Leader is the busy founder and owner of Bread Alone bakery in Boiceville, producing more than 40,000 pounds of fresh organic breads each week. He also travels quite a bit—be it to greenmarkets from Albany to Manhattan or to South Africa, where he’s working to create and distribute micro-business container bakeries for the hungry—and needed a peaceful spot to touch down between missions.
“I loved the location, loved being outside here,” he says. “But the inside…It was just funky, inconvenient and not very pleasant. I knew it wasn’t what I wanted, but I could never envision how to do a different interior—until I met Shari. I was almost at the point of deciding to sell and move on. The last thing I need is a complicated house.”
Leader’s rescuer, Shari Markbreiter, is a partner of MH Studio in Manhattan and a greenmarket fan. She and Leader met at the market, and when he told her of his housing woes, she wanted to have a look. Seeing the place, with its wasted spaces, mildew-smelling basement, and cranberry-and-green bathroom, she felt a plan coming on. Markbreiter and her partner Benjamin Huntington changed the fractured layout of the kitchen by closing the bedroom hall doorway. Using a new opening from the living room, they were able to combine the bedroom hall and part of the back porch into a new light-filled library.
One thing Leader didn’t want to do was enlarge the carbon footprint. “Everybody thinks you have to expand, but even though it’s more of a challenge, it’s wonderful to reuse and repurpose what exists,” says Markbreiter. “It’s an older house with good solid timbers, so we worked from there out. We started with fundamentals—it was very poorly insulated. Not anymore. It feels tight now. It’s a huge energy saver.”
“Replacing the floor helped too,” says Leader, gesturing happily to the glowing reclaimed chestnut boards. “Never in my wildest dreams did I believe this house could become clean, tight, and dry, with such an open feel.”
Markbreiter knew the kitchen had to be special. “Here’s a man whose whole career is food, who’s cooked for some of New York’s finest restaurants, and he was living with a stove that only had one working burner,” she says. “We design some fabulous kitchens for people who almost never use them. It was exciting to think through every detail with someone who actually loves food.” A Dacor stove with convection oven, powerful burners, and a serious exhaust fan turned out to be just the thing.
“I like the feel of the handles and knobs,” says Leader. “I’m sensitive to that stuff…We had four people cooking here last weekend, and it was comfortable. Everyone had room to move.”
In the living room, a fireplace with a cast iron insert and a thermal masonry wall above provides primary heat, with an oil furnace for backup. Down in the basement, the original hand-hewn beams contrast nicely with the new sheetrock and on-demand hot water heater—no more mildew here. The bathroom, no longer an energy-sapping flood of dark colors, has a glass shower enclosure, dual-flush toilet, and deep tub with a view of the woods.
Opening up the lines of sight and getting rid of wasted space gave the house a roomier feel without changing the footprint. Velvety-sleek surfaces like the honed marble floor in the master bathroom are a sensual bonus for someone whose first love is the tactile delight of kneading organic bread dough. “It’s still a little house, but it doesn’t feel little anymore,” says Leader. “I look forward to coming home now.”
And while Markbreiter admits a sustainable home may be easier to accomplish from the ground up, she acknowledges that Leader’s home is a testament to the feasibility of an affordable green renovation.
“Retrofitting for sustainability may be harder than building new with a huge budget, but it’s obviously not impossible,” says Markbreiter. “It just takes thought. We were fortunate to fall into a very good network of local contractors who understood the need to make sustainability a priority without spending a ton of money.” (The cabinet maker and provider of the restored flooring were found, she notes, in New York House advertisements.) The total makeover came together for somewhere under $150,000—and the impact on Leader’s life is clearly priceless.
“I have three grown children, and now they all love to come and stay and bring their friends—and we can accommodate everybody in comfort,” he says joyfully. “And no more unfinished feeling. This is a happy house now.”
Resource List Renovation and Interior Design Services MH Studio New York, (212) 644-8585 mhstudio.com
Stone Supplier and Fabricator Barra and Trumbore Stone Fabrication Kerhonkson, (845) 626-5442 barratrumbore.com Reclaimed Wood Floor Country Road Associates Limited Millbrook, (845) 677-6041 countryroadassociates.com Appliances Earl B. Feiden Inc. Appliance Kingston, (845) 331-2230 feidenappliance.com Bathroom Tiles Ideal Tile of Paramus Paramus, NJ, (201) 265-4407
Custom Millwork Jankscraft Kingston, (845) 688-5897 jankscraft.com Glass Shower Enclosures Kingston Glassworks Kingston, (845) 331-9675
Plumbing and Heating N&S Supply Kingston, (845) 331-6700 nssupply.com Light Bulbs NuLite Lyndhurst, NJ, (201) 965-4899 nulitetechnologies.com Kitchen Shelving Puffin Engineering Woodstock, (845) 679-5347
Exterior Lighting Scofield Historical Lighting Ivoryton, CT, (860) 767- 7032 scofieldhistoriclighting.com Custom Furniture Tom Russo Design Boiceville, (845) 657-4120 tomrussodesign.com Bathroom Accessories Waterworks New York, (212) 371-9266 waterworks.com Photographs and Sculpture JHB Gallery
New York, (212) 255-9286 jhbgallery.com