Photo by Gerome Vizmanos
Originally built for noted actors, this Pound Ridge contemporary was reimagined into a family-friendly estate at the water’s edge.
Like an aging Hollywood star, this famous Pound Ridge contemporary hadn’t been in the spotlight for some time. It was in need of a facelift but still had a je ne sais quoi that made it an A-lister.
In this case, that is more than just a metaphor, as the property was built in 1971 for legendary actors Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn. Located on a private lake, a young family was quick to notice the estate’s “It” factor when searching for a weekend getaway from Manhattan (having ended up as more than that in light of the pandemic). Purchasing the house was a leap of faith, as it was in desperate need of repair, but the homeowners put their trust in North Salem’s Mackin Architects, PLLC, to bring it up to today’s standards.
Principal Ralph Mackin was thrilled to have the task, as the project’s uniqueness made it an architect’s dream. “It sits on a peninsula,” Mackin explains. “With today’s rules and wetland setbacks, it would be very difficult to build.”
To get around those modern restrictions, Mackin was committed to improving the home within its existing footprint. He was charged with transforming the home (originally built as a cool retreat for the two actors) into a functional family home. “The new homeowners wanted to really experience their surroundings and connect with the outdoors but in a way that worked for a family,” he says.
Originally, there was no view of the lake from the front of the house, very few windows, and a floor plan that was disjointed into two separate wings. To access the home, one must walk across a long footbridge. To highlight the spectacular vista, Mackin swapped old, heavy, wooden-plank railings for posts with a wire-rail system, offering a seamless integration with nature: “We tried to make the railings almost disappear,” he says. They raised the entry foyer of the home and added plenty of windows. Now, when you walk toward the house, you can see right through to the lake beyond.
“Many people would say, ‘You should start over,’” Mackin opines. “We looked at what we had to work with and gave it an entire overhaul, mostly within the original footprint,” in collaboration with builders The Shanahan Group, LLC.
Mackin made one of the interior wings the bedroom wing, forming a primary suite, two bedrooms, and a bathroom. He opened up the space with glass and exterior balconies so that residents could experience the water from every angle. In the other wing, which includes the main living area, an awkward addition and loft made the ceilings very low and blocked natural light. Since the homeowners didn’t plan on using the loft, Mackin removed it, which opened up the room to the high ceilings. “Now, in the morning, as the sun rises on the horizon, daylight floods the family room and kitchen,” he says. “At the end of the day, it streams across the lake and into the house, causing reflections on the ceiling.” Two additional rooms in this wing were turned into studies: light-filled spaces that overlook the lake, which the homeowners used to great effect during the pandemic.
The exterior of the home was recast as well. The team rebuilt the garage and rec room and created a bridge and elevator to connect the space to the main structure. They also built new decks and a fresh boat launch/dock and renovated the existing pool with the help of Benedek & Ticehurst Landscape Architects & Site Planners, PC.
All the while, they were sensitive to the project’s location at the water’s edge, using only natural materials, like cedar, stone, and copper. Inside, fireplaces were rebuilt in stone to mirror the rock ledge outside. On the ceilings, beams and boards create an exposed structure. In the primary bathroom, textured shiplap siding was stained to complement the trees outside the large picture window.
While the house is contemporary, these touches of nature create an aesthetic that is softer and more welcoming for family life. Interior designer Carrie Parker (of her eponymous Rye firm) picked up on the architectural details to create a look that was in line with the modern structure, as well as its natural setting. “The home is grand, with its high ceilings and big open spaces, but I wanted to make sure it was still comfortable, warm, and cozy,” she explains. “The client wanted spaces that spoke to the heritage of the house, but they needed to live in it comfortably.”
Parker enlisted performance fabrics throughout to ward off spills, as well as the sun’s UV light flooding into the space every day. She used the colors in the stone fireplace as a jumping-off point for textiles and sourced furniture from Design Within Reach and Roche Bobois (among other brands) that was hardworking, stylish, and comfortable. Durable construction and soft edges work for entertaining both adults and children.
Like Mackin, Parker made sure to keep the scenery center stage. In the home offices, she sourced midcentury-modern-inspired furniture that was light, so as not to obstruct the view. And since the architect created high, open ceilings, Parker had the opportunity to have fun with lighting. “I was looking for fixtures that could be dramatic and take up space in these big rooms without blocking the view,” she explains. “In the foyer, I wanted something that was modern but really glowed from the outside and in every direction as you enter that central space.” A large, glass-bubble chandelier from Arteriors fit the bill perfectly.
“Carrie really saw what we were trying to do — keep it light,” Mackin offers. “The midcentury-themed furniture really seems to float, and it takes the house to another level.”
With their new child, these clients are now using the home just as Mackin intended; it has something for every member of the family. An avid photographer, the husband is constantly snapping photos of the view as it transitions through the seasons, from orange leaves overlooking the water in the fall to an unobstructed perspective of the frozen lake in winter. “At night, with the fireplace lit, there’s a beautiful view of the moon in the two-story window,” he notes. “The clients love this house and love their town.”