by Jeffrey Slonim | April 23, 2009 | Style & Beauty
FROM LEFT: Bedford Post; a mirrored view. BELOW: owners Richard Gere, Carey Lowell, and Russell Hernandez;
"After 25-plus years in the city, it was time to move,” says Carey Lowell, a former model who decamped two years ago to nearby Pound Ridge, New York, where her husband, Richard Gere, owns a country residence. “I thought I was going to miss the city a lot more.”
Turns out that city separation anxiety was eas- ier to deal with than she expected. As proprietor of Bedford Post, which she and Gere first encountered during a horseback ride, Lowell has brought green chic to upstate. The original Bedford Inn had survived the burning of Bedford by the British during the Revolutionary War; most recently, it weathered a gutting by its previous owner. “It was an eyesore rotting by the side of the road,” says Lowell. Partnering with builder Russell Hernandez and his wife, Alesandra, a talented graphic designer, they renamed and transformed the broken-down site.
“I always wanted to build a place where people who could change the world could get together,” says Gere, who originally envisioned an inn where guests could ride up on horseback. It quickly became apparent that that fantasy would require additional facilities to care for the animals. So far only Martha Stewart, who brought an attendant, has realized the dream of tying up horses there. (“She used to bring us delish farm-fresh eggs from her place in Katona—pale blue eggs from her Arcana free-range chickens,” says Lowell.)
Nevertheless, the green team lovingly refurbished the 14-acre retreat, insisting on eco-friendly details in the restaurant, café, bakery, and guest rooms. “We used reclaimed wood when possible, [and dug] holes deep into the ground for geothermal cooling,” explains Lowell. “We run water through the pipes and the air cools naturally, so we don’t have to use condensers for air conditioning.” Water that’s run through the serpentine pipes in winter also doesn’t need to be heated as much. “Using geo- thermal is expensive,” says Lowell. “But it pays off over time. We also use low-VOC paints—vol- atile organic compounds are the toxic chemicals in varnishes and solvents.”
The team used soy and natural insulation instead of standard fiberglass, and the inn’s win- dows have double-thermal UV glass, which keeps the rooms cooler during the summer. There’s even a loft for yoga classes. For PC cuisine, Gere and Lowell emphasize seasonality and “local farm to the table,” says Lowell. They chose hometown chef Brian Lewis, who’d cooked at Palladin in Washington, DC, and at Oceana and Lutèce in New York.
“We wanted food that’s not fussy. Delicious but earthy,” says Lowell. By using local produce, she adds, “we’re not contributing to greenhouse gases by trucking foods. We’re organic more and more.”
The interior is dreamily historic. “Literally tons of stones dug up when excavating for the geothermal system were used to build arches and stair- cases,” says Hernandez. “And when the city suggested we demolish barns on the outskirts of Bedford Park for scrap, we found beautiful chestnut floorboards and beams under the sheetrock that we kept for paneling and highlights.”
On the night of a blizzard-like whiteout earlier this winter, the two couples met at Bedford Post for dinner. “We didn’t think anyone would be there,” says Hernandez, “but the place was packed. Some people in boots and jeans, others in jackets and ties. Friends, influential people, parents of kids that Richard and I coach in baseball… the place was packed.”
Build it green and—apparently, even in a snowstorm—they will come.