This Waccabuc home will wow you. Photography by Kate Sears
A timely remodel turns a former Airbnb in Waccabuc into a rustic-chic, family-friendly home with beautiful details.
This charming, rustic, lodge-style home has seen it all. “The story goes that it was a barn that a developer brought to the property in Waccabuc in the 1980s,” says designer Elizabeth Strianese of Elizabeth Strianese Interiors, LLC. “He converted it into this house and added on a two-car garage and all these other things that were not part of the original structure.”
The developer moved in and lived there for a number of years before the home was turned into an Airbnb. By the time Strianese’s clients — a couple with two young children — purchased the house, it was in dire need of a remodel. “Its use as a rental took a serious toll on the property, wear-and-tear-wise,” explains Strianese.
But the bones of the four-bedroom, 6,912-square-foot house had held up admirably, and the family could see its potential as a beautiful home. And, while they loved its rusticity, they were looking to tone down what Strianese describes as a “very in-your-face, lodge-style,” to make the home a less dated and more family-friendly space. The result is a balanced blend of historic and modern-day flourishes that make the home feel both current and patinated with age.
The massive chalet-style fireplace was left largely as-is. “It was just such a phenomenal anchor; we had to keep it,” Strianese says. The dark, natural tongue-and-groove paneling was painted white to brighten the room and highlight the home’s characteristic exposed beams, while the sheer Roman shades on the windows admit ample natural light. A cozy, modern, sectional sofa is perfect for curling up together by the fire to watch a movie. “We really wanted something clean and simple to support the media center,” Strianese says of the custom, wall-mounted credenza her team designed for the client. “It has a Danish-modern nod to it.” The large coffee table, side chair, and strategically placed side tables make for a seamless transition from family time to entertaining guests.
The front door opens into a cavernous entryway, which stretches three stories high, a space Strianese filled with a stunning 14-foot, multipendant, blown-glass chandelier. A console with benches that tuck underneath gives the family a place to put on or take off shoes, leave notes, and set their belongings. It also provides a focal point for guests as they enter the home. Follow the vintage runner rug to the sweeping stairwell, where Strianese and her crew replaced the busy Arts and Crafts-style handrail and balusters with thinner, sleeker, oak-and-steel equivalents for a more modern look. They also took out the heavy, recessed can lights and mounted more contemporary pancake junction boxes over the holes. By keeping the exposed beams and hanging a leather-wrapped wall mirror under the stairs, the designer was able to honor the home’s original ski-lodge feel. Some white paint on the tongue-and-groove wall paneling serves to visually lighten the space.
“It had these heavy bulkheads, which went around the entire perimeter and over the island,” Strianese recalls of the original design. “They were oak, and they had little portal lights in them. It looked like a ship. It was just so heavy and in-your-face.” So, Strianese and her team gutted the bulkheads to make room for slim-profile, Shaker-style cabinets. To honor the voluminous space left over and accentuate the high ceiling, Strianese put in countertop-to-ceiling marble. The room’s spaciousness also enabled her to use multiple colors without it looking too heavyhanded: black for the windows, charcoal on the lower cabinetry, off-white on the upper cabinetry, and white oak on the island and hutch. A butler’s pantry just off the kitchen echoes the marble and white/charcoal color scheme. The floor presented another challenge. “[The original design] was going for that barn look, with floorboards of multiple widths,” Strianese explains. “It was just too visually stimulating and over-the-top.” They were able to tone things down by lightening the color and giving it a wax finish. For the lights over the island, Strianese went with a reproduction of a Paavo Tynell light fixture that was popular in the 1970s.
The dining room has just one window, so it doesn’t get much light. Switching from the wall paneling’s original yellow to a pale-gray canvas tone brightened the room instantly. “Then, we painted the ceiling black,” Strianese says. Any natural light coming into the room bounces off the ceiling and is reflected by the frosted-glass orbs of the chandelier. When night falls, the darker color gives the room a quiet, enveloping quality perfect for a dinner party or a romantic evening. To fill out the sweeping length of the room, Strianese and her clients selected a white-oak dining table long enough to easily seat 10 to 12 people.
The navy blue from the accent wall in the living room is carried into the office in a high gloss. A funky wallpaper in gradations of blue borders the upper part of the room, adding a bit of whimsy to the space. Black, reeded Roman shades on the windows play up the room’s retro smoking-room vibe. A custom design “partner’s desk” allows the husband, a tech entrepreneur, to collaborate when necessary or to simply switch to the other side of the desk when the need arises. The whole look is pulled together with a simple yet sophisticated area rug.
The client wanted to keep the rustic timbers that were part of the room, which Strianese echoed with the tall posts and iron canopy of the Dunmore Bed from the Robert James Collection. Sheer ecru draperies, a soft pendant light, and layers of plush pillows stacked on the bed give the room a comfy, luxurious feel. Black accents, like the wall sconces, night-stands, and accent chair, keep the look grounded. Leading up to the loft, where the wife has her home office, is a custom spiral staircase, which was put in as a safer alternative to the original ship’s ladder. For the spacious walk-in closet, the client wanted something glamorous. “She wanted this to be a room where she would get dressed and feel kind of Hollywood,” Strianese explains. Cabinetry, window treatments, and bench cushions in Tiffany blue, and a marbleized gold wallpaper on the ceiling, did the trick.
One of seven bathrooms in the home, the guest bathroom features three types of tiles in varying shapes and patterns. The solid color in the wall tile really brings out the focal tile, and the gradation in the Bardiglio floor tiles pulls the look together. A large, egg-shaped mirror and custom stone sink keep the overall look from being too “busy” by giving it a theatrical appeal. That the focal tile folds into the corner of the room and onto the floor makes this a memorable space guests will be talking about long after their visits.
“We had this space with a lot of volume and a lot of light,” Strianese says, “and we wanted to hang something big and ethereal that feels like a cloud you can see through and doesn’t obscure anything.” Not only did the cluster of Moooi’s pendant globes fit the bill; they also complement the round lines of the Boffi soaking tub. Strianese lined the wall behind the tub with lilac marble tile, which she then used variations of in the floor and the marble countertops of the blackened-oak his/hers vanities, creating a cohesive look. A louder lilac marble tile is used in the shower to create stimulation (“Baths are for relaxing; showers are for when it’s time to wake up,” Strianese says). White sconces and towels, and black bathroom accessories and fixtures, help tie all the elements together, for a calming, Zen feel.
When the developer added the three-car garage, he went with the same gable-roof style of the main house, which left space above the garage for an additional room. When Strianese received her client’s wish list and saw that it included a rock-climbing wall, she knew just where to put it. New oak flooring was installed to accommodate the space’s new role as playroom, complete with ping-pong table, TV, toy storage, and floor-to-ceiling climbing wall. Strianese even used the colors of the rock-climbing wall as a guide when selecting throw pillows for the custom built-in window seat in the TV corner. Always be sure to tie dynamic elements together with more neutral pieces in the same color pattern, like the gradated, blue-and-gray custom rug and the black, balloon-like, pendant light by Moooi.
Off the back of the house, where the family plans to have a pool put in, is a bathroom already affectionately referred to as the cabana bathroom. In a nod to the room’s future role, Strianese had fish-scale tiles inset in the wall behind a white-oak floating vanity base. The rest of the walls were done in a glazed watercolor tile to make the focal wall really pop. A marble patterned countertop with stone sink lends additional visual interest.
When the Weather Outside Is Frightful…
This winter, make your home look as cozy as it feels with these tips from designer Elizabeth Strianese.
Winterize the windows
Add drapes to window treatments for a luxurious, cozy vibe. “Having those layers of gorgeous molding, sheer Roman shade, and beautiful drapes adds a rich, tactile element,” Strianese says.
Bring out the rugs
Nothing says “warm and snug” like a soft, comfy area rug.
Vamp it up with velvet
“I love a velvet base for seat cushions,” says Strianese. “It doesn’t necessarily emit warmth; it’s just a soft, tactile thing.” Toss in a couple of throw pillows to add layers of interest.
Add in natural materials
Pulling in natural, softening materials, like leather, wood, or brass, can make stark spaces feel more layered and organic.
Sample something old
“I’m a big believer in having layers of years too,” Strianese says. She suggests adding vintage elements to a room, whether it be an antique piece of furniture or a pattern or style from a past era. “Slipping different eras into a modern design really supports a feeling of timelessness and comfort.”