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June 29, 2014

Ulster Magazine: The Hidden Gardens of Kingston

Amid urban streets, a trove of backyard oasis'

Form and function:

What happens when a “certified master composter” meets a boarded-up house with a yard the texture of bricks? Julian Lesser and Philippe Trinh saw opportunity knocking and the word “remediation” is their battle cry.

The house, distinguished as the last Social

Rosemarie Maresca’s garden features 400 feet of boxwood with a continual flower display from spring through autumn.

Services dwelling owned by the city before it got out of low-income housing, was vacant and vandalized for two years. The dirt driveway was a rutted pit and tracks cut through the yard by impatient pedestrians was the only thing beating back the unmown grass. On May 11, 2012, as a scraggly rose in the front yard optimistically put out imploring buds, Lesser and Trinh took ownership of the house that is now a beautifully appointed bed and breakfast called The St. James, which houses visiting film stars on location shoots.

How did they begin? The soil was hard packed and infertile. When they dug post holes for the fences they found garbage: plastic bags, medicine bottles, broken glass, siding and bricks. Lots and lots of bricks.

“We planted 100 trees and swore there must have been a brick road behind our house,” Trinh said.

Today the picket-fenced front yard is landscaped with benches, flowers and fruit trees. The roses have been tended. The back yard has a full perimeter garden of hostas, flowers and a koi pond with little toad houses tucked into the mulch. There are two large raised-bed organic vegetable gardens. Where a dirt pit once was is now a riverstone sitting area with a bluestone patio.

“Our goal was remediation of the land, so for every hole we dug, we’d make it two to three times larger than it would normally have to be so we could backfill it with rich soil to benefit the roots of our plants. What we didn’t create from our own compost, we’d buy from locally sourced compost materials, like Croswell’s,” Lesser said.

Their own land remediation led to noticing that there was room for local businesses and residents to hire a hauler to take away home and business food waste and give back composted “shares,” similar to the local CSA model.

“There’s a lot of focus on local farm-to-table, so we wanted to create a business that was from table back to local farm/gardens,” Lesser said. The two formed the company Compost Valley ( and partnered with Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency to develop pickup routes through New Paltz, Rosendale, Kingston and Woodstock as well as exploring options in Dutchess County.


We love seeing our Kingston home featured on amazing design blog favorites like Design Sponge (  Here's an article that was featured today about designing with mirrors by Amy Azzarito.

"Mirrors are every designers not-so-secret secret. From bringing in more light to making a small space feel larger to even adding a little drama to the space – a mirror is seriously your best design friend. (And you can find some seriously good deals on craigslist and at thrift stores) Here are some of my favorite mirrors from our sneak peek archives – everything from frameless round mirrors to mirrors in ornate frames and even a mirrored hallway. There’s plenty of inspiration to bring a little reflected light into your February Monday. "

The Saint James' photo: "Elegant with a masculine touch: the ornate Versailles mirror softens the room while rugged pieces like the antique barn chair, 1800s shot gun and cast iron animals in this Hudson Valley home help to add a masculine touch."


The Saint James Kingston on  Read what Maxwell from Design Sponge had to say about our home and what they call a "neighborhood gem"Click on the photos below and read the full story here:  "A Young Couple's Charm-filled Hudson Valley Home"

"I had never met Julian Lesser and Philippe Trinh, a New York City-based artist/designer couple, when I stayed at their house for the first time. Their home, dubbed “The Saint James,” doubles as a weekend retreat for travelers and, last winter, I had the pleasure of staying there with a few friends. Located in the middle of Kingston, New York, a charming Hudson Valley town seemingly ripped from the pages of a Normal Rockwell book, the cozy house is filled with a mixture of modern and vintage finds, rustic charm, and quiet decadence. From its lavishly appointed sitting room, outfitted in stylish hood chairs and antique pieces, to the organic vegetable garden in the back, I got the sense that transforming this house had been quite an undertaking—a labor of love and countless years of work.

It wasn’t until Philippe invited my boyfriend and I back to The Saint James for a celebratory cocktail after we, too, had become Kingston residents, that the truth behind their renovation finally came to light. To our surprise, the magic-power couple had only closed on the 1890s Victorian mere months before our stay. During just this brief period, Julian and Philippe had taken the home from a sad state of disrepair—a ragged, un-landscaped exterior, and an interior broken and desecrated by years of vandals, squatters, and weather—to a state of near-completion. For anybody who has taken on a home renovation of their own, the transformation—often wrought by the couple’s own four hands—is downright vexing. While the home is still being tweaked and updated, albeit at a slightly slower pace these days, what was once a dilapidated house amongst the area’s more stately homes is now a neighborhood gem. For more photos (before shots included!) and Julian and Philippe’s design notes, continue after the jump! —Max"


Michael C Hall  aka Dexter  was staying at The Saint James Kingstonduring the filming of his new It's the fourth film this year that has been filmed in the Hudson Valley!  

Michael C Hall rented out the entire property with all bedrooms and access to The Saint James' gardens and outdoor grounds for over 5+ weeks!  

Michael loved staying at the home and said that it was "beautifully appointed".  If you want to stay in the same property that Michael C Hall stayed during his filming of his latest movie in Kingston, then book your next stay now with The Saint James Kingston!

See the Darklydexter post here: DARKLYDEXTER.COM



Read Design Sponge's letter and blurp about the Saint James Kingston being among their top 5 places to stay! 

"The Saint James - This charming vacation rental is the reason my fiancé and I decided to purchase a house in Kingston, NY. Located in the middle of one of the town's historic districts, this home was lovingly transformed by Julian Lesser and Philippe Trinh, a couple with a serious eye for style. With three bedrooms and wonderful amenities including a stunning outdoor garden and ample entertaining space, this is a perfect retreat for you and a few friends. -Max"

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