A Hamptons House In Chappaqua
A pool, a pond view, a play of light—
this family-friendly home invites the outdoors in.
photography by Alec Marshall
The three-season pool room has a bluestone floor, waterproof sky-blue and celadon upholstery, and stunning views of the pool and pond.
It’s a reasonable question: why must I enjoy certain comforts of living only while on vacation? Why can’t I, for instance, take an outdoor shower at home in the suburbs, too?
One Chappaqua house proves that, indeed, you can be showered by water—and stars—miles from the beach. And as fall nips in, you really can warm yourself by a stone fireplace and, with merely a screen separating you from the crisp air, gaze out to a pool or down to a pond while munching on s’mores, no mountain retreat required.
Hand-glazed tiles on the kitchen backsplash in ochre, crimson, and lapis match the bar stools.
An active family of five—Dad’s the CEO of a billion-dollar marketing company, Mom manages their three kids, ages 7 to 10 years old—has brought the holiday experience home to Westchester, transforming a more typical colonial into something that would look at home in the Hamptons, complete with gray clapboard and white trim—not to mention two-and-a-half acres of wide terraces and sculptured grounds.
The double-height family room offers comfortable furnishings, serene colors, and inviting textures.
Take the addition that’s known as the pool room: a three-season space that juts out from the main house like an arm hugging the landscape. The bluestone floor smoothly segues into the same bluestone that surrounds the nearby pool. The architect Kenneth Gruskin, whose firm (Gruskin Architecture + Design in Springfield, New Jersey) began working on the house in 2000, explains that the floor is at grade, so “there’s almost no barrier between the sensibility of being inside and outside,” except for those screens, which get replaced with windows during parka weather.
This home office isn’t just for dad—there’s a large screen TV, kitchenette, and window seat, perfect for looking out on the lovely landscaping.
Here, the line between inside and outside blurs in other ways, from the stone-colored wicker and McGuire rattan furniture to the sky-blue and celadon upholstery (it’s waterproof canvas, of course, to accommodate those still wet from the pool). The ceiling is painted a high-gloss celadon, almost like lacquer; as the pool water shimmers, so does the room. “It’s a little play of light,” bouncing between the two surfaces, liquid and solid, says interior designer Peter Robbin of L.C.R., an office and retail shop
design company with offices in Westport and West Hartford, Connecticut. (Up a black steel spiral staircase, on a terrace off the master suite, stands the aforementioned outdoor shower, housed in matte white wood.)
The backyard was designed to be kid friendly with a pool and playset (just out of view); waterfalls, bridges, and winding stone paths create intimate spaces on a large property.
Purchased new in 1992, the house has grown in stages along with the family, from 7,400 square feet to almost 9,400. Ten years ago, when Mom stopped working to become a stay-at-home mother, the family realized the house wasn’t conducive to children. So they expanded the kitchen, adding an eating alcove that reaches into the backyard, paralleling the pool house. Even the kitchen furniture and finishings reflect the family’s sense of fun, from the hand-glazed backsplash tiled in ochre, crimson, and lapis to the matching bar stools.
“I don’t think there’s any part of the house that says, ‘Beautiful, but look, don’t touch,’” Robbin says. The double-height, kid-friendly family room features a pair of comfortable, old beat-up leather chairs parked by the fireplace and another duo of wood-framed French chairs upholstered in tapestry. (On a recent visit, the latter pair cradled a collection of dolls lined up with plush dogs and cats.) Warm beige and moss green chenille tattersall plaid covers the sofa. The feeling is colorful and textural, says Robbin.
“It’s not silk and satin. It says, ‘Pet me!’” A large lacquered linen coffee table boasts bowed legs. “Kids can sit on it,” Robbin says. “You can put your feet on it.”
Even the living room is wholly hands (if not feet) on. “One often doesn’t think of a fancy, beautiful living room as being a place where you spend a lot of time with your kids,” Robbin says. But this living room is more like an old-fashioned parlor, where the parents watch the kids practice piano and the whole clan regularly gathers around a spacious table for a game of Monopoly. (They’ll keep the board out and return to playing, even after a week.)
Upstairs, instead of carving out an office just for Dad, Robbin, and Gruskin created a second-floor combination family room and kitchen, complete with desk, large-screen TV, fireplace, refrigerator, dishwasher, sink, and window seat. Tucked among the treetops, it has a rustic, airy, cabin feeling, with wooden beams spanning the cathedral ceiling. A 36-inch convex mirror, the type that typically helps proprietors mind their stores, is mounted on a wall; a glimpse within reveals the entire space. “It’s a clever little thing,” Robbin says.
Just below, Gruskin turned the heavily trafficked garage-door side entrance into something more inviting, adding a portico to mirror the colonnade above the formal front door and, inside, a windowed, gallery-like foyer-cum-mudroom. “The sense of arrival is so important because it sets up everything,” says Gruskin, particularly the views
The grounds feature rows of flower beds (protected by a deer fence)—from purple hydrangeas to pink New Guinea impatiens to dwarf red salvias—that share space with stone-lined trails and a tree-nestled fort. This is evidence that “you can have gorgeous grounds and still be appealing to kids,” says landscape designer Jan Johnsen, whose company, Bedford Hills-based Johnsen Landscapes & Pools, sculpted this Chappaqua estate—and the Clintons’.
Here the children toss horseshoes on the horseshoe court, snip parade tulips, which decorate the house with the resulting bouquets, and catch frogs in the rock-bed creek and pond. For grown-ups, there’s sculpture to admire, those hewn both by human art, such as a hilltop hawk and Buddha, and by nature’s art—specimens of Hinoki cypress, Japanese maple, weeping white pine, weeping blue atlas cedar and, standing sentry in the front yard, a weeping Norway spruce shaped like an oil derrick, all erected and planted by Johnsen.
“I try very hard to make something look like it’s always been there,” Johnsen says. “If I’ve been successful, it doesn’t look contrived.”
She worked with, as opposed to fought against, the yard’s natural slope. “People see a hillside as the greatest liability. We’ve taken the greatest liability and made it the greatest asset,” Johnsen says. By cutting circuitous trails throughout, “you don’t feel the steepness, and the property feels much bigger than it is.”
But almost as important as the paths and the plantings, says Johnsen, is the landscape lighting. “Many people don’t get to see their property except in the evening when they come home,” she says. Thus, dramatic, artfully arranged downlighting and uplighting—“that’s the show.”
Another part of the performance is the goings-on down by the pond, which is actually owned by the neighbors (who have become good friends of the family). Upholding the “love thy neighbor” adage, Johnsen’s clients had a fountain installed, to help keep it clean and algae-free. Not only are its benefits visual, they’re audible. When it’s quiet and off, the family knows winter is coming. When it’s gurgling and on, spring is here—which means outdoor shower season must be fast approaching.
Julia Lange is a freelancer who lives in Manhattan. She regularly writes about style and design.