When Bill Montgomery was 30 years old, he stepped into a pub in Germany and met eyes with Angelica Rissmann. It was love at first sight, and they’ve been together ever since. The couple lived in Nuremberg, then New York City, and finally settled in a small town in the Hudson Valley. He teaches theater at West Point and she writes children’s books. Here’s a peek inside their colorful home…
What inspired you to decorate with such bright colors and lanterns?
Bill: The hanging lanterns make us feel like we’re floating among colorful hot air balloons. Before I met Angelica, my houses always had white walls and brown furniture.
Angelica: Yes, I painted the walls! I wanted something more emotional. Blue is calming, so I chose many different hues. Then I added touches of warmer reds and oranges, which made it feel like a happier house.
Bill: Since the ground floor is basically one long space, using ever-changing hues of blue draw you into different areas.
Your sofa looks so cozy.
Angelica: Having pillows on the sofa allows us to tweak the color palette. We like to switch up the cushion covers and blankets depending on the season or holiday.
What first drew you to this house?
Bill: The roof has a central chimney, which evokes a very European cottage look, and a little village is just down the road. Since I lived in Germany for eight years, that really rang some bells for me.
Can you tell us more about how you first meet?
Bill: We met at an Irish pub in Germany. I was visiting my parents there.
Angelica: There was a lot of beer! I got butterflies when I saw him — I hadn’t had those for a long time.
Bill: She got to meet my mom and dad right off the jump, which basically guarantees that I’m a nice guy.
You have a lot of family photos around the house.
Bill: It feels good to reflect on all the folks who have been important in your life.
A: Some rotate and some stay forever.
Any advice for living in a smaller house?
Bill: This one-bedroom cottage is 1064 square feet. When we moved in, we took out a wall, so the floor goes all the way through from the front to the back. It made it feel larger and more open.
Angelica: We also have lots of mirrors, which make the space feel bigger.
Do you have a morning routine?
Bill: Yes, as life goes on, a routine becomes very comforting. I come downstairs early, around 6:30 a.m., and grab my instruments.
Angelica: Hearing his guitar is a nice way to wake up.
Bill: At 8 a.m., I’ll prepare our powdered drink thing. Then we like to take a walk by the river for about a mile. They say if you can take walks in nature, it helps you live in the moment. Then we come home for a quick breakfast, usually oatmeal with fruit.
Angelica: Then Bill goes to work, and I stay here and write my stories and read. I still read actual novels, versus on a Kindle — I love the smell of paper books. Right now, I’m reading Alice Hoffman’s wonderful book The Marriage of Opposites.
What’s the story behind these snapshots?
Bill: The right photo was taken when we got married at Niagara Falls, 20 years after we met. Angelica has an independent streak, so making it official was not necessary for her. She was here on a tourist visa, but when it finally ran out, we had to run up to Niagara Falls and get married. Right after we said ‘I do,’ we went to a casino, and on Angelica’s third turn on the slots, she won a thousand dollars!
Tell us about the painting in your staircase.
Bill: Our artist friend, Benta Martins, painted it. We thought the small staircase was the perfect place to have her paint an overflowing garden, as if the flowers were coming out of the wall.
How did you decide on colors for your bedroom?
Angelia: I went on a trip to India and brought back some beautiful saris. The light glitters through them and looks different throughout the day.
Do you have any relationship advice?
Bill: Every couple has its own dynamic growth as you go through life. You grow and change together.
Angelica: Some people want lots of money, but for me, it’s the last thing. It’s nice to have, but you shouldn’t depend on it. We started with no money, pennies in the pot.
How often do you hang out outside?
Angelica: I spend most of my time in the garden; I’m hardly inside. The trees, the flowers, the bushes, oh god, it’s paradise!
Bill: Half of our yard is flat and the rest is a hill with tall trees. The four seasons are visible. We’re very thankful. I come home for lunch every day, and we eat outside on the deck. We’re vegetarian, so Angelica pulls together some soup or salad.
How’s the winter been?
Bill: On the bright side, there’s more time to read in the winter.
Do you plan on staying here for good?
Bill: Yes, we love it. This was my 27th move since birth, but we call this our last stand.
Thank you so much, Angelica and Bill!