With plans to see the world with his 12-year-old son, Long Island-based interior designer Jeffrey Bilhuber sells his North Shore house to make room for new memories.
Jeffrey Bilhuber's house in Locust Valley was built in 1668 by Cpt. John Underhill.
"The most important thing to me is family,” says interior designer Jeffrey Bilhuber from his 315-year-old house on Long Island. “My son is growing up, and I realized the greatest gift I could give him is a greater sense of the world. Not to mention, I needed to exhale a little bit!”
One of several dining areas throughout the property.
Exhale is an understatement; for the past 13 years, since right before Bilhuber’s son was born, the sought-after decorator has been restoring the 17th century property with his whole heart and soul. So the bittersweet decision to sell was a family one. Together, the Bilhubers have listed their beloved Locust Valley home with Daniel Gale. Simply put, he says: “It’s the right time for us to do other things.” But goodbyes after such an investment are never easy, especially for Bilhuber, who, after painstakingly preserving the property, is an expert historian of the historic home’s many lives.
Sitting on 3 acres, the property features a heated gunite pool surrounded by well-manicured gardens.
“The house is astonishing,” he says point-blank. “It’s near impossible to find a 17th century inhabited house in this country. You can find older houses, but they’re part of living history museums. This house has been continuously inhabited since the first foundation stones were set; it has never been unoccupied. It’s part of American history, Long Island history and North Shore history. It’s incredible to believe that the cornerstones of this house were laid just 40 years after the British purchased the island Manhattan from Native Americans. Its growth was parallel to the growth of the city.”
Inside, Jeffrey Bilhuber's signature mix of bold-meets-tradtional interiors make a sought-after statement.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the eight-bedroom, eight-bath home has served, throughout the centuries, as a private school, inn and tavern. “I’m proudest of breathing life into that house and meticulously renovating it without losing its sense of history,” he says of the home that boasts original details, such as six fireplaces. “In the wrong hands, it would be very easy for a house that old to be renovated without much sensitivity. I’m very proud that the occupancy of the previous owners is acknowledged and that the history is palpable. I hope that my influence on that house is also carried forward to the next fortunate owners and that they respect it.”
The three-story, circa-1668 home has more than 30 rooms and six fireplaces.
Being his most personal of projects, the house inspired many of the practical learnings, tips and tricks he shares in his new book, Everyday Decorating ($45, Rizzoli). Using the house as a laboratory for new ideas, “it was a great learning curve for me to be in such a beautiful place and be able to restore it over time,” he says. Continuing the house’s welcoming nature “allowed time to thoughtfully process new concepts before putting them in front of clients.”
Outside, the garden is full of enchanting nooks for entertaining among the hedges.
Although Bilhuber is world-renowned for his interiors, he wants whomever he passes the keys to, to be someone passionate about what the house stands for, beyond the tempting prospect of turnkey decor. “It’s my belief that it will go to another curator or custodian that will carry it forward,” he says. “I’m very proud that we can now hand off a house that someone else can enjoy. It’s a big American country house that is meant to be loved. It wants people around; it wants dinner parties; it wants drinks on the porch, people swimming in the pool and walks in the garden.”
34 Birch Hill Road
8 bedrooms, 8 bathrooms
Sarah Shea, 516.652.3795; Mary Ann Wheatley, 516.445.8042, Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, danielgale.com
Photography by: exterior Photos courtesy of jeffrey bilhuber; interior photos by William Abranowicz