When Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell first laid eyes on the historic Beekman home on a weekend getaway from Manhattan, they had no inkling of how the following years would unfold. It all started with a “for sale” sign and the fantasy of one day owning the 1802 mansion as a weekend place, much like their friends owned places in the Hamptons.
At the time, Ridge worked for Martha Stewart as a health consultant on her show and Kilmer-Purcell worked as an advertising executive. Yet over the next nine years, they underwent a process of conversion from Manhattanites to “gentlemen farmers” and, most recently, to design and lifestyle gurus.
Today, the couple appears at the NOLA Home Show at 1:30 p.m., where they talk about their journey and the lessons learned from styling a huge historic home, caring for 60 acres of land, sheltering a herd of goats and tending an heirloom vegetable garden.
Not everyone will want to follow in their footsteps and chuck it all for country living, but anyone can derive design lessons from their long-awaited book, “Beekman 1802 Style: The Attraction of Opposites,” which was released in September. It includes dozens of stunning interiors culled from the archives of Country Living Magazine, organized by themes such as “Old Meets New,” “Big Meets Small” and “In Meets Out,” each concept illustrated by photos of interiors that embody it.
The authors’ comments on the photos diagram what makes the room pleasing and how it illustrates a design idea. Better yet, “how-tos” are sprinkled throughout so the reader can learn some of the clever — and inexpensive — tricks the Beekman Boys employ.
Given that Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell have already published three cookbooks, appeared in series on the Planet Green and the Cooking channels, won “The Amazing Race,” and established “Beekman 1802 Mercantile,” why wouldn’t a style book have been at the top of their list?
“We had the idea for a while, but wanted to time it with the launch of the Beekman 1802 Heirloom Collection of home furnishings, so it got put on the back burner until we got that collection completed,” said Ridge. If you can’t make the trip to Sharon Springs, New York, where the flagship store and Beekman farm are located, fret not: Both Bloomingdales and Bed Bath and Beyond carry their bedding and Target retails pantry items.
“When we started thinking about writing the Style book, we looked at the rooms that we had decorated and realized that it was the unusual, the unexpected — the exact opposite pairing — that made a room memorable,” said Ridge.
The same creative tension is also a theme that has carried throughout the couple’s relationship.
“We are complete opposites in virtually every way, and after 15 years together, we really do think that this is what has kept our relationship interesting,” said Ridge. They were married in 2013 at the farm, an event documented by Martha Stewart on her blog.
Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell claim it’s possible to have comfort and style without spending lavishly on furnishings. For those who want to redesign a room, they recommend taking the first step of clearing everything out and taking an inventory of what’s present.
“You’d be absolutely surprised at the treasures you have hidden,” Ridge said.
As a second step, they advise reinstalling functional items in the space, what they describe as “the things you will use for day-to-day living.” These form the basis around which design items can be added.
Finally, they say it’s time to step back and assess the reassembled space.
“Ask yourself: ‘What is the exact opposite thing that this room needs?’ — then spend your budget on that memorable piece,” Ridge said.
For those of us who worry that our homes don’t pass muster, they offer the following reassuring words in the introduction to their book: “Very few of us will ever have the luxury of having a complete house makeover. We don’t move into an empty space and start completely new. We live in blended environments that evolve over time. We inherit, salvage and purchase items as life rolls on. Things come and go — but our personality and style always remain.”