Category Archives: Interiors

UPSTATE JANE: Keeping Warm and Keeping Modern, In An Upstate House

Why is it always such a difficult process to merge form and function? Since moving into my new home Upstate full-time, I have discovered an ugly fact. I was aware that this new home heats with oil (much to my chagrin and irritation) and I assumed down the line I would have to make the necessary environmentally friendly and energy-efficient changes for our budget and my peace of mind. What I didn’t realize, is that to fill my 275 gallon tank of oil, I would pay $800.00. I also didn’t realize that this 275 gallon tank would last me a month. This is not cranking the heat, but keeping the indoor temperature around 65 degrees. My last house had 3 smart heating solutions. It had a propane back up for creating instant heat when coming inside, it had zoned baseboard heat (rarely used, but on thermostats, convenient and efficient) and it had a wood stoves.  All this combined to a very inexpensive heating source. We were also weekender’s and the old home was 1100 square feet as opposed to 2000. It is something to seriously consider when looking for a home, especially larger homes than 2000 square feet. I just think back to the old mansions I had been pondering!

Fast forward to full-time living and working from home, with a more expensive oil based central heating system, and you are slapped with $800.00 a month during the winter. Well considering our mortgage payments are not much more than that, we cannot “wait” to make the changes, we have to do it…well…NOW. I needed to get a woodstove insert for our large fireplace to act as a furnace/primary heat source.


I recently visited a local shop, and was quite disappointed by the lack of modern or contemporary wood stove inserts for your fireplace. I assumed I may have to pay more for a design that would aesthetically work in our modern home- but I assumed there would at least be one option.  Though not at this store, there are some cool modern free standing wood stoves and fireplaces, see my URBAN JANE post) At this local store I found country wood stoves (great for a different style home) heavy cast iron stoves that protruded far out of the fireplace, and then typical wood stoves with scrolling and ornate details. The salesman suggested I just place one of these wood stoves in front of my fireplace. These solutions are fine for a farmhouse, or an older home- but a home that is about clean lines and modern minimalism an ornate wood stove sitting in front of a linear limestone fireplace, just can’t work.

I was then shown gas fireplace inserts to use propane with. Now propane is the more environmentally friendly option over wood (to some)since it burns cleaner and less carcinogenicity, but it is not necessarily a renewable “green” resource.  It costs about the same to heat as with wood, (Unless you scour for your own decent fallen trees and cut it all yourself and stack 50 cords out back for years down the road.) These models were much slicker looking, and granted they come with no muss or fuss, less maintenance, and can be controlled by a thermostat and timer just like a regular furnace. However, you don’t get that real fire feeling or sound or smell. Is it worth it?

I decided there must be a more attractive wood stove insert out there than this shop was showing me (even though they claimed there was not) When I asked him  about Wittus (whom they did not carry)  he claimed they did not make a wood stove insert like that, and that in Europe they will heat with 3-4 free-standing wood stoves. I then realized I needed to do more of my own research since I knew for a fact that there were some great models in Europe, and there must be some available here to purchase in the U.S.

Below are a few models I have found that are contemporary to modern and offer a high BTU output. They should be able to heat a 2000-2500 square foot home in the winter. However, remember they will not heat your water, so you are still left with your oil heater if you don’t replace it for a propane or electric hot water heater.

The first model is a Wittus wood burning insert- and though expensive (I have read approximately $4,000.00) At $800.00 a month for oil, it would be worth it.

The Optifire Zero Clearance Fireplace (up to 50,000 BTU and heats up to 2500 square feet in the greenest manner possible)  and the H530 insert (up to 30,000 BTU and heats up to 1500 square feet respectively)

The next is Morsø 5660 NA woodstove Fireplace Insert (up to 50,000 BTU and up to 2200 square feet) The viewing window for the fire is smaller and the surround is larger, but this is also a more environmentally friendly stove. It runs approximately $3100.00

They also make another less expensive model which has the same BTU and space heating qualities but it slightly smaller for $2750.00

The last woodstove insert is the FPX 33 Elite Plus Wood Insert wood insert (heats up to 2000 square feet) but does not seem to display all the green qualities. The price seems to be a bit lower though, in the $2000.00 range before add on’s.

Now for the Gas Fireplace’s. These typically cost less money but depending on whom you speak to are more environmentally friendly, are more fuss free, yet also don’t kick out the jams like the wood stoves do, although they claim the same BTU and square foot coverage.

The FPX 34 DVL GSR Insert (up to 40,000 BTU and heats up to 2000 square feet)

two different surrounds with decent looking fronts, both the same fireplace

The next is the Avalaon 33 DVI Gas Fireplace- heats up to 2000 square feet and 40,000 BTU’s

Avalon Gas Fireplace

The last is the Napoleon Inspiration GDI44 heats up to 2500 square feet at 44,000 BTU’s- Remember these are just the inserts you see (not the “fireplace hearths”)

Upstate Jane: The Renovation of Our Weekend Home, Part 2

So when I left off we had just had a slam dunk success in the first 3 months of owning our weekend home in terms of the renovations we had done. With proper prep and research we had accomplished quite a bit in 3 months time considering we were only there on the weekends. Our contractor did a great job in materializing the design I had created for the kitchen. We were pumped! We also noticed though how a brand new kitchen and floors and partially new guest bath can start to make other flaws glaring! Suddenly our living room seemed shabby. The orange built in’s we had left up from the original owner along with the taupe/tan humongous forced air propane heater were like a big ugly blemish.

My husband and I debated over what color we should paint the built in. We had always assumed we would be rebuilding it at some point. We liked the contrast visually, but it wasn’t exactly originally built the best and there were somethings that were best left un”highlighted”  I had a friend up for the weekend and decided to just paint it white, to let the objects really pop and show off their form more. Here it is before…

And here it is after we painted! I decided to take a risk and paint the propane heater white as well, to help it disappear…it worked!

Once we finished this project, we were all set for the bathroom work to begin. My parents were going to visit in late June, early July,  and I wanted the master bath to be finished by then. We were told it would begin in May/June and would be done in a month. I was so excited! I started ordering away! I had pretty much everything ready except for the tub! My design was ready, my materials were here, my estimate in hand, my schedule was on track!!! Then we waited…and waited…and more waiting…my parents pushed their visit to August…and we waited more. My contractor was so far behind! Now most people would say, why didn’t you just go with someone else?! Fool! HA! I can only explain it like this…my contractor to me is like that guy/girl you had a crush on, that you are willing to wait for until they are “ready” to notice you. I will WAIT for him. We work so well together, and he does such a good job in building my designs, that I needed to hold out for him. Well guess what…I waited until the end of OCTOBER before he started working on the bathroom. Yeah. So lesson learned. I mean, I will still wait for him…but I learned I need to really make sure he is going to START the job when he says. Do I sound like an abused spouse?  It took a long time, since he was working on multiple jobs, and the project  wasn’t finished until JANUARY. A far cry from the kitchen’s speed! To be fair, we were also waiting on the plumber as well,  but…when it was done…wow. Watch the transformation here from weird office/sauna room to my master bathroom, and read more here, then here, and finally hereRead the rest of this entry

Upstate Jane: New Paltz MCM Gem with Great Bones: $265K and Dropping!

I had my eye on this gem for a while, but decided I liked living in Woodstock too much to even visit it. I feared I would get a crush and then make some stupid rash decision…Okay, okay, we DID cruise it, and it was pretty cool in person and in a cool neighborhood. But we never went inside and got to know the house. I did keep updating myself on its price though, and even though I have already signed contracts on another house I thought of this pad for all of YOU out there reading Upstater.  With clean lines, a vaulted ceiling, a wall length stone fireplace and original details plus windows galore  this is a great house.  Click here for full listing.

Address: 15 Cedar Ridge Road, New Paltz NY 12561

Stats: Beds:3 Bed Baths:2 Bath House Size:1,884 Sq Ft Lot Size:2.55 Acres

Price: currently $265k Taxes: (according to $7697

I believe that with some trimming in the backyard of your 2.55 acres- you may even get views of the Gunks! It has some GREAT bones and just needs a little updating. Naturally no pics of the bathroom leads me to the anticipation of walking into a carpeted bathtub surround, or something equally disturbing but let’s not get negative! It could be WONDERFUL! Not sure what those shoji screens are there for, but they were adamant in the listing info that they are NOT included- Nooo problem. For those unfamiliar with New Paltz, it is a cute college town, home of SUNY New Paltz. It has some great restaurants, bars and cute shops. It also is very close to Mohonk trails, wineries and the Gunks for those climbers out there. Although not on the train line, it is about an hour and half to hour 45 with traffic from Manhattan and is on the Trailways bus route!  The house rather reminds me of these killer digs below, owned by designer Amy Butler and her husband David. It has all the makings to be just as fabulous! For a full house tour of their home via Apartment Therapy, click here.


more photos on the jump! Read the rest of this entry

Upstate Jane: Log Pillows — Weekend Home Chic and Faux Bois

Megan Oldenburger, aka Upstate Jane, is the owner of Dichotomy Interiors, an Interior Design and Style firm based in Woodstock, NY. She writes for Upstater about design, home furnishings, real estate and culture.

I love that my two places allow me to be a bi-polar designer. The place in the city is older and more traditional while the weekend place is super laid back and rustic modern. I get to divulge both sides of my split personality. I get to be a cocktail of one half Glamour Juice, one half Penelope Tree.

When I first moved in I needed some throw pillows for our then bland oatmeal tweedy sectional in Woodstock. I wanted color, but I also thought a log pillow would be appropriate. I don’t like a house full of kitsch but a few pieces can bring some humor. And I am one humorous lady. (Actually I was told by a casting director that she could never even picture me laughing.) I guess the joke was on her, when I totally laughed really hard later that night and she DIDN’T even HEAR IT!

My adorable husbo wanted to get me a log pillow for my bday from one of my favorite and lovely design accessory stores in Woodstock. Although we try to buy locally and to keep the economy pumping up here, he had to pass because they were just too expensive for our modest budget. I decided I should look myself- (being the thrifty, humorous, glamorous woman I am.)

I was surprised that many people make logs. Oh now…stop that…enough with your potty humor. Remember? I am glamorous.

Here is a great log pillow on Etsy, love the Hong Kong furbaby too- does it come with? Because I think that is illegal.
These are great pillows, one of my favorites from chicdesigndotcomon Etsy, running between $40-80 dollars a piece depending on size.

Sew Faux on Etsy has some really unique items, one of my favorites is this chair pad for $90.00. Brilliant!

This nice sweet log pillow is straight has a soft end on it for $50.00 from ooTreebirdoo Read the rest of this entry

Upstate Jane: Ellenville Classic A-Frame on 1.34 acres, $129,500

Megan Oldenburger, aka Upstate Jane, is the owner of Dichotomy Interiors, an Interior Design and Style firm based in Woodstock, NY. She writes for Upstater about design, home furnishings, real estate and culture.

Ellenville, NY (Ulster County)

Less than 2 hours from the Big Apple, is this adorable A-Frame, with 2b/2b on almost an acre and a half.  Think of all the possibilities! It is cute on it’s own, but could be amazing. Check the bottom of the post for pics of a well renovated A-Frame.

For full listing please click here

At our place in Woodstock, our nearest neighbor, who is about 65, owns an A-Frame. As we have gotten to know him, we have learned that it was his adult dream to own and live in an A-Frame house in the mountains, which he now does. Initially we thought, huh…what an interesting and particular dream (the A-Frame part). Until the last few years I had always disliked the architecture of the A-Frame. I didn’t like the massive amount of shingled roofline that was showing, and the lack of usable wallspace for art. I didn’t know that they were actually a coveted piece of architecture for some- and enough to make a grown man yearn for and save pennies to own one day. Elevation of A-Frame   Narrow Lot   Vacation   House Plan 57547

Since then, I have grown fonder of the A-Frame. Read the rest of this entry

Upstate Jane: The Reinvention of Our Weekend Home

Megan Oldenburger, aka Upstate Jane, is the owner of Dichotomy Interiors, an Interior Design and Style firm based in Woodstock, NY. She writes for Upstater about design, home furnishings, real estate and culture.

For the next few weeks, I am going to tell you the story of how the first two years of owning our humble piece of mod pie has unfolded. I will start at the beginning and take you to the current day if you care to hear a real life version of “taking the plunge” and finding a diamond in the rough. Luckily I have my own blog, which I used to document most of our journey, so I have a fun way to look back at what I wrote and felt now.

Almost two years ago to this day, I was in an unnerving place. I was about to purchase a weekend home upstate, in Woodstock, NY.  You can read exactly what I wrote about that moment here. We had passed the inspection stage,  got our loan, and were waiting to close (hopefully by the end of the year.) Today, I am in the exact same place. This time, I am not just buying a home though. I am also selling a home. I am selling that same home two years ago I sat unnervingly waiting to close on. Two years ago I was dreaming of my new weekend life upstate and the ways I was going to make the home beautiful. Why would I sell then? Over the last two years we fell head over heels with the area so much, that we have decided to REALLY take the plunge, and move full time to Woodstock! We needed a larger space than our weekend home could provide. And even though I love it dearly, and put alot of heart and soul into it, I knew it would start getting a bit tight to work out of together. So that brings me to the point where I sit back and reminisce like Grandpaw over his old golden retriever he had as a boy. Kind of.

I hope that reading about my process will help ease the fears and give insight for people pondering the big decision. Especially when so many places in most peoples price ranges don’t start out looking like they belong in DWELL.  So…we begin. More info, more pictures after the jump! Read the rest of this entry

Introducing Our New Column: Upstate Jane!

Folks, we’re so excited. Interior Designer Megan Oldenburger, owner of Dichotomy Interiors, an interior styling, design, renovation and staging firm, will be writing regularly for us about decor, real estate and culture upstate.  Megan lives and works out of her Woodstock home with her husband, designer Richard Smykowski, and their two dogs, Gidget and Fern. She is living the dream, having recently transitioned from part-time upstate residency to full time. She has insider knowledge and an amazing eye — she’ll also be offering up great ideas for renovation and decorating your second home (or, if you can figure out as she and Richard have, your full time upstate home). Megan also runs Urban Jane a design, interiors, and lifestyle blog.

Interior Design for My Future Country House

I don’t own a piece of property yet, either in the City or north of it, but when I do, I hope to hire artist Julie Peppito to work some of her magic on it. I visited her house recently and saw this amazing mosaic tile backsplash in her kitchen, which incorporates whole pieces of pottery, curios and knickknacks. On my list of ways I’d like to customize my someday home.

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