Casey Dzierlenga and Sam Moyer, Furniture Makers at their home in Salt Point, NY
Casey Dzierlenga and Sam Moyer had been living in Los Angeles for over a decade, and built quite a following for their beautiful contemporary furniture with Scandinavian and Shaker influences. They met when Casey applied for a position working for Sam’s furniture business. After they started dating, the couple decided to each run their own furniture business, and collaborate with one another on specific projects, allowing each person to have their own creative freedom and vision.
Sam, along with a few friends, renovated a Victorian home in the historic Angeleno Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. This inspired Casey and Sam to begin discussing whether or not they wanted to plant permanent roots on the West Coast. While visiting family back East over the holidays, they decided to check out a few real estate listings. Their now home, a stately but crumbling colonial revival in the small community of Salt Point, New York was one of the first places they toured, and it was love at first site.
The couple decided they were ready to experience all four seasons again, and they both wanted to be closer to their families living on the East Coast. The house was a bargain, but also a wreck, and these two talented furniture builders were siren called by the beautiful bones of the place. They bought their house in the summer of 2011, and have been working tirelessly on it ever since. The first few years were extremely difficult - they lived without heat and proper insulation through several harsh winters and at times went without running water. They've done all the repairs themselves - peeling layers of wallpaper, replacing rotten exterior walls and floorboards and preserving the history of the place while making it more energy efficient and livable.
Casey and Sam were surprised when they were approached by several brands who wanted to use their home as a location to shoot their catalogs and campaigns, but the derelict beauty of the exposed lathe work and cracked plaster that lured them to buy the place has helped generate a bit of extra income. In addition to home repairs and running their furniture businesses, Casey and Sam have fully embraced their new rural lifestyle; walking in the woods every morning before work, planting a giant vegetable garden, raising chickens and bees, and tapping their trees to make maple syrup.
They rent a wood shop in town to build their furniture, with hopes of someday soon being able build a space on their existing property to work from. Sam continues to make frequent trips to Los Angeles to sell their furniture, and they recently set up a showroom in the town of Hudson, New York. In 2015, they welcomed their daughter Oona, which has slowed their progress down a bit, but has also kept their motivation levels high to finish the many projects on their to-do list. This year they hope to renovate the dilapidated back wing of their house so they can transform it into a vacation rental to generate income from the property to help offset the monumental repair costs. Although, at times, they feel like they might have bitten off more than they can chew, they continue to work tirelessly to create the lifestyle and home they envisioned in the country when toured the property five years ago.
Q & A
What inspired you to move to the country?
A return to the seasons, and being closer to our families, who are both on the east coast.
Initially what was the hardest part about making the move? What challenges came later?
Driving two 26 ft. box trucks across the country. Discovering all the copper piping had been stolen out of our house. Chasing off rabid raccoons, cooexisting with bats and mold. Freak Halloween snowstorms before we had heat installed... the list goes on! Getting heat was the longest standing challenge- we just finished it this past winter.
What surprised you most about country living? Did it meet your expectations?
The conservative politics of the community. Also the time commitment involved in land upkeep.
What were the hardest things to get used to?
Not having cheap takeout or a coffee shop close-by.
Would you ever go back to an urban existence?
Maybe, but not without a getaway on stand-by.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of leaving the city?
Find a way to stay in the area you're thinking about living in for a bit before moving there! We were in a total rush, and while we've grown to love our location, we probably would have chosen to be a little further north, and to have a different town as our nearest base. It takes a while to fully realize what you're looking for (and not looking for) in a home.
What do you appreciate most about life in the country?
Fresh air, the spontaneity of nature; seeing owls nest in our front yard, watching a summer storm roll in, foraging wild food. Also, the community that we've found is totally enriching and supportive.
Where do you draw your inspiration and passion from for your work?
I think both of us are somewhat historically motivated- I've been exploring modern versions of primitive, shaker and Scandinavian designs. Sam has a background in historical preservation, and his work frequently has elements borrowed from timber framing. We also are lucky enough to have lots of other craftspeople working here in the Hudson Valley, and there seems to always be a relationship between what people are making. There's an unspoken conversation.
Have you noticed a change in yourself or your work since leaving Los Angeles?
I think so. I think I've come into my own a little bit. The past few years it really feels like we've built something out of nothing, and are finally gaining a little momentum. That's a pretty satisfying thing. I think my work has gained a similar maturity and attention to detail.
When you go back to visit the city, what are the top three things on your 'to do' list?
Eat Pho soup! Visit friends. Have a leisurely Saturday morning coffee and a croissant in Echo Park.
Are there things that you are able to do here that you wouldn’t have dared to try before leaving the city?
In a way, I feel like having a baby falls in this category. I'm not sure if I, personally, could handle raising a kid in a fast-paced environment like Los Angeles. For some reason, looking for parking with a baby in a hot car seems... sort of awful to me. I also think that the general urge to have a kid was stronger for me once I was in the country, because there were fewer distractions, and I gained total control of my own schedule. All of a sudden, it seemed totally natural, where it once hadn't.
Do you have a specific space or place that helps you feel inspired?
I have a room with great light that I use as an art space, which I love passing time in. Also, I think we both feel pretty connected to our land. We love to look for new things blooming, and notice all the subtle changes that come throughout the year. Seasonal projects, like splitting wood and boiling sap for syrup are really rejuvenating. It may be a little cliche, but I'm also a sucker for gathering wildflowers.
Walk us through a typical day in your country existence?
Sam's up very early in the morning, to the soundtrack of 3 roosters crowing. Then Oona's up (our 10 month old,) and I'm usually last... The chickens get fed, and we take our dog romping around out in the yard. Sometimes you'll catch something amazing on this early morning jaunt. I've gotten some pretty incredible photos on our land of the morning fog lifting. Then we have coffee and tea, and breakfast. When the babysitter shows up, we take off to our shop, which is 10 minutes down the road. We come home for lunch. Usually there's some cooking involved for every single meal, which can be both nice and also a drag. Then back to the shop until 5ish, and then back to the house to play with Oona until her bedtime. Lately we'll stand outside with her and let her eat all the blueberries and blackcaps off the bushes. Once she's in bed, we try to get some work down on the house or on the land. Right now we're restoring a rental unit, so I've been glazing old windows, and Sam's has been framing doors. Then we cook dinner together, close in the chickens, and watch a movie. On weekends, we love to go junking, check out estate sales, or work in the yard.
What are some common misperceptions about life in the country? What do you want people to know/understand about life in small communities?
I think the thing we said earlier about politics is true here. Also that community becomes really important in rural living. I thought we were moving out here to get away from people, but the people who are around you begin to play a much larger role. I think without the support of some of the folks we've met here, we might be long gone by now. Like relocated, not dead... So I guess, to sum up, having a support system of some kind really helps you through the transition. Decompression is really important.
What are your future plans/goals for the coming year?
We're really working hard to get our vacation rental unit up and running. We're also hoping to raise a barn on our land, so we can have our wood shop right by the house.