The Canadian-born fashion star has mentored over 100 aspiring runway walkers at her stylish country "camp"

By Madison Roberts
January 25, 2019 04:36 PM
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When Coco Rocha was an up-and-coming model in the early 2000s, she didn’t have a mentor. So 8 years ago, she started privately training young models — including Kendall and Kylie Jenner — giving them one-on-one posing sessions and providing crucial advice.

About two years ago, Rocha says she wanted to expand her business even more, and she had the idea to open a “model camp” close enough to the fashion hub of New York City, but far enough that it felt like a retreat from the hustle and bustle.

“I guess I wanted to create the modeling equivalent of the X-Men school,” Rocha tells PEOPLE exclusively.

So she and her husband James Conran found a 1930s Tudor-style estate an hour north of Manhattan that had the capability to host between 12 and 20 models at a time and set up shop.

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The 8,000-square-foot home sits on 8 acres of land, and also serves as her family’s country retreat when they need a vacation from the home in Westchester County the couple shares with their daughter Ioni, 3, and son Iver, 9 months. But Rocha admits the property was a labor of love for her and her husband, who she says drove up to the property every day for a year to work on it.

“It was a diamond in the rough when we bought it,” she says, but eventually the pair were able to turn it into a true “home away from home.”

“I really value a space that feels warm and homey,” Rocha says. “Being in a profession where I travel so much for work makes it important for me to come home to a space that feels comfortable and inviting. For me the Model Camp is that place.”

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In decorating the home, Rocha, opted for a “country chic” vibe that’s the opposite that of her Westchester abode, which she says is “super modern, minimal and clean with pops of color.”

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“While we wanted to embrace the heritage of the estate, we also needed to give it a fresh and modern twist,” Rocha explains.

Rocha says the kitchen is the true focal point of her home, and, subsequently, the room that needed the most work. Initially, the kitchen was a walled-off room in the middle of the house with no windows and only a skylight. They decided to open it up so everyone could gather together.

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The pair used subway tile with black grout in both the kitchen and the bathrooms to give the spaces a timeless feel and a durability. They used Cosentino Dekton counters, which looks like marble, and custom-made laminate cabinets from semihandmade.com.

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“During the model camp, I cook a few of the meals myself and usually the models sit around that space watching me cook and picking my brain on the fashion industry,” Rocha says. “It’s now a wonderfully open space, really conducive for conversation and congregation.”

While Rocha uses the space to mentor emerging talents, she also designed it with her family in mind, adding a swimming pool out back and a secret playroom that James built himself.

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“I can tell that it is already a magical place to her,” Rocha says.

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Overall, the Canadian-born star says she has been able to mentor over 100 models from all over the world, and it’s been even more meaningful to do it in a space she can call her own.

“The house has definitely been infused with our DNA now that the renovation and decorating are done,” she says. “I love the fact that I’m not only sharing my knowledge and expertise with these models, but I’m sharing my home and my heart too.”