It’s a city dweller’s fantasy—leaving the concrete jungle behind for a creative experiment in a country idyll. Meet one couple who made the leap
At a time when the neo-homesteader movement is gaining traction in urban centers across the country—as well as on many a dedicated Pinterest board—it’s still relatively rare to find a young couple brave enough to take that ethos to heart. But rather than settle for a rooftop garden, Nic Taylor and Jennifer Brandt-Taylor swapped their metropolitan surroundings for a quieter, more focused way of life. “We needed peace and space,” says Jennifer, an author and product designer who, with Nic, makes up half the branding studio Thunderwing, of their move to the sleepy Hudson Valley hamlet of Garrison, New York. Six years ago, when Manhattan’s Murray Hill neighborhood proved more claustrophobic than conducive to good work, she and Nic decided it was time for a change. “It was terrifying. But living here has helped us creatively; [there’s so much] natural beauty all around.”
The pair stumbled upon their new setting by happenstance. “We randomly walked into a real estate office [in Garrison],” recalls Jennifer, “and they took us to an unlisted property by the water. We signed on the spot.” Nic, who was born in nearby West Point, considers the move something of a homecoming—or, as he describes it, a “feeling of spiritual recirculation.” The couple’s house and headquarters, a two-story shingled cottage surrounded by lush, woodland-like landscaping at the end of a winding drive, was part of a complex of barns built in the 1920s. An office workshop is attached by a covered walkway to the main building, allowing the couple to work separately in tandem. “We text to make appointments with each other,” says Jennifer with a laugh.
Thunderwing was formed in 2004, when the two discovered an unused letterpress in the basement of Nic’s parents’ house. “We’re both obsessed with typography and the history of graphic design, so naturally we began conceptualizing together,” Jennifer says. Since then, the studio’s output has expanded far beyond letterpress to include every aspect of brand design—restaurant menus, retail signage, and personal stationery for the likes of Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard and style blogger Garance Doré. The couple’s signature is a sophisticated knack for cultural commingling; Jennifer often draws visual references from an extensive library that lines the walls of their living room, as well as from ephemera gathered on their travels. On one deep windowsill, an old turntable takes pride of place—a testament to Nic’s passion for collecting records, which is rivaled only by his wife’s devotion to the written word. (She recently became the vintage-book curator for Los Angeles design firm Nicky Kehoe.) “Our inspirations are all out in the open,” says Jennifer. “Minimalist we are not!”
VIDEO: IN THE COUNTRY WITH THUNDERWING
Nic, who also works as a professor of typography and graphic design at the School of Visual Arts, still commutes to Manhattan three days a week. “In a metropolitan area, you have a tendency to see a lot of sameness,” he says. “People live close to each other, and there’s a sense of repetition—of reinterpreting what you see. Getting out helped us pay more attention to things that truly inspire us.” He’ll readily admit that they initially found their new environment isolating. “For the first two years, our youngest friend was 58. But more people our age are moving here and starting families, bringing restaurants, cafés, yoga studios, and things we were starved for.”
Now the couple, who are expecting their first child early next year, have established their own rituals and routine: for example, “walking our pug around the property every evening to watch the sun set over the Hudson River and Bear Mountain Bridge,” Jennifer says. “Saturday-morning trips to the Cold Spring Farmers’ Market on the grounds of the Boscobel Mansion.” Nic points to the “versatility of technology and social media” as one of the biggest factors in pulling off a move like this. “You can really have it all—more living space, sweeping views, quiet nights with star-filled skies—while still feeling connected to your friends all over the world,” he says. Welcome to the 21st-century version of frontier living.