How two Brooklynites made
Ulster County their home
Whether they relocate for the environment, the people, or the food, former city dwellers fall in love with the Hudson Valley and stay here.
GRACE BONNEY AND JULIA TURSHEN MOVED TO ULSTER COUNTY LAST WINTER, AND THEY HAVE CALLED THE VALLEY “HOME” EVER SINCE.
VV: What drew you both to the area?
GRACE: WE BOTH ARE SO IN LOVE WITH THE ACCESS TO NATURE, PEACE AND QUIET, AND SPACE—all the typical things that people who leave the city tend to gravitate towards. The thing we love the most about living here, though, is how so many people we meet have made the conscious choice to make a lifestyle change to be here.
JULIA: It’s also great to be around people who have chosen to not make work 99 percent of their day by LIVING MORE SLOWLY AND SPENDING TIME WITH FRIENDS.
VV: How did you decide to relocate here?
GRACE: I had spent the last six or seven years renting one particular house in Margaretville, staying there for a week each summer. I thought maybe, one day, it would be nice to buy a little house somewhere up there. So, when Julia and I got married we came up here, and we spent our honeymoon in Kerhonkson at our friends’ house nearby. Then, we came up to West Hurley for vacation last summer. That was our chance to get to know all the towns nearby.
After that trip, we both, being people who dive into everything headfirst, started looking at houses. This was the fifth house we saw. We walked in, and we were silent because we just knew. It was fall, and it was magical and beautiful. We made an offer the next day, and we got it.
JULIA: We both wanted a place outside of the city. The plan wasn’t to move here immediately, but we very quickly fell in love with our house and the area; so, it was a surprisingly easy decision to move here full-time. The first time we saw the house, WE WALKED INTO THE KITCHEN AND I THOUGHT, “SOLD!” I DIDN’T NEED TO SEE THE REST OF IT—THE KITCHEN IS WHERE I SPEND THE MAJORITY OF MY TIME.
VV: What are the main differences between living here versus living in the city?
GRACE: I really appreciate that we can be homeowners here. This is a dream for us; we wouldn’t be able to do this in the city. We couldn’t have bought a studio in the city for what we paid for our house, and now when we want to go to the city we can be there in about two hours.
JULIA: I was born in Manhattan. I never had that “first time coming to New York” feeling because it was just all I knew. Now I can feel a bit like a tourist, and it’s kind of wonderful in a way. I feel like now, WHEN I GO INTO THE CITY, I TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT IN A WAY THAT I NEVER DID BEFORE.
VV: What’s the design inspiration for your home?
GRACE: I’D SAY OUR DESIGN INSPIRATION COMES FROM A LOVE OF FAMILY AND HISTORY. Julia and I both love being surrounded by things that remind us of family, friends, and other special moments in our lives. Our design ideas are always lead by those cherished pieces, whether they’re a Blue Willow platter or an old farm table used at Julia’s family Passover meals.
JULIA: ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS THAT WE DID WHEN WE MOVED HERE WAS PUT UP THE WALLPAPER THAT GRACE HAS ALWAYS WANTED TO USE. She’s wanted to put it up for years, but when you rent apartment after apartment, you don’t want to invest in the place. We feel really fortunate to be able to invest in this home.
VV: What are some of your favorite things about living in the mid-Hudson Valley?
JULIA: I FEEL THAT I’M PART OF A COMMUNITY IN A WAY THAT I NEVER FELT BEFORE. People take time to stop and say “hello,” and that feels really nice. Even after being in the city for pretty much my whole life, and feeling so connected to it, I didn’t feel the roots there that I now feel here.
GRACE: There’s a sense of permanence that doesn’t exist in the city. I think I got to an age where I WANTED TO KNOW PEOPLE WERE GOING TO BE HERE FOR A WHILE, and I wanted to be a part of a community that wouldn’t up and leave in a year to go somewhere else.
VV: How do you think your dogs feel about it?
JULIA: Our dogs, Winky and Hope, are so much happier here.
GRACE: They’re both rescue dogs from Puerto Rico and are like our children. I’m on the board of The Sato Project, which works to rescue abandoned and abused dogs from Puerto Rico.
VV: How do you describe your work?
JULIA: I’m a writer who specializes in cookbooks.
GRACE: I’m a writer who focuses mainly on the creative community. I RUN A WEBSITE CALLED DESIGNSPONGE.COM THAT IS MOSTLY ABOUT INTERIOR DESIGN AND MAKERS. I’ve run it for the past 11 years, but as of the past two years, it’s shifted from being about the things people make to more about the people behind the things. It’s really nice to be directly part of a community here where so many people make things by hand.
VV: How is it running your business from here?
GRACE: I used to spend so much time figuring out when I could get time off and planning little trips up here. Now, we can really just focus more on what we do. IT ALSO KIND-OF FEELS LIKE WE’RE PERMANENTLY ON VACATION.
JULIA: We both work from home, so moving didn’t affect our work. If anything, IT MADE IT MUCH EASIER TO GET THINGS DONE SINCE WE’RE NOT DISTRACTED.
VV: How often do you go to the city now?
JULIA: It varies. I’d say I probably, on average, go in once every other week for business or to see friends and family.
GRACE: I go in fits and spurts. In the winter I didn’t go in at all, and then when I was working on a book this summer I was in for days at a time, weeks in a row. I enjoyed that project, and I enjoyed getting to go to the city in a very different way. Then, I really loved getting on the bus and going home at the end of the day. You’re exhausted and get through all that traffic, and then you cross through New Jersey and hit the thruway. Then all the mountains start to become visible, and you can just breathe. THERE’S NO BETTER FEELING FOR ME THAN COMING HOME.
JULIA: One thing that I think definitely drew us to this home and this area was that it’s so accessible to New York. It didn’t mean we had to leave the city entirely. It can still be in our lives, but more on our terms.