A year before my first son was born, when the housing market was booming, I conceived and launched Upstate House magazine (my second magazine-baby), which I thought of as a gift to the people of the Hudson Valley. A magazine devoted to design, sustainability, and to all things house-related, but most importantly, it was devoted to the sensibility of those who love living here. We who love our funky houses; and we who guard the locations our favorite hikes, foraging grounds, and swimming holes; but mostly for those of us who want to live here more than anywhere.
So much has changed since 2003—I got married, I gave birth to two flesh-and-blood children, I bought my first house, my magazine was adopted by others, and I renovated my first house. (I admit I haven’t quite finished it.) My oldest son is pushing nine now, and I will forever be changed by motherhood, homeownership, and by the richness and demands of the past decade.
I grew up here, and I have always loved the Hudson Valley (that’s why I chose to start a publishing company focused on sharing its charms), but I didn’t know what the last decade has shown: how much more rooted I could feel, and how much more satisfaction I could find here. Truly, this area keeps getting better—as more and more interesting and inspired people are attracted to our region and its lifestyle, bringing their creative energy and good ideas, the result surrounds us. We have more interesting schools, stores, restaurants, and farms than ever.
That is the story of my life—the rest of the world has been busy changing too. Most notable is a sorry reversal of fortune: the global economic downturn and the depressed real estate market that we’re all so familiar with. Here in the Hudson Valley, realtors and buyers are getting their hopes up that this season may be the beginning of a more optimistic era.
Not surprisingly, as I gathered stories for this issue, my thoughts often returned to the question of value. Like so many others, my house has lost value, even as I lovingly upgrade its many features. My enthusiasm for spending money on improvements has sometimes waned in the face of pesky economic realities like the question of return on investment.
And yet, I also take solace in a more philosophical interpretation of the meaning of value. Consider the gift my father-in-law brought my son on his fourth birthday. He made a wooden swing he christened “seat of the clouds,” and he tied it to a high branch of our big, old swamp maple. This gift has added more value than can really be measured—value in the form of delightful high swinging, super-fast spinning, and the irresistible laughter of children.
For most of us, our house is our largest lifetime investment, and therefore its value matters. Our plans and futures (retirement, college spending, mobility) hang in the balance, dependent upon real property values.
I know the swing does not add value to my property when doing “comps.” I know that my philosophy sounds trite. And yet, just as the last 10 years went by, the next 10 will too—by then my small, swing-loving son will be entering his twenties. The value of the swing may actually be measurable in another currency—one we don’t know how to count. Because, along with our wood stove, and the bountiful stacks of wood collected and split by my husband, and the baths taken in our claw-foot tub, the swing adds so much to the quality of our life as a family that, in fact, it’s how we love our house. And further, it’s this how of loving, and living in, our house that is also the “how” of us loving each other as a family.
The stories I’ve collected in this issue focus on the romance that arises between house and dweller—the unique relationship that adds meaning to a purchase. It’s the magic that makes a house more than a place to park investment money.
And lastly, I open this magazine with a wish for you: May your house always be photo-shoot worthy, but more importantly, may it also be a worthy stage on which your brilliant life unfolds.
See you around town.