04/11/19 7:30am

In an April 29, 2016 posting, NR featured 284 Liberty Street . Two months later, it found new owners.

NR: How did you find Newburgh and what made you decide to move here?

Liz: Michael and I love the Hudson Valley and along with friends we were looking for a location to build a sustainable community in a place that was walkable, historic, and with an edgy vibe.  We were concerned about the challenges but kept returning. It grew on us.


NR: What kind of loan did you end up getting, and how hard was it to find a lender?

Liz: We helped my sister with her home on Lander Street. We learned how difficult it is to get a construction loan, especially when you want to build to high-energy standards.  As serial renovators, we needed funding to startup our company, dwellstead, which helps others with similar projects.  

Michael: We ultimately decided to fund from proceeds of the sale of our loft.  This meant saying goodbye to 45+ years of life in Lower Manhattan.

Historic Tax Credits are a key part of our financing. The money we got back on this building drove net costs down by 15%. We’re doing tax credits as a service for those who find the process cumbersome and time consuming.

NR: What work had to be done to your building and what services did you use?

Liz: It had a CofO, but previous alterations were not code compliant. There were gas-fired heaters in each room!   

Working with our business partner and architect, C. B. Wayne, we did a gut renovation.  He first made us reinforce the joists because he has been to many of our crazy loft dance parties and was afraid of what would happen with 150 people jumping up and down together in unison.  

Gas-fired heating in each room. Yikes!

Michael: Climate change is becoming an urgently felt problem. Just the other day, millions of students around the world walked out of class for 11 minutes, representing the number of years we may have left to fix this problem.

As individuals, reducing the energy demand of one’s own home is something we each can each do now. I was originally inspired by Passive House homes, designed to be “so energy-efficient you can heat them with a hair dryer”.  But estimates we got were 50% more than current top selling prices for homes in Newburgh. We wanted a high performance approach budgeted for the Newburgh market. C. B., with extensive experience in high-energy-conservation construction, said that what matters is hitting a HERS* rating of 20-40. He provided other methods that are simple, intuitive, time-tested and more affordable.

Often, the goals of preservation and energy conservation clash.  Since C. B. also has a passion for preservation, he was the ideal partner for finding sensitive, thoughtful ways of maintaining the historic beauty of the building, while getting us to our performance goals.

Left: C-joists added for added stiffness and a second insulation layer. Right: Joist reinforcement. Insulation between joists is important and often overlooked.

Liz: The layouts of each floor had been carved up to maximize occupancy, with sheet rock covering windows and doors every which way. We returned as best we could to the elegance of the original layout. By removing a stairway, we were able to enlarge the bath and add a walk-in closet for the ground floor one-bedroom rental.

The main floor has the parlor, dining room, pantry and kitchen.  There were previously 3 bedrooms upstairs but we converted one into what has become a heavenly master-bath and laundry.  

Left: Floors were covered with linoleum, carpeting, paint and glue. Right: Repaired and restored wood floor.

Michael: The plumbing, heating and electrical are new. Because the building is tight, we installed ERVs for fresh air. Sprinklers were an unexpected expense, but I lived for 41 years in a manufacturing building with them, they are a part of my psyche. The pipes are buried within the walls: you hardly know they’re there.

We added 5” of rockwool insulation in the walls and 17” under the roof.  Rockwool is 3 times more fire-resistant than foam, which burns rapidly and produces intense heat: it’s like pouring gasoline into the walls. Rockwool ads say “Keep a fire in your house from becoming a house on fire”. This is an important consideration for historic districts.

Left: Inner storm window double-hung Center: Inner storm window, pressure-mounted single, nearly invisible Right: Inner storm window detail

Liz worked hard at restoring the windows on her own but got great help from the floor guy and his girlfriend towards the end, and storm windows – built by Innerglass – were placed on the inside. They are 7 times tighter than exterior storms. At first, they were not an easy sell with the city’s compliance department, but in the end we found the guys there to be good to work with. We didn’t receive any stop-work orders: maybe because we bugged them with so many questions that they eventually just wanted to run the other way. We reconstructed moldings to match the original design.

The cabinets in the existing kitchen pictured above were weak, made of 1/8” plywood. They still have life in them and may get refurbished for our next project. The cabinets below came from the old loft in Manhattan. We modified and re-purposed them here.


Liz: We try to re-use/recycle and have fun with it. Our bathroom vanity is fabricated out of a mid-century credenza that I found at a thrift store. We took our custom designed kitchen cabinets with us from our Manhattan loft and re-purposed them here. We added Italian marble counters on either side of the stove, and went with butcher block for the island.

Finding good, honest help wasn’t easy, but most everything went well: we had six plumbers, five carpenters, two electricians, a mason, a floor guy, a tile guy and one very cranky plasterer.

NR: What has your experience been like living on Liberty Street? How are the neighbors?

Michael: It’s quiet. People smile and say hi. Sometimes I smile back (Liz: Practice, Michael!). To one side are a couple who are in arts/education. They love gardening, and trees. Across the street is a Boys and Girls Club. It’s nice to hear the sound of children playing.

Liz: This fall my sister’s previous tenant bought the house two doors north of us. He’s become like family.  

There’s bodega a block away – can’t beat that!

Friends and family pop over and it’s like old times.  Our floor guy loves Michael’s collection of gospel LPs. Marino, our masonry guy, drops by with produce from his church pantry.  If we’re not home, he leaves it at the door. No one ever takes it. Last time, he brought me a ton of limes, carrots, and blood oranges.  We made Key Lime pie, carrot cake, and ricotta cheesecake with blood orange compote and invited everyone over. Take that, Martha Stewart!

We converted a mid-century credenza into our master bath vanity.

NR: Why is this your dream home?

Michael: This house allowed us to see if we could execute to a vision. When we got our heating bill, it was 15% of what buildings of this type and size average: think of what you can do with that extra $s. We still have to do our HERS audit, but this is an indication that we will hit our target, and we did it at a price that’s right for Newburghers.

I love the attic. I have my office and studio space there. The view out the east window is peaceful and conducive to work. I like being able to jump on my bike and be in the countryside in 5 minutes.

Liz: The house has great soul. It’s cozy, unpretentious and warm. We have a beautiful backyard for our dog Mitsy to run around in. And I LOVE that I can walk to my sister’s house in 5 minutes!

NR: What have been some of the perks and challenges of living in Newburgh?

Liz: I don’t need a car. The restaurants, cafes, parks, and grocery stores are a walk, bus, cab or ferry ride away.

Michael: There are economic and housing trends that are not sustainable. Hundreds of charming but distressed buildings wait to be turned back into beautiful homes, yet there is a clamor for affordable housing. We see opportunity in this. That is why we started dwellstead. We are looking forward to finishing the exterior of this building, and ramping up our next.

NR: What advice would you give others who are considering moving to Newburgh?

Liz: Do your homework. Talk to people who have done the kinds of renovations you aspire to.  Give considerable thought to building sustainably: fixing up these distressed buildings so that they consume as little energy as possible is a great opportunity to contribute to slowing climate change because buildings are the biggest contributors to carbon emissions.  Yes, more than industry and more than cars. At the same time you will save money over the long run and be very comfy in your warm home.

Plan carefully. Vet your trades as if your life depended on it.

Take advantage of historic tax credits! It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it! (We can help: call dwellstead at 917-743-7568 or 917-628-8835, or visit our office at Grit Works at 115 Broadway in Newburgh, where we will be having our next workshop soon.)   

Finally: finding a property you can buy for $5k and renovate for $100k is a long shot. Maybe you have to say that to yourself in order to commit yourself to a process that is often maddening, but denial is painful and the truth will save you.

Michael’s old drafting table has been modified and turned into our dining table. The round thing in the ceiling is an ERV vent that supplies fresh air.

Our architect C. B. Wayne explaining HERS ratings at our workshop in the summer of 2018

The downstairs one-bedroom apartment.

Mitsy now provides the warmth from the fireplace.

Exterior: before… …and when complete.

07/24/18 7:30am

Most anyone will agree, one of the things that makes Newburgh so special is the architecture. The centuries-old details on Newburgh’s buildings need upkeep and sometimes, complete restorations or renovations. Hans Obel Jensen and Julie Tremblay have been determined to give their Queen Anne the best maintenance they possibly can by restoring not only the original windows but now their original slate roof. Julie has so graciously decided to share their experience. To see more photos, check out their Instagram page.

Who did you use to do the work and how did you find them? Clemco Construction and Restoration, who are based in Ossining. We had been planning the restoration of the roof for some time and had gotten quotes from others but I wasn’t really convinced we had found the right people for the job. I was driving through Garrison and saw so many beautifully restored slate roofs and I thought I’d better find out who did those. Upon returning home, I started googling and landed on Clemco’s website. Tom Clemmens, the president of Clemco, worked full time in Garrison for about 15 years and has restored the roofs of some of the most prominent mansions and churches there. When he came to look at the house, I thought his understanding of materials and historic architecture was unlike that of anyone else I had interviewed for the job.

What are some of the details involved in restoring a slate roof?

I probably told Tom a million times that I wanted the roof to be restored totally faithfully to the original. Our house is a Queen Anne and the slate roof is very typical of that of a Queen Anne. It has so many patterns and shapes of tiles. It’s really quite funky. But the slate was so weathered you could hardly notice all the patterns. Some of those patterns and shapes Tom had never seen in 40+ years of restoring slate roofs. Even though Tom assured me each time that every shape and pattern would be reproduced, I was still puzzled as to how that was going to get done. Tom is a bit of a Renaissance man and has, years ago, invented and made a slate cutting machine. Thousands of slate tiles have been cut on this machine, for our roof, one by one. Our roof has about 8,000 slate tiles and about half of those had to be cut into some shape. Then there’s all the copper work. I had never realized our roof had that much copper. All the flashings have been cut and bent on antique machines that are inside of a trailer parked in front of our house. Every little piece of everything made from scratch. Except for the nails. They did not make the nails. Lol

Many roofs in Newburgh were slate. They were removed and never replaced. Why was is important for you to restore the slate roof?
First, as a sculptor, materials are important to me. I love that the bricks are made of soil, that the lumber used in the house is old growth wood. The window sashes may be “only” 135 years old but the wood used for them maybe 5-600 years old. And the slate, hundreds of thousands of years in the making. It’s beautiful and sustainable. This roof will last 200+ years. I am not a fan of things that need to be replaced every 20-30 years. And the rare craft involved in making it, makes me appreciate it even more.

What can you share regarding the costs of restoring a slate roof?

Well, it’s not cheap, as anyone could imagine. But it may not be as bad as some might think. When you restore a roof, whether you choose slate or another material, the cost of all the carpentry work that needs to get done (soffits, trim, brackets etc), all the flashing that needs to be replaced, the scaffolding that needs to be put up, the labor of putting down whatever; those costs will be the same. So the difference between putting down slate vs another material may not be so big. Our house was a zombie property that we bought at auction for not much. We felt that the least we could do was to give it back its dignity.

Are you worried about taxes when fixing the facade of your home? 

There is a program that gives people on exemption on the taxes on the amount they have spent on home improvement, for I think, 8 years. If you spent 80k, you won’t get taxed on that 80k the first year. Then the second year maybe  80% of the 80k you won’t get taxed on until 10% on the 8th year or something like that. But for us, we look at the big picture. We bought an extraordinary home, in an extraordinary place for not much. Even once we factor everything in, we feel it’s something we feel we can afford and we feel is worth it. Is it perfect? It’s not, but for us it’s definitely worth it.

07/17/18 7:30am

You have to see this kitchen and dining room renovation by Mary of Field and Vintage! She renovated her traditional country kitchen and changed it into a modern chic upgrade.

Mary is a designer and home stylist who moved to Newburgh two years ago in a 1940’s Colonial in Balmville. As she says, “It was so darn cute and immediately spoke to us. It felt warm and happy and loved. So we bought it.”

They did the kitchen and office renovation last summer by completely gutting the kitchen down to the studs and removing the wall between the kitchen and dining room to open up the space.

To design her kitchen, Mary chose Carrera marble countertops with white shaker drawer lower cabinetry. For the backsplash, she used white textured subway tile and a grey grout for a modern natural look. She contrasted the white using matte black lighting fixtures and cabinet hardware. She was also able to reuse 100-year-old reclaimed barn wood for the open shelving on top. The oak floors were existing, resanded and stained.

The difference is distinctly lighter and brighter. They also did a little bit more renovation by removing the old office and builtin furniture and adding a shiplap feature wall.

Thank you Mary for sharing! Check out her Instagram account to see more pictures of her beautiful home.

12/05/17 7:30am

The beauty of Newburgh homes is in the details. But what do you do when those details have been damaged? Sometimes homeowners choose not to repair or replace, and other times they go to great lengths to bring their houses back as close as they can. Erika Norton Urie had this exact situation when her original etched glass windowpane was smashed out in the house she is repairing.

“Our double front doors had one amazing etched glass windowpane and the other was smashed out. By luck, I was able to find an incredibly skilled glass craftsman who replicates these etched glass panes using the same wheel-cut and pulley method as was used to make the original panes. ReHo studios in Red Hook Brooklyn has been creating these works of art for all the historic homes in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

The Studio works with architectural and interior designers on original designs, reproduction and restoration of historic wheel-cut glass and lighting fixtures, as well as with individuals.”

ReHo Industries, LLC
499 Van Brunt Street 10B Brooklyn
New York 11231
(718) 643-9028

03/07/17 7:30am

36 Dubois Street Newburgh NY

Meet Andrew Luy, a finance man by day, and sculptor by night. He is busy restoring his dream home on Dubois Street that he acquired through the Newburgh Community Land Bank. Andrew invited me by to see the progress of his home renovation adventures. Judging the exterior it might not look like much is happening but, Andrew is very busy preparing his home.

He fell in love with this home and essentially bought it sight unseen. Proximity to Downing Park was very attractive to him and he genuinely loves all of the quirks and kinks of his circa 1855 home. A little investigation revealed that 36 Dubois was the Wm. HG Repp School of Music in a 1922 record. Andrew would love to find out more.

The friendship he has developed with his neighbor, Yvonne was evident as they discussed some holiday lights he found inside. He says she is a long-time Newburgh resident and knows everyone in the neighborhood. Once his home is finished, Andrew plans on inviting her over for dinner.

Andrew undsterstands Newburgh’s issues. However, he said “one good neighbor turns into two, then three, and so on.” He plans on being that good neighbor. Newburgh is fortunate to have you Andrew! Scroll down to see where his home is now. Remember, it is still a work in progress.



The hallway console table. Andrew found this slab on Craigslist. It’s the perfect size for this long hallway.


The living room with a deck that looks onto the backyard. There is a fireplace that Andrew plans on sprucing up and perhaps he might even get it working again.


The bay window. Andrew had a window seat made so that he can enjoy the sunlight.


Views of the backyard off the deck. It still needs a lot of work. Eventually, Andrew would like to make this a studio to work in.


Throughout the home, Andrew has placed his sculptures. Some are completed, while others are still in their wire and clay form. This one is located in the dining room. The kitchen cabinets are still in boxes, but Andrew is particularly excited about beginning work on his kitchen.


Back at the staircase, you get a glimpse of the first-floor bathroom. Andrew has a friend that will create a stained glass transom to replace the missing one above the bathroom door.


At the top of the staircase, there are these gothic-shaped windows that are mirrored on the front and back of the house. It’s details like these that make the house quite special. There are smaller versions in the foyer.


This is the window at the front of the house. It is a tiny room that Andrew plans to use as his meditation room. All the jars you see on the floor came from the attic!

Great Bull Coffee Kingston NY

Does anyone know anything about Great Bull Coffee from Kingston, New York?


A quirky miniature door in the meditation room. It’s actually a very deep closet!


This is the upstairs bathroom with a curved wall. The curve is mimicked in the adjoining bedroom.


The curved wall is on the left wall of this bedroom.


This was my favorite room. Light, bright and airy. This room also has interesting windows.

FullSizeRender (2)

Sharing one’s home is very personal. I want to thank Andrew for sharing his home even though it is still in the renovation phase.

02/03/16 7:30am


If you have ever visited the old Habitat ReStore on Washington Street, you will recognize this corner of Washington and Federal. The wooden house collapsed years ago, and has remained a scary site. The Newburgh Community Land Bank recently sold this corner property and the adjacent brick building, 143 Washington Street, to a new family that will completely makeover this entire corner. Located on one of the streets that leads to Washington’s Headquarters and the waterfront, it is  a prime location for revitalization. The wood house is now completely gone and a new side yard has been formed. Next, scaffolding will go up to repair the roof. You can see the progress on the washXfed Instagram account of Aaron Lown and Elizabeth Grubaugh. The couple are both designers, and are in the process of building their businesses in Newburgh. Mr. Lown’s business is Industrial Craft, and Ms. Grubaugh’s business is Elizabeth Grubaugh Creative.

The couple was featured in the New York Times in 2006 for the restoration work they did on a house in Tuxedo, NY that Mr. Lown inherited from his great-aunt and great-uncle while living in Japan. The house was declared a hazard and had a dead tree tearing up deck, not to mention the vermin that had taken up residence. They did a lot of the work themselves, which probably provides a lot of confidence to take on this house in Newburgh. The brick building is literally a shell without a roof. It will have to be built from the ground up.

Their new home will be just walking distance from cafes, the waterfront, Washington’s HQ and their work spaces. Looking at the site initially, I’m sure many would have run away. I’d say they chose their location very wisely.

All photos below from the washXfed Instagram account and Aaron Lown.