“When life gives you lemons you make lemonade,” Brent Ridge has been quoted as saying. And when life gives you goats? Well, he’s added, “you make cheese!” Actually, when physician Brent Ridge and his husband, advertising executive and author Josh Kilmer-Purcell, got those goats, the first thing they made was goat milk soap, but it was just the beginning of an incredible journey.
They made a dramatic change from New York City living to rural farm life in Sharon Springs, an upstate New York town with a little over 500 residents. The couple purchased the farm in 2007 after falling in love with it during an apple-picking trip. Shortly afterward, those lemons arrived.
Both men lost their high-powered jobs and decided to relocate and, unwittingly, reinvent themselves. Next came the goats, courtesy of their neighbor, Farmer John, who asked if he could house his herd in their barn. The result of this adventure is a lifestyle brand, Beekman 1802, which includes a skin-care line, locally sourced artisanal products, and home items.
In recent years, they’ve turned their attention to the house, which was built in 1802 and, Ridge says, “looks huge but is actually four rooms on top of four rooms. Originally it was all bedrooms with 12-foot-wide hallways and an outdoor kitchen.” Their plan was to mix traditional and contemporary pieces with the goal of maintaining the integrity of the house. The library houses books and framed maps from the time of William Beekman, the original owner, and a collection of curiosities as homage to the 19th century.
An important element of the restored farmhouse is the shared closet, created from a small room. “We’ve always shared a closet, from the time we lived in New York City,” Ridge says. “The closet in our apartment was tiny.” But now their closet can accommodate all their needs, including their varied wardrobes. They have clothes for everything from TV appearances on HSN and QVC to charity events and mucking out stalls.
A big request in designing the closet was lighting. “Electricity is always a challenge in an old house, so we asked for all the bells and whistles when it came to lighting.” There’s under-the-shelf LED lighting wherever possible to give the closet a boutique feeling. The floors are the original wood, and there’s a custom-built chest of drawers. An unusual feature of the closet is a window. Ridge says it’s a great advantage when you’re getting dressed: One look outside and you can see the weather!
Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell have 47 goats, and the population swells in spring. They also have 10 chickens, a three-legged dog, and extensive gardens. They grow, freeze, and can all their own food. The transition to the country means everything isn’t available around the clock, Ridge concludes, but the trade-off, the sense of real community where you depend on your neighbors, was well worth it.