Julie Always Needs a Project

an incredible renovation success story


This is one of the best home stories ever!  Julie Wallach, a good friend and loyal Hammertown customer, shares her journey in bringing this “Clove Valley” house back to life. And, best of all, it could be yours! It’s truly turn-key and ready to live in…even the refrigerator is stocked! This house has been done to perfection. If there was a Hammertown Seal of Approval, this home would get it!

Please contact: Raj Kumar at info@lilliekteam.com

by Julie Wallach

I’ve always been in love with homes and home design since I was a little girl.

Growing up, I had dolls and dollhouses, but I wasn’t interested in playing with them. Rather, I wanted to style the dolls and give them a nice spot to hang out. My parents built me a dollhouse version of my childhood home for Christmas one year when I was in grade school. I dragged my poor mother to the dollhouse store and we’d pour over mail-order catalogs (this was the 1980s, so these things actually existed) to deck it out with all the essential replica antique doll furniture: little brass candlesticks, a camelback sofa, needlepoint rugs, wallpaper, valances, drapes, a sweet pink and white nursery, and actual working lights!

I should have pursued a career in design, but it didn’t seem like a sensible option, or an available career route when I graduated college in the mid-90s. So, I pursued a career in television production – network news first, then a few years at Martha Stewart Television, and a year in film/tv in Los Angeles. Nothing seemed to fit, so I started culinary school in NYC and ended up having a successful career as a chef and restaurateur in NYC for almost 20 years.

Looking back at my restaurant life, I now realize that creating the spaces and vibe inside my restaurants was more rewarding than the actual cooking and daily operations. I was at my happiest during buildout – creating a world where diners will come and experience birthdays, anniversaries, promotions, or drown their sorrows after a breakup or a particularly horrible day.
My restaurants were small and homey, a refuge from the bustling city – all designed to make people feel like they were in an extension of their homes. I’ve always loved making people feel at home and comfortable – whether it’s through food or home design. I fully believe a space can set a tone, put you in a good mood, and elevate your spirit. Or the exact opposite, depending on the design.

After moving to upstate NY full-time in 2013, I started renovating and decorating our eyebrow colonial in Dutchess County. That’s when I discovered Hammertown and was smitten. Kindred spirits. Instantly felt at home. I loved creating that house, but after 6 years, it was time to move on. I had sold my last NYC restaurant and was not tied to the city anymore.

We bought a dream of a home in New Paltz – a historic Dutch Stone house on the National Register of Historic Places. My husband not-so-lovingly says that “Julie always needs a project,” and was a real mensch to go on this journey with me, against his better judgment.

It’s here that I was really immersed in what would soon become Julie 4.0….designer, contractor, project manager, developer, stylist.  I restored an old barn on the property into an office, guest suite, and a commercial-quality movie theater as a love letter for my cinema-loving husband.

I oversaw the entire process – conceived the design, hired the contractor, managed the crew, sub-contracted trades, sourced supplies, fixtures, finishes. Everything. When it was finally completed, we enjoyed it for a month until COVID hit, and NY went into shutdown. We realized that what we thought was our forever home was not meant to be and we found a wonderful family to be the next stewards.

During all this, we had purchased a home overlooking Mohonk Mountain in 2018 because, again, “Julie always needs a project.”  It was a tragic house on a fabulous piece of property, with sweeping, unobstructed views of Mohonk Mountain.

This house needed a lot of love. My parents saw it not long after the closing and thought I had lost my mind, but I saw potential.

Once I saw the view of the treetops, stream and the mountain out of a tiny bedroom window upstairs, I knew this room would be the main bathroom. I could easily envision a giant freestanding soaking tub sitting in front of an enormous picture window. I knew instantly that I could save this house and give it the giant hug it needed, so we bought it on the spot.

The plan was to renovate and rent it out as a luxury Airbnb. But like for so many other people, COVID ruined that plan and everything had to be put on hold. So we decided to pivot- to renovate with the intention of selling and luckily found a wonderful contractor to complete the work.

Renovating during a pandemic is something I don’t wish on anyone.  Renovation itself is one of the most hectic and stressful things one can do. Add a pandemic into the mix and it’s game over. Supply chain issues, interminable wait times for furnishings (if you can find them at all) raw materials skyrocketing easily by 40%, maintaining a safe working environment; all of this on top of all the normal headaches.

As we were renovating, the real estate market was changing rapidly. The shift to work-from-home and an exodus of city folks to upstate towns meant that buyers needs were developing into something else.  Wouldn’t it be nice to save a buyer that hassle and aggravation of setting up a house during a pandemic? We thought, how will they ever quickly make it a home if there are so many supply issues and long lead times for furniture and fixtures? It took us 5 months to receive the fridge we ordered in March. Fourteen weeks for interior doors. Furnishing, renovating and stocking a house during a pandemic requires skill, effort, determination and A LOT of time. I saw an opportunity in the market to offer a property where the buyer can just walk in with their clothes and toiletries and start enjoying their new home. So, I pivoted my idea of a curated airbnb into a total turnkey purchase property.

Clove Mountain House had a focus. 

1. Design a house that maximizes the amazing views, make all the property accessible, create privacy, and build a studio outbuilding that can be used as a work-from-home office, a gym, a homeschool building, a guest space, etc.

2. Sell it completely furnished and stocked.

I relied heavily on local stores when sourcing for this house. Hammertown has always been my go-to, but I worried that the overall style of this house wasn’t in line with the Hammertown vibe. This home was much more modern than the usual Hudson Valley home. I was thrilled to find that Joan has been adding more modern clean styles to her collection of unique pieces. Her eye is impeccable and she excels at creating the perfect balance of old and new. It was so reassuring to know that the items I see on the website are in stock and ready to bring home – unlike design websites or big-name home furnishing stores.  I also scoured a lot of vintage stores for a perfect balance. I knew that if you see it and want it, you can have it. No lead times. Vintage stores and auctions are booming during this pandemic.

My design instinct was to make the interiors neutral and calm so that the views out of the enormous windows were the star of the show. I used light woods and organic materials. The color palette is soothing – soft white walls, cream furnishings, lots of texture, punctuated with brass and black accents. The spaces flow and even though the home is open, it has separate rooms and offers the level of privacy and delineation of space that a couple or family needs during these times we’re all experiencing.

Everything a potential buyer sees in this listing photos is included in the sale. All furnishings, lighting, vintage rugs (some from my personal collection and some sourced specifically for this house from Morocco), vintage pottery, even firewood. The beds are dressed in linens from Parachute. The kitchen is stocked by a professional chef (me!) with everything a new homeowner needs:  All-Clad and Staub pots and pans, small appliances, kitchen utensils, new dishes, flatware, glasses, table linens, etc. The pantry is stocked and organized and even has a coffee station. Cleaning supplies, Dyson vacuum cleaner, paper towels, and other household essentials round out the necessities.

This house has been a labor of love and I hope it will be a refuge for the next owners as they get to enjoy it during these trying times and in happier days ahead. The process of designing and managing this house’s transformation is the most at home I have felt in my adult life. The idea of concierge-style real estate truly combines all my interests and past professional careers.  It was equal parts hell and satisfaction. I would love to do more homes like this and welcome the chance to consult or work with others who want their homes to be a refuge. Because in the end, I love a project.

Please contact: Raj Kumar at info@lilliekteam.com