Elements of Surprise
(page 2 of 3)
Seeing is believing—or is it?
The home unfolds like a magic show in three acts. First, there’s a welcoming façade with a strong, vertical gable comprising two stories; it has curb appeal in spades, something Chris was keen on. With dusky gray stones, shake shingles, intersecting rooflines, clapboard siding and multiple chimneys, the house is comfortably at home in its neighborhood.
But while the stone façade may share the same proportions as area homes, it’s the details that “take the design in a fresh direction,” says Saniee. For instance, while the home features an enclosed portico, it’s far grander than your typical transition space, creating volume as it soars to the second story. Two wings flank the main structure to create a sense of enclosure, a courtyard. But they’re not twins; one is long (with three garage bays inside) and one short (the library), and they move out at unexpected angles. The windows (traditionally double-hung for sure) are tall and narrow, with fixed panes above; they’re new-fashioned and designed to flood the interior with daylight.
Next, there’s the floor plan itself, merely hinted at in front. Site constraints may have prescribed a particular plan, but it was Saniee’s eye, practiced at maximizing views, that sealed it. “It’s a long, narrow back lot,” he says, “so if you put a standard two-rooms-deep colonial on it, half the house would look out at the front—not too interesting. The other half would look out onto the back yard—green, scenic, where the family gathers and the kids play.”
This idea made little sense to the architect, so he devised a loosely boomerang-shaped plan only one room deep. The main wing houses the vaulted entry, formal dining room, living room and stairway to the second floor. At the axis of the “boomerang,” the kitchen connects this space to more private quarters, which include an eating area, family room and memorabilia room. The family wing also includes Liz’s office, a mudroom and laundry.
This configuration allows every room that requires a view to have one. Because acoustics are more important than views in the library wing, it overlooks the courtyard, as does the garage wing. A plus: Because the garage opens to the side and not the front of the house, visitors can’t even tell it’s there.
Finally, the reveal: This is an immensely livable home that suits a very busy family. Chris is president of an investment firm in Manhattan; Liz works as a per-diem neonatal nurse in the ICU at Greenwich Hospital; their boys, Connor, 14, and Rory, 12, are occupied with school, sports and other activities. They’re all involved in the community and in charity events.
Their home, just shy of 7,500 square feet, is unquestionably substantial, yet it evokes a sense of intimacy. The entry hall—more an airy gallery than mere stepping-stone to the interior—tells all. Finishes are clean and crisp. Floors are a deep shade of oak, contrasting with light hues everywhere else. Wall colors are all “calm, neutral . . . designed to maximize light and allow the artwork to stand out,” says the architect.
Saniee remembers that Chris had his heart set on a wide, symmetrical, two-stair entry, but the depth of the house just couldn’t accommodate it. So a single long staircase framed by a dramatic banister was located off to the side (it is grand, by the way). It leads to the family’s private second story, made up of a spacious master suite (though she loves them all, Liz says her favorite room is her walk-in closet), mirror-image bedrooms for the boys and a guest suite.