In cafes, antique shops, yard sales and attics alike, Hudson Valley furniture embodies the area’s history, from the colonial Dutch period to the heyday of the Catskills hotels. With the housing market turning around, furniture prices are still fairly low but may be about to climb, so it’s a good time to buy. And every piece contains a history lesson.
At area antique shops you might find a table with the typical “New York leg,” featuring a smooth, ovoid shape, with narrow rings and rectangular blocks above and below, characteristic of 17th- and 18th-century Dutch woodwork. Bentwood chairs with Art-Nouveau lines were common in Catskills hotels during early the 1900s. Iron bedsteads, arts-and-crafts bungalow furniture, metal lawn chairs and period fabrics have a nostalgic kick for baby boomers who visited the resorts in the 1960s, when the old furnishings were still in place.
Specialties of the region include products of Woodstock’s Byrdcliffe Arts Colony, which turned out fine handcrafted furniture, pottery, textiles, prints, photography and paintings, while establishing Woodstock’s identity as a haven for free-spirited creative people. The colony’s arts and crafts still filter through the region, often ending up at art galleries, along with paintings by Hudson River School artists.
For those on a budget, yard sales are abundant in the Catskills on summer weekends. Sharp-eyed shoppers can find furniture, china, glassware, farm implements and other treasures that have just been cleared out of attics and old barns after years of hiding in the dark. What a pleasure to rescue a bit of history and give it a new home!