Home Tudoring

Home tudoring


A Chappaqua Tudor’s ingenious design suits homeowners who receive frequent guests yet are protective of their privacy.

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By H. M. Epstein   Photography by Alec Marshall


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Homeowner, philanthropist, and accomplished cook Agnes Hassell has the confidence to do things her own way. “I don’t cater,” she says.

She means it—literally. Guests at the frequent formal sit-down dinners she hosts each year for banking executive husband Gerald’s clients and employees, as well as holiday parties and buffets she holds for friends and family, are always treated to her home-cooked meals. “I love to cook,” she says. “I even do all of the cooking for our annual New Year’s Eve party”—an impressive feat considering the guest list tops 100.


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Agnes Hassell takes a moment of repose in her busy kitchen.

Although the Hassells value their privacy, they open their hearts and their 8,600-square-foot Chappaqua home to numerous charities. The couple has hosted fundraising events for various nonprofit organizations. They’re two of the five co-founders of the Mount Kisco-based social-service organization, Neighbors Link, which was established to meet the needs of 3,000 Latino immigrants—26 percent of the town’s total population. Agnes hosts regular planning meetings for Friends of Neighbors Link, beginning each session with a cooking class. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Leake & Watts Services, a social-services agency for poor children and families in the Greater New York area.



Each room leads to another in a continuous circulation pattern: the sun-drenched family room is sandwiched by the sunroom and kitchen. Architect Ken Andersen says of his clients, “They wanted a meandering house with no dead ends.”

When it came to building their stone-and-brick Tudor-style home in 2001, this yin and yang pull between regular entertaining and a need for privacy led to an interesting “butterfly layout” by architect Ken Andersen of R. S. Granoff Architects, P.C., in Greenwich, Connecticut. The entrance and kitchen set in the center of the house is surrounded by four asymmetrical wings. The public wings encourage a natural circulation pattern from entrance to living room, sunroom, family room, dining room, and kitchen—where, of course, most guests tend to congregate. Fortunately for the Hassells’ guests, every inch of their 20-by-20-foot kitchen was designed to accommodate hungry hordes, from the 60-inch Viking range with its custom-designed hood to the worry-free Black Absolute granite counters.



Actually, this is the second kitchen designed for the couple by John Leontiou of Form, Ltd., a kitchen-and-bath design firm in Greenwich, Connecticut. Agnes liked her first one so much that when the new home was built in Chappaqua, she chose the same style and materials once again, this time with two notable additions. The first, a classic 6-by-15-foot butler’s pantry with soapstone counters, a farmer’s sink, a second refrigerator, and two freezers, has plenty of open display for easily finding the right serving bowl or platter. The second modification was ensuring there were enough cabinets to house enough kitchen gear to outfit a small restaurant.



“Agnes has far too many kitchen gadgets,” Andersen quips. Born in the Philippines, the lady of the house is renowned for a wide range of Asian and Southeast Asian dishes. “She’s an excellent chef,” says Andersen, who recently won a silent auction for a formal dinner party prepared by Agnes to benefit the Friends of Neighbors Link (FNL), Neighbors Link’s fundraising arm.



A large Palladian window maximizes the natural light in the living room. The tray ceiling’s pattern is echoed in the paneling along the walls. To accommodate some favorite furniture in the Hassells’ new home, architect Ken Andersen created rooms that matched the old home’s proportions, only larger.

The Hassells’ house, with its five bedrooms and six bathrooms (plus three powder rooms), features several unexpected elements. “Tudors traditionally have a stately type of architecture,” Andersen says. The Hassells preferred a stone-and-brick exterior to the stucco that is the hallmark of the Tudorbethan style, also known as Mock Tudor, which is popular in much of Southern Westchester. Also unexpected on Tudor homes of any era: one wing of the house is anchored by a charming stone porte-cochère (a passageway where guests can exit their cars protected from the weather). Two massive stone chimneys, long-established Tudor architectural features, root two wings. A three-car garage with rooms above anchors the fourth wing.

While the butterfly layout defines the footprint, semi-circles, repeated throughout the house and gardens, offer a distinctive design approach. The arch of the porte-cochère is echoed in the entranceway and in the archways that flow into and out of the living room and again in its untraditional but welcome wall-to-wall arched window. Curved patios and trellises, ridged with gardens that camber between each pair of wings, are a distinctive design element of the grounds—designed by landscape architect Robert Brehm, also of R. S. Granoff Architects, P.C., and executed by landscaper Anthony Guillaro of Phoenix Industries in Bedford—unseen by neighbors and passersby.



 “We needed lots of nooks and crannies to showcase all of the gifts we’ve bought for one another and received from friends,” Agnes Hassell says. The “ball of happiness” on the lower shelf, a gift from Gerald for his wife, consists of several freely spinning balls within balls all intricately carved from one piece of jade. The little plaster Buddha statue is a memento from a former Ossining neighbor.

Another motive for the butterfly-shaped floor plan was to site the structure so the homeowners could both save and savor a very special century-plus-old tree, a copper beech with a canopy 80 feet in diameter. “It was like another kid,” says Agnes, a mother of two grown children. The architect set the curved wall of windows in the sunroom and the curved edge of the master bedroom balcony to allow remarkable views of the majestic beech.

To make full use of the property’s natural light, the Hassells requested another feature uncommon in most Tudors: large windows, and lots of them. The gardens on the 13-acre double lot “embrace this house,” says Agnes, creating a natural screen so window treatments could be avoided in public spaces. The result is that every room becomes a gateway to lush gardens and green groves. The home’s integration of nature continues on the second floor, beyond the game room’s French doors, with a covered outdoor space that sits among the trees, akin to the famous Treetops Hotel in Aberdare National Park, Kenya.



The couple’s favorite space is a pie-slice-shaped sunroom with a wide curved wall of windows. The brick wall in the background provides ample “gallery” space for pieces from Gerald’s collection of black-and-white photographs and antique tools.

Formal outside, informal inside, this Tudor is never fussy or stiff. “We wanted it homey with a country feel and with nothing shiny,” Agnes says. The interior design’s clean lines and crisp colors reflect the homeowners’ no-nonsense personal style. The couple didn’t hire an interior designer because the result “wouldn’t be us,” she says. Much of the furniture comes from their previous home, a 19th-century Tudor in Ossining. The rest, including Gerald’s extensive collections of black-and-white photography and Early American tools, were found on buying trips to flea markets and antiques shops. “We love to look together,” Agnes says.



A small display of Early American tools and implements collected by banking executive Gerald Hassell.

H.M. Epstein is a frequent contributor to Westchester Magazine and to Westchester Magazine’s Home & Garden. She writes about architecture, beauty, child- rearing, and design. You can find her parenting humor blog at http://mamatrauma.blogspot.com.




Agnes and Gerald Hassell chose a stone-and-brick exterior for their Tudor-style home in Chappaqua, built in 2002 by Paul Guillaro of Unicorn Contracting, Inc., of Garrison; the 8,600-square-foot home features two massive stone chimneys and classic Tudor architectural features.




The balcony off the master bedroom provides a bird’s-eye view of an old copper beech. Saving the tree was one of the homeowners’ mandates; its position helped dictate the house’s design.



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