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Balancing old & new with whimsy

Tarrytown House Estate—a historic, 214-room resort-style hotel, destination restaurant, special event venue and conference center with views of the Hudson River and the New York City skyline—recently completed a $15-million property-wide refresh that combines historic elements with a modern aesthetic.

Although parts of the estate were originally built in the 1800s, there was a need to bring it up to modern standards for today’s guests. “While the estate’s history adds credibility to the property, we also want to give our guests a refreshed product for their next Hudson Valley resort escape,” said Marc Gordon, founder/principal, Rubicon Company, owner of the resort.

The redesign of the property had to marry both elements, and Gordon turned to Sean Knibb of Venice, CA-based Knibb Design. “With such a unique property, it was critical for us to have a design that merges old-world charm with contemporary design, and designer Sean Knibb exceeded our expectations,” he said. “One of our goals was to repurpose as much as possible from the historic mansions, Biddle and King, and we did so by restoring the original wood floors, which we discovered under the dusty old carpets.”

The work also uncovered a number of historic items, including a link to a dubious historic figure. “We also found a restored 18th-century portrait of Major John Andre, a British spy in the Revolutionary War, that was previously owned by Mary Duke Biddle, along with old books from that era,” said Gordon.

“In addition to the historic design elements throughout the property, it was important for us to bring a fresh dimension of elegance to life, which can be seen through the subtle tonal-gray, neutral fabric, and Miro-inspired ceiling murals seen in the King Mansion,” he added.

To showcase Knibb’s concept of marrying historic architecture with contemporary design, elements such as custom-designed toile wallpaper—designed for meeting rooms—at first glance appear very traditional, but upon closer inspection, include contemporary components like skateboards and wine glasses, among other novel items.

The neutral fabric and paint choices in the guestrooms and meeting spaces were all designed to bring light and tranquility to the spaces. Modern, custom touches like the Miro-inspired, large-scale murals painted on select ceiling spaces add a novel and modern point-of-interest and also tie back to the overarching narrative of modern art and other treasures filling the rooms and spaces of the hotel.

A big focus was put on the public spaces to encourage guests to spend time outside of their rooms. “Upon entering the hotel, guests can now enjoy our new lounge-style indoor atrium, which connects the lobby and our new culinary outpost, Goosefeather, to relax and have a cup of coffee or fresh beverage before dining,” he said. “Just off the lobby is a new beautifully manicured lawn with adjacent outdoor patio, equipped with extensive seating and firepits, and perfect for guests who are looking to enjoy the outdoors.”

The King Mansion maintains the original woodwork in its library as well as flooring and doors throughout the ground-floor common spaces. The design provides a vibrant, bohemian aesthetic, and contemporary and playful touches like crowns juxtaposed on historic black-and-white photography from the surrounding area over the past century.

“We also wanted to continue the estate’s tradition of hosting high-profile meetings, celebratory events and lavish weddings in our ballrooms and private event spaces, all of which now feature a more contemporary design with touches of the property’s old-world charm,” said Gordon. “To top off the restoration, we partnered with celebrity chef Dale Talde to open Goosefeather.”

Located in the King Mansion, Goosefeather’s culinary offerings are inspired by Cantonese cuisine with a focus on Chinese staples, such as noodles, Cantonese barbecue and dumplings, while also playing with the seasonality of the Hudson Valley.

“The idea of a new restaurant concept first came about when we thought of moving our former culinary outpost from the Biddle Mansion to the King Mansion, making it more easily accessible for diners to access the space,” said Gordon. “The property’s restoration was also the perfect time for us to introduce a new cuisine to our travelers and, of course, locals. When we were introduced to Chef Dale Talde, we immediately knew it was the right decision to collaborate. Dale is a master of his craft and his approach to providing authentic Chinese cuisine is simply one-of-a-kind.”

Adding the chef’s special twist on classic dishes, dinner menu highlights include Kung Pao chicken wings with shaved celery and buttermilk dill ranch; grilled avocado salad with baby bok choy, kale and plums; and char siu Berkshire pork with grilled scallions and spicy mustard. Dessert creations include a pineapple shaved-ice sundae with rum-roasted pineapple and brown-butter cake or salted chocolate ganache with potato, peanut, pretzel crumble and chocolate sorbet.

With the debut of Goosefeather, the property’s former restaurant will be transformed into a private event space for wedding after-parties, wine tastings, private birthday parties, after-dinner lounge space for groups and meetings, bridal showers or other private events. Accessed through a hidden door, the venue houses a classic bar, dining spaces and lounge spaces with the feel of a historic speakeasy.

Playing host to more than 750 weddings, special events, meetings, conventions and conferences each year, Tarrytown House Estate offers 28 private banquet spaces and meeting rooms, with a total square footage of 34,000.

A Little Bit of History

Built in 1840, the King Mansion, originally called “Uplands,” had many owners until Thomas M. King—an executive of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (famed for being on a standard Monopoly board)—purchased the mansion around 1900. Thomas King’s son, Frederick, married their neighbor William Harris’ daughter, Sybil, and she reigned as the “queen and mistress” of both estates until Mary Duke Biddle—of the Duke Tobacco family—purchased the stone house in 1921, which eventually became known as Biddle Mansion. Following Sybil’s death, Mary Duke Biddle purchased the King Mansion in 1959, reuniting the two estates.

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