The Director’s Cut

Michael and Theresa Drapkin, Kingston, NY, 11/22/15

Michael and Theresa Drapkin, Kingston, NY, 11/22/15

Call me Alan Smithee. (It doesn’t need to be Alana. I’m used to a name with a bit of gender ambiguity.) Of course I’m kidding (some)–there was no film. I merely declined a byline (but not the corresponding photo credit).

But unlike Michael Cimino who had to wait decades to rescue and show his film maudit/masterpiece (which wasn’t Smithee’d, rather released in 1980 bearing his name but hardly his intentions), I’m rather quickly presenting my edit of my piece on Michael and Theresa Drapkin’s Kingston, NY house and my photos which illustrated it. Plus a dual portrait that didn’t get selected.

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The stratospheric cost of New York real estate has made the city an inhospitable place for young dreamers, artists and entrepreneurs. In 2013, after a year of searching in Brooklyn for space for a wine store and a painting studio, Theresa and Michael Drapkin were frustrated. Longing for some r&r at an upstate b&b, they randomly booked a room at painter and poet Julie Hedrick and composer and musician Peter Wetzler’s Church des Artistes in downtown Kingston.

Michael had done some quiet research, pinpointing a liquor store on lower Broadway that was for sale but “it wasn’t clear that Kingston was our place—we were unaware of what was brewing. But Julie and Peter are amazing ambassadors for Kingston and the arts and for living deliberately.”

They went back to Greenpoint, their heads full of the possibilities and since that weekend, Michael and Theresa have transplanted their lives to Kingston and flourished. Kingston Wine Co. celebrated its second anniversary in its Broadway shop on 1/14/16.

“We saw our house, a short walk from the store, in May 2014, and were the first people to view it after it went on the market,” says Theresa. They were able to imagine the house without the laminate and linoleum (which when ripped up exposed the original hardwood), the walls’ odd color palette and rooms overstuffed with overstuffed furniture. They quickly made an offer.

“It was so fortuitous that both sets of our parents were downsizing as we were moving into the house in October 2014. Without them we’d have the marble-topped Saarinen oval dining table in the salon, the first piece of furniture we bought together, and sparsely furnished rooms,” says Michael. “And we were truly lucky that everything works with what we like—minimalism, comfort, approachability, pattern and color.”

Theresa adds, “My studio, directly above, and the same size as the salon, is also the size of our first apartment together—and we shared that with Tucker, our big black Lab. The gold chair with blue and white striped cushions is also a hand-me-down, from my great-uncle, who was an anesthesiologist and a crossword puzzle champion.”

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The exterior of the house was built entirely of brick in 1857 and a kitchen room was added onto the back in the early 20th century, possibly replacing one in the basement. The porch ceiling, bluejay blue wainscoting, “was traditionally used to give an illusion of sky,” says Theresa. The blue enamel house number is from Paris.  Adds Michael, “I’m a Francophile.”  Two sets of double doors with original glass lead inside.

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The moulding and woodwork in the dining room “was painted mauve. My mother and sister came up to Kingston and we painted almost everything white. It was like a sage cleaning of the house,” says Theresa.  The interior doors—and there are 24 of them, not counting the beautiful curved pocket doors that separate the dining room and the salon—are “an elegant, classic black.” The deer head (which a friend nicknamed Bucky), hanging in the hallway separating the dining room from the living room, was found at Ron Sharkey’s Black Barn in High Falls.

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“The living room is where we nested first, the first room that was finished. We call it Tucker’s room and everything came from our families,” says Michael. “The walls are painted charcoal gray (Valspar Muted Ebony), the same color as Kingston Wine Co.’s exterior walls.”

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The elegant tableau of art, objects, books, flowers and greenery on the mantle above the living room’s working fireplace is in constant flux.

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The hutch, original to the kitchen, stretches nearly to the ceiling and the glass-fronted cabinet doors safeguard, among other cherished objects, Wedgwood from Michael’s side of the family, and Limoge, from Theresa’s. The pitcher, here holding flowers from Hops Petunia, was included in Theresa’s MFA thesis exhibit at Pratt. “Objects can serve as repositories of memory,” she says.

The wine, from a vineyard on Bandol, Domaine Tempier (originally owned by Lulu Peyraud, “France’s greatest home chef”) is “an absolute favorite. The shop gets three bottles a year,” says Michael. “Wine is not just fermented grapes. It encapsulates so many areas of study, including English, poetry and history. In my junior year, I ripped up a law school acceptance letter and got a job in Washington, D.C., at Whole Foods in the wine department.”

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The dining room table, bought by Michael’s parents when he was five, continues to be the site of delicious meals, celebratory and quotidian. The light fixture, hanging from the 10-foot ceiling, was made by Milne, Inc., from a 19th century cast-iron trough still retaining its original patina. The mantel (which had faux green marble finish), like the one in the living room, also features a continuously changing display. In the salon, a 19th century French gathering basket, transformed into a lighting fixture by Milne, Inc., was installed above the Saarinen table.

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The sideboard was milk-painted French blue by Milne, Inc. Theresa’s painting, “English Gardens,” 2015, was inspired by Mark Laird’s book,  “A Natural History of English Gardening.” The curved shelf is original to the house.

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The salon also has 10-foot ceilings, and decorative plaster and woodwork. Theresa says, “I love the work of floral designers. And I also love arranging my own foraged flowers, berries and branches,” which carries over into her work. “Overgrown,” 2015 hangs between the windows and the fireplace. Her second pastel, made in 2012, a portrait of Michael when he had a beard, is reflected in the mirror.

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At the top of the stairs, beyond an graceful archway, Michael and Theresa installed shelves in the “book nook.” Michael says, “We love books—art, fiction, biography, travel literature—and have always acquired them. There are great finds to be had at the Kingston Library sale.” A selection of books are arranged to display their intriguing covers. “Favorites from the 50s,” says Theresa, who has a background in graphic design. Michael did his homework and wrote his papers at the desk. The 1920s chair, probably from an office factory, came from Milne, Inc.

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The Kong toy at the foot of the bed belongs to Claude, Michael and Theresa’s one-year-old yellow Lab. “Michael slept on it growing up but now it’s really Claude’s bed,” says Theresa. The bedside table came from Ron Sharkey’s Black Barn in High Falls. The lamp sitting on it is crowned with one of Theresa’s collection of vintage black lampshades. The door to the right of the table leads to the back staircase, the other two are closets.

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A portrait of Louise Bourgeois is taped to the wall in Theresa’s studio. “Her great and diverse body of work—sculpture, paintings, textiles—constantly inspires me.” Theresa, who likes to work from 10:00 pm to 2:00 am, “when everything’s quiet,” says of her favorite medium, “In graduate school, I started painting with watercolors and pastels. There was enough room to work on the kitchen table in our studio apartment and it was easy to clean up. Now I use pastels in a deeply saturated, clean, color-blocked style. I love the immediacy and vibrancy. My paintings are casually representational still lifes of botanical and domestic scenes, framed using frames I find in flea markets, roadside and yard sales and antiques stores. ” (Theresa’s lipstick is called Lady Danger and it has since been eaten by Claude.)

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Claude, who was described by his breeder to Theresa and Michael as “confident and curious”  (Michael says, “x100”), likes to look out the original glass of the salon’s floor-to-ceiling windows, observing the neighbors, passersby, and animals, domesticated and otherwise.

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“When we first got here, although it was amazing to have found such a great outdoor space in downtown Kingston, it was kind of Grey Gardens-ish,“ says Theresa. “The bricks were covered with mud and leaves. The fence was falling down. Restoring it was a lot of work. But now we’re out here almost every day in all four seasons, for coffee, reading, lunch, dinner, even Thanksgiving. We can see two church steeples and hear the bells.” The barn-like garage was built six years ago by the house’s previous owners. The table came from the much-missed High Falls Mercantile, the chairs from Michael’s parents, the bench from Ron Sharkey’s Black Barn and the vase, a re-purposed umbrella stand from Theresa’s mother, holds dried hydrangeas (Theresa’s favorite flower) from bushes in the front yard.

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