Castles and Cottages: Design Advice from the Pros

Two home-design dilemmas call for advice from the pros. Not only will the solutions get your own creative juices flowing, they reveal interesting ways to preserve memories with purpose and panache and to extend a home’s makeover to its exterior.

Photos by David Bravo

Creating a New Home While Staying in Place


Typically, a home’s makeover focuses on its interior, often leaving the exterior, including the surrounding grounds, still begging for attention. In this collaborative effort, the exterior of an aging 1961 Colonial was transformed, receiving not only a new look but improved indoor/outdoor flow and greater curb appeal. The result is a new home—without the hassles of moving.
“It was an older home with multiple terraces and different, disconnected levels in the rear,” says South Salem-based architect Gail L. Ascher, who participated in the project as part of a collaborative team that also included project coordinator/interior designer Zora Lanzone, landscape architect Nancy Offenbach Spaulding, and landscape contractor Freddy Miraballes. “We needed to combine and unite the exterior rear grounds and better integrate the pool with the house.”
Ascher attributes the success of the project to the four-pronged collaborative effort. “We could bounce ideas off of each other,” she says. “The collaboration was definitely helpful,” Lanzone adds. “We were able to complete the project faster.”

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(2) Before

(3) After

Three-Phase Facelift

The new and improved exterior was completed in three phases.

Phase One: The redesign’s initial focus helped connect the house with the pool area. “There were too many continuous, steep steps, which also became a safety issue,” Spaulding says [2]. “The bluestone around the pool also had become worn and uneven.” Thus, [3] she says, “we created a new pool surround with Venetian granite and Indiana limestone coping.” In addition, Ascher explains, “We consolidated the number of steps and levels and combined the side and rear terrace to create a new rear circular stone terrace with circular stairs.”

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(4) Before

(4) After

Phase Two: Updating the home’s entrance included replacing the basic wood entrance gate with a more formal and elegant wrought-iron gate, incorporating plantings and screening trees for enhanced privacy, adding a front portico accented with decorative iron railings flanked by evergreens, and enlarging and redesigning the circular driveway, taking it from asphalt to a combination of Unilock pavers and Belgian block stones. “We created more of a courtyard space that also added more parking and gave the property a more elegant, stately look,” Spaulding explains [1].

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Phase Three: For the final transformation, the dated siding and shutters were removed [4] and the white brick exterior was completely covered in an exterior insulation and finishing system (EIFS), a synthetic stucco that offered the added benefit of foam insulation and a consistent look. The once-painted brick exterior took on a sophisticated Mediterranean style with elegant detailing.
Final result: Thanks to an overhauled site plan, modified grading to address the property’s original multiple levels, and a European-inspired makeover, a dated Colonial became a European-style estate complete with lushly landscaped grounds, and a seamless integrated flow.

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