R5 A Classic Castle

A Classic Castle

 

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(Above) The Bowman Tudor is sheathed in stone quarried in Westchester and still has its original Spanish terracotta roof.

 

The restoration of a 1928 New Rochelle Tudor designed by venerated Westchester architect Lewis Bowman produced a common challenge: how to incorporate the new and remain true to the old.

 

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Even in the tony Wykagyl section of New Rochelle, one house in particular makes pedestrians slow their gait and drivers reduce their speed. One of the last hurrahs by architect Lewis Bowman—a proponent of the Medieval Revival style who left his mark on Bronxville, Pelham, and New Rochelle—the home, with its façade of dazzling stone and Spanish terracotta tile roof, stands majestic among lesser castles along the road.

 

  (Left) The original paneled walls—a Bowman trademark—were restored to their former glory and now provide a handsome background for the couple’s collection of antique French furnishings. The windows are covered in silk draperies by La Regence of New York City.
   
(Right) Stanley’s office features traditional Bowman pine paneling, which was stripped and stained a darker shade. In front of the English desk are an upholstered seat and an antique gout stool, notable for its unique shape.  
   

 

Back in 1996, its current owners, Stanley and Vivian (the couple did not want their last name used), who had lived in New Rochelle for a dozen years, had no interest in leaving town. Leaving their house was an altogether different story. They had been searching for, Vivian says, “something different” from their four-bedroom 1969 Colonial, when they stumbled upon a Tudor designed by Bowman. They weren’t aware of its lofty pedigree, but they knew it was different.

What distinguished the home, built in 1928, was the characteristic thumbprint of the architect: the varied rooflines, pristine stonework, and regal bearing. The architect is also known for his sculptural chimneys—in this house, the chimney has lead-lined copper gutters with their original brackets on the down spouts. The home also has beautifully crafted oak paneling and floor-to-ceiling French doors (in this case, four sets of them), which are other distinguishing features of the architect, as is the two compartment powder room, with its faux marble walls and hand-painted, cistern-style fixtures.

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   (Left) A beautifully inlaid buffet console, c. 1920, functions as a server in the dining room. The 19th-century painting above it is by noted French artist Marc-Laurent Bruyas.
   
 

(Right) In the dining room, a pair of demilune tables, c. 1780, flank one window; 19th-century hand-painted twin mirrors are hung above each table. Interior Designer Gregory Allan Cramer, who designed all the flower arrangements himself, placed silk buds in 19th-century Baccarat vases. Colorful Christopher Hyland drapes in a woven damask trimmed with silk passmenterie hang down to the wood floor.

 

 

 
   

 

Originally built for JCPenney executive L.A. Martin, the 6,500-square-foot Tudor also was home to toy manufacturing executive Bernard Lind and Cincinnati Bengals star Reginald Williams. But, by the time Vivian and Stanley and their four children moved in back in 1997, its interior glory had all but faded.

 

 

(Above) Gregory Allan Cramer used a paint technique on the domed ceiling of the master bathroom after admiring a similar faux-paint technique in a castle in Vienna.

 

Vivian and Stanley (he is an attorney specializing in class-action and corporate-governance litigation) had no experience in bringing such a tour de force back to life, but Gregory Allan Cramer, working a few blocks away for the couple’s friends, had. The New Rochelle-based interior designer had restored and decorated five Bowman homes—three in Bronxville and two in Pelham—and knew of an architect who was a leading authority in Bowman’s work, Minor Bishop, whom he brought to the project. “Bowman was always among my favorites because he had the most imagination, with his huge chimneys and placement of the gables,” Bishop says. “What makes a design interesting is the composition of the elements, and he had a wonderful sense of proportion.” Within 15 minutes of their meeting, says Cramer, Bishop had drawn up plans for four bathrooms.

 

   

(Left) In the daughters’ bathroom,
individually handmade tiles designed by Michelle Griffoul were inset into Ann Sacks tiles to appear as if they were growing down the shower wall.

   
 

(Right) The furniture in daughter Jamie’s room was acquired from different sources, including the former Federation Thrift Shop in New Rochelle, and expertly painted and antiqued to match by DNS finishers in New Rochelle.

 
   

 

Cramer and the homeonwers saw eye-to-eye on nearly everything, particularly on the importance of honoring the home’s original design. “As soon as we were introduced, I knew instantly we would work well together,” he says. Which is a good thing, considering that the designer spent four years and unflagging energy giving the six-bedroom, five-and-a-half bath Bowman beauty a much-needed facelift. His attention to detail was meticulous, from the placement of individually handmade tiles designed by Michelle Griffoul in the daughters’ bathroom and inset in medallions to appear as if they were growing down the shower wall, to using a faux bois technique on the master bedroom’s original door, which had been painted over so many times it was impossible to strip, so that it would match the other doors in the home. “The paint on all the walls was removed to the original plaster surface,” Cramer says. “It was a painstaking job, but I think it shows the level of commitment to restoration as opposed to renovation.”

 

   

(Left) To infuse the kitchen with light, a dark granite countertop was traded in for a pink-and-green, cross-cut, Everglade granite countertop. Radiant heat was installed under the new floor, a mosaic of tiny Chinese marble tiles with mosaic medallions. A Viking stove acquires a vintage look when topped with copper pots. The cabinets are from Canac, a Canadian company. On the counter, monkey teapots, part of the homeowner’s extensive collection of monkey art, accessorize the room.

   
 

(Right) The staircase disappears upstairs to a rounded landing that mimics its curves. The owners replaced the old floor with French limestone tile accented with green marble insets found at Country Floors in Greenwich, Connecticut.

 
   

 

To enhance the French style of the living room, Cramer found a floral Aubusson rug (to match the 17th-century Aubusson pillows) at Renaissance Carpet in New York City. He also purchased antique fireplace tools from George Evans Antiques in New Hope, Pennsylvania, which today stand sentry at the original limestone fireplace (also a classic Bowman feature).

 

The search for those accessories was somewhat akin to a treasure hunt, one in which passports are required. The owners invited Cramer to accompany them to London, New Hope, Dusseldorf, and Dallas to track down the right period pieces. Over the living room sofa hangs an English mirror, circa 1850, that they found at London’s Notting Hill. The room also is home to a collection of antique decorative boxes, including Stanley’s favorite: a 19th-century mother of pearl box with origami dried flowers. All paintings were bought at auction.

 

Some prized pieces, however, didn’t come from far-flung shops, shows, or auctions. Some were consignment-shop finds. In the dining room, for example, stands a grand dining table that seats 12, found at Thomas K. Salese Antiques in Larchmont. “It’s not a fancy antiques shop,” says Cramer. “The pieces come off the boat and often need tons of repairs. But there are some real finds and plenty to sift through.” Cramer had burl inset into the backs of dining chairs found at On Consignment in Bronxville. “I had been looking for a table this size for quite a long time,” he says. “You can take a table that’s totally disastrous and redo it to look new.” Another example of a bargain find is the elegant cream- colored furniture in daughter Jamie’s room, which was acquired from different sources, including a two-drawer nightstand found at the former Federation Thrift Shop in New Rochelle and expertly painted and antiqued to match by DNS finishers in New Rochelle.

 

Cramer, trained as a painter and sculptor, had gained a reputation as a fine decorative painter before opening his design firm, Gregory Allan Cramer & Company, and his store, Gallery 43, both located in New Rochelle. Not surprisingly, faux painting—done by Cramer himself—played a role in the home’s new look.

 

To maintain the integrity of the house, as much original material was salvaged as possible (e.g., the dining room’s wide-planked oak floor, its bronze chandelier, and the exterior lighting fixtures). Daughter Jamie’s closet was refitted with solid doors taken from the attic and resized. The old milk box at the back of the house, where the deliveryman deposited his milk bottles in bygone days, was restored; today, antique milk bottles—a gift from their cabinetmaker, Wallace Shaw of Wilton, Connecticut—are tucked away inside.

 

But as much as the home reflects period style and incorporates antique furniture and object d’art, there are personal pieces that showcase the homeowners’ personalities as well. In the spherical entry hall, a brass monkey sits atop the newel post—part of Vivian’s extensive object d’art collection with monkeys as subjects. Joseph Schippers’s 19th-century painting of a monkey painting a monkey hangs in the living room. In the den, simian sculptures stand watch over a green-washed console built by Wallace Shaw. “I’ve always just liked monkeys,” she says with a shrug. “I’ve been collecting monkey art since I was a little girl.” Add those to her vast collection of antique furniture and accessories, and she and her husband have got plenty to go ape over.

 

 

 

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