Opulent & Comfortable

Opulent & Comfortable

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A French Country Manor Is Born in Chappaqua

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By Susan Slotkis • Photographs by Tim Lee


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How does one go about infusing a rather straightforward 1980s house with the style and opulence of an antique French country manor? In the case of the Finkelsteins, it started with desire. With two young children, Beth and Stuart Finkelstein decided nine years ago to leave their Manhattan digs and move. Still practicing law in midtown, Stuart’s requirement was an easy commute. For him and for Beth, a good school system was also critical to their decision where to move. The Random Farms neighborhood of Chappaqua seemed to fit the bill.


While Beth longed for the charm of old French style, a relatively new house in move-in condition presented itself. Rather than give up the dream, they took the plunge  after a few stops and starts, into transforming the essentially contemporary, drywall-constructed interior into a fashionable, intimate 5,000-square-foot French-style residence. As one approaches the white house with its simple columns and architecture, only the red door gives a hint of what is to come. Upon entry, a world of comfortable elegance comes to greet you.


Six years ago, Beth sought the services of Judy Block, who operates Designer Referrals Service of New York. A match was made. Once interior designer Patricia Bonis’s portfolio was shown to the Finkelsteins, their dream began to emerge. Photos of other interiors completed by Bonis demonstrated her flair with classic, traditional style. The interiors weren’t cookie cutter. Yet, it wasn’t until their first meeting that the deal was sealed. Not unlike matchmaking for romance, the personal connection made between designer and client depends on chemistry, com-munication and trust.


While she had an artistic bent and knew what she wanted, Beth recognized that she needed expert help to realize the dream. Perhaps because they were moving from smaller quarters, Beth was not confident in her own sense of scale of things, which she sensed was too small for the size of the house. Some furnishings had already been purchased, some taken from their first home. Where to begin?


One of the first decisions suggested by Bonis was to create a new interior architecture in the vocabulary of old-world France. Exquisite wall paneling, crown and base molding and ceiling medallions were designed by Bonis and perfectly executed by carpenter Tony Campbell. Bonis’s education in art history at Wellesley and the Sorbonne serves her well in creating authenticity in her designs. And her training at the New York School of Interior Design combined with 23 years of interior design practice certainly account for much of her finely tuned sense of scale and proportion. All was evident in the way she transformed this ordinary interior shell into a delightful treasure trove of details—all integral, none superfluous.


Another important vision Bonis had was to open the dining room to the patio. French doors replace a window providing access to a newly redesigned patio.


Having just met Beth, I sensed that she embodied the feeling of home. Perfectly coifed, she exudes warmth, comfort and graciousness. It did not surprise me to learn that while the home is lovely and to some degree sumptuous, obviously an investment in time and money, this home is lived in. “Opulent yet comfortable, not a museum” is how it’s described.


The first room we see is the living room, is a series of vignettes—a huge antique piano with seating for recitals, a window seat for repose, carved wood bookcases built to house beautiful objets d’art and books, and a splendid conversation area. I hasten to mention that the books were real, the piano had children’s song sheets, and the seating area table had small plates of chocolates and cookies. Nine-year-old Julia is the aspiring performer drawing the crowds to impromptu music recitals, playing the refurbished antique piano. All this is evidence that this is a family home, a home where guests are entertained and have fun!


The dining room continues the soft warm palette, with a combination of antiques and reproduction French country furnishings. The server is from the late 18th century, while the refreshingly mismatched side and armchairs are from Artistic Frame in New York City. The walls appear at first to be tarnished elegant gold damask. In reality, they are a combination of strie faux painting, done by Ziggy Kropff of Lenritt Decorators in Manhattan (who also did the living room faux painting), and wall covering.

Rocky, the family pooch, likes the family room the best. Who can blame him? What attracted me most to this space was the ease with which the formal rooms transition into this cozy space. As an extension of the kitchen, this area embraces the hearth and the comfortable, relaxed furniture done in more rustic materials.


The favorite room for Stuart and Beth is the master bedroom. It’s the place for refuge from an active life. The Finkelsteins brought with them their antique iron bed and their ideas for the rest of this personal area. The color scheme from the common living areas is carried forward. But this is undoubtedly “their space.”


My favorite room is the guest room. Patricia’s treatment of this room successfully creates a clean yet invigorating space, suitable for both male and female guests. Traditional brown and white counteract a strong cornflower blue for the walls. While generally thought of as a contemporary palette à la retro 1970s, Bonis handles these colors in a traditional way by choosing chintz for the fabrics, crisp linens for the bed, and a wonderful set of brown transferware plates.


So, what are the favorite rooms for Julia and her 10-year-old brother Sam? Their rooms, of course. How often do any of us hear the words “no regrets” applied to interior decorating? Yet, that is exactly how Beth describes the process. Fortunately for me, it’s a nice job to be asked to write about the success stories and not the breakups between client and designer.



Susan J. Slotkis, allied member of the American Society of Interior Decorators, is editor of ASID’s NY metro, a quarterly chapter’s newsletter. She is an adjunct instructor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, SUNY in Manhattan. A lover of accessories and details, brown transferware is a favorite of hers.



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