Photographs by Brittany Ambridge/ OTTI. Styling By Martin Bourne
West Coast style meets East Coast living in this eye-catching Mount Kisco renovation by Hirshson Architecture + Design.
For a Southern California family relocating to Westchester, this Normandy-style house appealed to their desire for indoor-outdoor living. The couple and their two boys loved the rolling lawn and the overall layout of the house, with its courtyard and three-season room primed for entertaining. However, when they purchased the home, built in the ’90s, it was dated and dark on the inside, calling for a major renovation. “The house had been untouched for some 25-odd years,” says Scott Hirshson of Hirshson Architecture + Design. “Fix everything was the mandate.”
The homeowners, who connected with Hirshson and designer Dorynne Brock through a previous client of the firm, wanted the team to create an open family room and kitchen, and to bring in more light. The art-collecting couple possess a strong sense of style and past experience working with a design team. “Their existing art played a huge part in the design of all the spaces,” says Brock. “They had a large collection, and they wanted to use most of their pieces. One of the first things we did was go through the artwork and catalog everything and work that into the design.”
With collaboration between architect, designer, and homeowner, the house was designed with much of the placement of art and furniture planned in advance. For two rooms, Brock sourced new art pieces for this discerning client: a colorful Torabi mixed-media piece in the dining room and the cheeky William Nelson Left-Handed Honeymoon in the office. “Between knowing the art and sizing the windows, it was a very straightforward install,” says Hirshson. “The surprises were more like, ‘Oh, I love it!’ as opposed to ‘I want to swap it.’”
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However, there was one surprise that impacted this project’s construction phase in a major way: the pandemic. Just as the front façade of the house had been ripped off, stairs taken down, and kitchen dismantled, the calendar read “March 2020,” and everything stopped. Of this “pandemic passion project,” as Hirshson calls it, he says, “With a whole-house renovation, some clients would say, ‘We’ll live through it’; others say, ‘We’ve gotta get out; we don’t want to deal with it.’ This client didn’t have a choice.”
“One of the first things we did was go through the artwork and catalog everything and work that into the design.” —Dorynne Brock
There were starts and stops along the way and a period when only one subcontractor could work on the house at a time. This led the team to become closer with the family and to fine-tune their process. They had to work in phases and deal with long lead times. “The protocol we developed in working on that house we still use now in terms of organizing and understanding the space the clients are going to live in while the building is happening,” says Hirshson. “It’s always been a team effort, but we spend a lot more time now coordinating with all the subcontractors to try to get ahead of any issues.”
Case in point: The woodworking company that crafted the kitchen with all its cabinetry and massive island couldn’t do field measurements at the house. Initially they had to rely on detailed drawings provided by Hirshson. In the end, it came together beautifully. The kitchen centers on the courtyard, with banks of French doors that admit loads of light. The design team worked with the client to pick the wood shade for the flooring throughout the home, reviewing 30 custom samples before selecting the light-red oak woodwork. As a contrast to the white millwork and pale flooring, Brock guided the homeowners to the black hue for the island base and some of the cabinetry.
“There’s something really timeless about this house, and we wanted to keep it fresh,” says Brock. “The black worked really well with everything else we did.” She chose Farrow & Ball’s Pitch Black, which is simultaneously bold and subtle and carries into the bar cabinetry and the family room. The black tone grounds the oversized island, which is tricked out on every side, with two full serving counters on each end, deep storage for platters and cookbooks, barstool seating, plus hidden, built-in dog food storage on the side closest to the breakfast room/banquette. The family’s boys like to cook and spend lots of time in the kitchen with friends, so covering the channel-back banquette in a very durable embossed vinyl made perfect sense: It looks just like leather, but it’s wipeable, very kid- and pet-friendly.
The black-and-white scheme is echoed in the home’s entryway, which went through major changes during the reno. Oversized art and the geometric patterns in the carpet, chandelier, and stair runner draw the eye in this entry, with its double-height ceilings and new staircase. Outside, an archway and recessed front door were removed and replaced with a copper-hooded portico and door surrounded by windows to let in light, details in keeping with the rest of the house.
The entry leads directly into the living room, which features a grand piano and pink-hued art and accessories. Brock repurposed furnishings that the homeowners brought cross-country, including a gray sectional, which they divided into two sofas, and a geometric rug. In addition to art, lighting helped drive the design throughout. In the living room, the Oly bubble chandelier references the circular pattern in the rug. In the kitchen, the team designed the coffered ceiling around the Urban Electric pendants. For the dining room, Brock chose a pair of Hudson Valley chandeliers that mimic icicles. Brock used the dining chairs that the family already owned, recovering them in a performance mohair fabric, and sourced new pieces: a dining table from Restoration Hardware and a credenza from Jonathan Adler.
Compared with the high-contrast black and white on the first floor of the home, the upstairs bedrooms and baths are finished in more muted palettes, with taupes, creams, and grays. In the primary bedroom, Brock designed the space around the couple’s existing bed; in their spacious primary bath, white-marble herringbone floors, a BainUltra tub, and custom vanities live alongside mixed metals and more affordable fittings. The “bone” drawer pulls are from CB2.
Perhaps the family’s favorite room is one that captured their interest in the first place: the three-season room that’s connected to the patio and other outdoor spaces via brick-and-bluestone walkways. There’s seating for 10 at a large outdoor dining table, plus a large TV for watching sports. “They wanted everything in that space, including an automatic doggie door,” Hirshson says. The team worked to outfit the room with the best ceiling fans and portable standing heaters, so they can enjoy time close to the outdoors, even on chilly fall evenings or in the heat of summer. In this sense, they brought California-style living to their East Coast abode. “Three-season rooms are now one of the most sought-after spaces in new homes,” says Hirshson. “This family was ahead of the curve.”