The story of Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge— two Manhattanites who unexpectedly found themselves tending to a herd of goats in Upstate New York and ended up building a lifestyle brand inspired by their rural adventures— has been well documented. Their foolhardiness, dedication, and fortuity were on full display in The Fabulous Beekman Boys, a reality television series that followed this very urban pair as they learned the ropes of farming and adjusted to a new life in the countryside.
Just as noteworthy is the couple’s refined sense of style, seen in the white Georgian-Palladian mansion that became their permanent home in the late aughts. Almost a decade ago, during an apple-picking trip to Sharon Springs, N.Y., Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell fell in love with a 19th-Century farm and decided to purchase it as a weekend retreat. Not long afterwards, when the recession hit, both men lost their jobs (Ridge was vice president of healthy living at Martha Stewart Omnimedia; Kilmer-Purcell was an advertising executive) and came close to losing their new property, which includes 60 acres of rolling pastures, a barn, and a 5,000-square-foot residence built in the early 1800s.
For lack of better options, the pair turned their attention to a herd of goats that had recently moved into the barn, brought in by a local farmer who desperately needed a home for his animals. “We googled ‘what can you make with goat milk?’ and one of the easiest things was soap,” remembers Brent. “We went to a local soap maker and asked him to teach us.”
Those were the humble beginnings of Beekman 1802, a thriving company that sells skincare, food, housewares, and other goods sourced from the farm or nearby purveyors. The brand’s name pays tribute to the origins of the estate, whose first owner was William Beekman, a politician and businessman. “Beekman wanted to make a grand statement,” says Ridge. “We joke that this house was the McMansion of his day.”
In the last few years, as the couple found more time and resources to decorate the home, its ample interiors began to take complete shape. “When we bought the house we didn’t have money to invest in furnishing it,” says Ridge. “Also, we would never just buy stuff to fill a room; we’ll wait years to find the right piece.”
The Beekman mansion now reflects the couple’s philosophy that contradiction can lead to harmony, which is conveyed by a disparate yet artful combination of antique and contemporary pieces. “We never make a decision based on how well it will go with everything else but on how it will stand out in a room,” says Kilmer-Purcell. “Everything is about the attraction of opposites.”
In the living room, for example, the focal point is a bright orange mirror. Once a traditional gilded mirror, it was transformed into a conversation piece through coats of tangerine-hued lacquer applied at an auto body shop. Improbably, it pairs well with a set of armchairs from the 1800s upholstered in their original peau d’orange fabric. Towards the center of the room, two neutral sofas by Jonathan Adler provide a contemporary respite.
An adjacent 14-foot-wide hallway is also furnished with eye-catching items. Emulating the 19th-Century custom of using hallways for entertaining, Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell take advantage of the space during social events, laying out buffets on a 17-foot-long table outfitted with a custom zinc top. “Hallways can be very dark; we wanted a reflective surface,” says Ridge of the design. On either side of the table are two chairs partially covered in leather and upholstered in a silkscreened fabric depicting images by French photographer Maurice Renoma.
Upstairs, in the master bedroom, shades of blue on almost every surface are used to make a statement. “The floor was painted that color when we moved in,” explains Ridge. “I wanted to do something different, something cooling.” When the sun floods into the room, it creates a cerulean glow. As for furnishings, there are modern, contemporary and antique pieces, including a Martha Stewart metal-framed bed, a vintage chrome chandelier brought in from the couple’s former apartment in Manhattan, and a rustic wooden table displaying old silver candlesticks.
The couple portrayed their taste for mélange in a new book called Beekman 1802: The Attraction of Opposites. “Taking a little bit of this and a little bit of that, a little from our past lives in the city, and some new rural finds, the house became our home,” they wrote in the introductory chapter. It’s a very simple and charming synopsis of their serendipitous journey.