Of the three touchstones in interior designer Sheila Bridges’ life, her home in New York’s Hudson Valley, one of the world's best homes, is perhaps the most representative of her personality – being entirely conceived by her.
‘I did hire an architect but I had already designed the house because I had a specific idea of what I wanted,’ she says. Her other two properties – in Harlem, New York City, and Reykjavik – are period homes while here Sheila began from the ground up.
‘I had already been in the area for many years but I wanted to downsize. My previous home was a farm where I kept horses, sheep and goats and had a lot of land but I wanted a simpler life. Something more manageable but big enough for me to enjoy the garden and have enough room for a pool and my dog Loki.’
Amid a road of traditional farmhouses, Sheila’s plot contained an abandoned home that was soon taken down leaving her with just under an acre to play with. Starting her build in 2018, Sheila considers herself fortunate to have avoided the drawbacks associated with the pandemic, yet her project was not without its hindrances.
‘There was a lot of water on the property so we spent the first year trying to work out a drainage system before even thinking about building. I also had problems with my builders so half way through I let them go and finished the project myself, renting a house down the street and coming to site every day.’
The architecture recalls both a barn, with its sliding doors and hayloft detail, and Iceland’s Búðakirkja church, a monolithic and stark beauty with a steeply pitched roof. ‘There is a Nordic influence inspired by my time in Scandinavia. I spend a lot of time there when the days are long, hiking, swimming and riding,’ she says.
Outside the house, visitors are greeted by a replica of artist David Hammons’ African-American Flag, which Sheila says is a ‘reminder of America’s deeply troubled history and the need for real and meaningful change.’
The powerhouse behind Sheila Bridges Design and Sheila Bridges Home, Sheila Bridges moved to Harlem, New York, in 1993 and opened her design studio shortly afterwards. She has lived and worked in Harlem for more than 25 years. The creator of Harlem Toile, Sheila is known for her colorful, multi-layered homes, and she divides her time between her homes in Harlem, Reykjavik and this house in Hudson, New York, which exudes her signature style.
Inside, there is a vast living area with a mezzanine study that leads to Sheila’s bedroom and bathroom. ‘I wanted the space to feel open and loft like,' she says. 'The floor plan allows me to participate in entertaining while cooking – all my previous homes have had a separate kitchen, and this is more enjoyable when I have company.’
One of Sheila's living room ideas involved a collaboration with artist Elizabeth Parker to design the mobile, which draws the eye up to the vaulted ceiling.
Every wall comes to life with pieces that tell a story of Sheila’s heritage and also her travels.
Among Sheila's dining room ideas was incorporating graphic print blinds that look like works of art, ensuring this space manages to be both fresh and grand.
The way Sheila merges the new with the old is magical. Here, a gallery of black-and-white prints and a vibrant green throw sit comfortably with a collection of antiques.
Sheila's kitchen ideas revolve around clever use of color - the bold painting picks out the hues in the cooker and accessories, creating a sense of harmony.
Hallway ideas include a gallery wall featuring Sheila’s collection of African-American art, which includes works by Clementine Hunter, Dox Thrash, Calvin Burnett and Henry Tanner.
The crisp nave-like reception spaces lead to smaller rooms that charm and intrigue. ‘When you open doors to the bedroom, powder room and bathroom, you’re assaulted by colour and pattern, which is what people typically recognise in my work. I wanted those spaces to feel more intimate and familiar,’ says Sheila.
As important as its ability to entertain, the house is also the host of striking art and antiques. ‘It’s a mix of things I’ve bought over the years – pieces of art alongside flea-market finds and things that belonged to my parents. I reupholstered their furniture and my mother was a collector of African-American art. Learning to layer through art, upholstery and print is a skill I’ve developed over time and the more I’ve travelled and the more I’ve experienced in life has contributed to making me a better designer,’ says Sheila. ‘It’s pretty relaxed here. I spend a lot of time outside gardening and indoors I’m surrounded by the things I love.'
In the main bedroom the blue walls and desk chime with the sky and water of these paintings.
Sheila's bathroom ideas include adding a touch of whimsy with a landscape mural and acorn pendant.
Bedroom ideas centered on creating a period feel – the historical wallpaper from 1772 and antique artwork transport this room to the past.
Interior design/ Sheila Bridges Design
Photographs/ Frank Frances/ Otto
Styling/ Olga Naiman
Text/ Juliet Benning
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Interiors have always been Vivienne's passion – from bold and bright to Scandi white. After studying at Leeds University, she worked at the Financial Times, before moving to Radio Times. She did an interior design course and then worked for Homes & Gardens, Country Living and House Beautiful. Vivienne’s always enjoyed reader homes and loves to spot a house she knows is perfect for a magazine (she has even knocked on the doors of houses with curb appeal!), so she became a houses editor, commissioning reader homes, writing features and styling and art directing photo shoots. She worked on Country Homes & Interiors for 15 years, before returning to Homes & Gardens as houses editor four years ago.
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