pretty close to destruction," Richer says. "To bring it back from the brink – to add color, life and joy – has been remarkable."
Originally built as a summer cottage, the house was structurally sound, but in poor shape cosmetically, and its kitchen and bathrooms were long overdue for an update. Bette's company, Empire Construction Group, put on a large addition that expanded the kitchen and added a mudroom and screen porch.
"The biggest challenge was getting a good master plan that covered all the bases: How do you preserve the architecture, not take anything away that has historical value, but still make it livable for a 21st-century family?" says Bette.
About two dozen designers and decorative artists volunteered to tackle specific rooms and spaces in the home, and Sherwin-Williams signed on as a major sponsor, donating the interior coatings for every room.