R5 Reincarnation of a House

Reincarnation  OF A HOUSE


An Arts & Crafts-style manse rises in Waccabuc where a modest shingled Cape once stood.

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By Jorge S. Arango • Photographs by Alec Marshall



(Left) The new home, with its cedar siding, varied roofline, and four chimneys, borrows stylistic elements from the Arts & Crafts movement.

(Right) The original home, a 1952 Cape, lacked imagination and style.  


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Frank Lloyd Wright liked to say, “An architect’s most useful tools are an eraser at the drafting board and a wrecking bar at the site.” Though today CAD (Computer-Aided Design) programs have mostly eliminated the need for the former, the latter often comes in handy. Just ask John Sullivan of Sullivan Architecture, PC, in White Plains.


“It was a classic Cape with a couple of dormers,” says Sullivan of the house his clients, Kevin and Karin Boyle, bought on a woody, secluded cul-de-sac in Waccabuc. “We started off doing a renovation but, basically, we took it down to the floor deck.”


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(Above) In her yard, owner Karin Boyle sits on an antiques-shop find: a raspberry-red iron bench that’s an exact reproduction of a bench in the Rose Garden of the White House. A larger version provides a seat in the front of the house.


Luckily, the overhaul didn’t take a lot of convincing. “The integrity wasn’t good,” acknowledges Karin of the old house. The neighborhood had sprung up in the 1950s as a vacation lake community. “The homes were built as summer cottages back then, so the construction just wasn’t great.”


Disassembling a house, of course, is the easy part. Deciding what should replace it is where imagination comes into play. “Kevin didn’t want the ‘McMansion’ look,” says Karin. “And we wanted something that related more to nature.” So Sullivan suggested a structure that borrowed various stylistic ideas from the turn-of-the-century Arts & Crafts movement (an aesthetic from which, by the way, Wright also drew great inspiration). The result is a 7,375-square-foot, cedar-clad home whose references to the Arts & Crafts style are softly updated rather than slavishly imitated, all expertly brought to life by Joseph Riccardi of RCM Construction Management in Armonk.



(Above) Nestled between the kitchen and the family room, the back stairway leads upstairs to the game room and the daughters’ bedrooms. Architect John Sullivan designed the rounded staircase, insisting on the curved landing despite the challenges it presented during its manufacture. The carpeting on the stairs has a Tree of Life motif, commonly used in Arts & Crafts design.


Sullivan decided to keep the basic footprint of the house, even though, he says, “it was peculiarly sited, with the entrance almost right up against the set-back line.” This meant that visitors would park on an aesthetically minor end of the home, barely seeing the façade. The angle at which it had been sited also created “one of my bugaboos,” he says, “which is seeing the garage doors as you pull in.”


  (Left) The rustic arbor alongside the tennis court covers a gravel path that runs from the courts to the pool cabana and weaves through the garden, landscaped by IQ Landscape Architects of Bedford and New York City.
(Right) The Arts & Crafts-style pergola on the pool cabana mimics the one in the front of the house. The reiteration of design elements is apparent throughout the house and property: for example, the door that leads into the cabana’s kitchen uses the same design as the front gate coming on to the property. A gathering place during the warmer months for the Boyle girls and their friends, the freeform pool and spa is surrounded by a granite patio.  


Sullivan remedied the first problem somewhat by designing an L-shaped stone path leading about 40 feet straight out from the front door before making a right-angle turn toward the car park. Now, as visitors round that turn on their way in, they come face to face with the full expanse of the façade, with all its complexly var–ied vertical planes and roof lines, its hipped entry portico, and volumetric expanses of Pennsylvania ashlar. In effect, Sullivan created a sense of entry where there was none.



(Above) Cherrywood cabinets from Rutt and granite countertops from Bilotta Kitchens dresses up the kitchen. “We wanted to make sure we had all the bells and whistles in the kitchen,” Boyle says. “My daughter is a gourmet cook and spends a lot of time here.” Most of the appliances, including the cooktop, ovens, and warming drawer, are from Viking and were purchased at Berger Appliances in Hawthorne. In addition to the Sub-Zero refrigerator, two smaller, undercounter refrigerator drawers make running across the kitchen for ingredients unnecessary. An extra deep Franke sink accommodates pots and pans.


Despite Sullivan’s misgivings about the siting of the house, there’s no question that the land on which the house sits was a great find. The Boyles’ 4.1 acres—an unusually generous lot size these days, even for Northern Westchester—are secluded by thick forest, so even in winter, the closest neighbors are barely visible. There are outdoor tennis courts and a pool, for which Sullivan designed a three-room cabana, complete with kitchen/bar, dressing rooms, and shower. He also bumped out the rear terrace “so it had a more meaningful sitting and entertaining area.” And he added a foyer to provide a more graceful transition from outdoor to indoor space (like a typical Cape-style house, the main stairway had started its ascent just a few feet inside the front door).

For the interior, the architect preserved the house’s basic configuration, just adding onto it here and there (for example, a mudroom on the garage side of the house, a wider main staircase, a game room above the garage, and a substantial kitchen expansion). Karin requested higher ceilings, too, so the standard eight-foot ceiling  was pushed up to nine—even higher upstairs in places where dormers and transom windows necessitated it.



(Left) Karin Boyle fell in love with this chandelier from Fine Art Lamps, but when it was delivered, discovered that it hung too low. The solution: build a dome and install the fixture at a greater height. Boyle wanted lush, sophisticated fabrics, and opted for gold fabric from Pindler & Pindler, using it for drapery made by

Hampton Court

in Ridgefield, Connecticut. The chair next to the fireplace, a piece purchased early during the Boyles’ marriage, was reupholstered with the same fabric. Schweitzer Linens of Egyptian combed cotton and trimmed with a damask silk dress the bed.

(Right) Arts & Crafts wallpaper by Bradbury & Bradbury reproduces traditional patterns and stencil techniques used during the Craftsman era, the last years of the 19th century through the early years of the 20th century. Henredon armchairs from Poor Richard’s in Katonah, purchased when the Boyles were in their previous home, swivel to either look outdoors or engage in conversation. Facing Captain’s chairs are by Hancock & Moore.  


Sullivan offered the Boyles little counsel on decorating except to convince them to use Benjamin Moore historic colors on the walls and most of the wood trim. “They’re nicely muted, not in your face,” he explains. They also have a depth and saturation that makes each room feel warm, especially because the color family toward which Karin gravitates comprises golds and mustards, with some gray-greens thrown in.


As for décor, Karin did everything herself. “The home I built before this one was more Victorian,” she says, “so I carried over some traditional Victorian items.” This might seem antithetical to an Arts & Crafts setting. After all, Arts & Crafts was a movement that sprang from a rejection of all things Victorian. Yet because Sullivan’s version of the style is low-key and contemporized, there is no real clash. The simplified lines of his architecture provide a clean backdrop for more ornate items.





The Mission-style pool table gets a lot of action from the teens in the house (the air-hockey table behind it also gets some play). A built-in media center is the command center for the projector screen facing a Hancock and Moore leather couch. (All other furniture is by Stickley.) At Creative Flooring in Mount Kisco, Karin Boyle designed the area rug, with its acanthus-leaf motif, widely found in Arts & Crafts’ fabrics and carpets.


The most impressive room in the house is the gargantuan kitchen, which Karin says is often ruled by the couple’s 18-year-old daughter, Rosalie, who loves to cook. Boasting a six-burner stove, a double refrigerator at one end, and extra refrigerator drawers at the other, a good-sized breakfast area and counters made of Giallo Dorado granite, it is indeed a gourmet’s nirvana.


Karin also indulged herself when it came to wallpapers and lighting fixtures. The vast majority of the papers and trims are by Bradbury & Bradbury Art Wallpapers, many of them from the company’s Arts & Crafts and Morris Tradition lines of reproductions. These add visual richness to most every room, as do the abundance of chandeliers. There are three in quick succession from foyer to entry hall to stairwell. They vary in style, beginning with a more overtly Arts & Crafts mica-shaded version, progressing to something more ornate, and ending with a consummately Victorian specimen just above the stairs. The grandest one is in the master bedroom and required a bit ingenuity to accommodate. It was so large that it initially hung at shoulder height. Karin was undeterred. “I said, ‘Let’s blow a hole in the ceiling.’ So the builder came up with the idea of raising it up through a dome.”


Karin also loves textiles, so the house is hung with Belgian and French tapestries, many bought on a trip to Paris, as well as ornate window treatments, some designed by Karin, others designed, sewn, and installed by Miguel Vainstein at Hampton Court Designs in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Vainstein’s most luxurious creations are the master suite’s valances and a sculpted corona above the bed, which are covered in gold Pindler & Pindler fabric. Even in a home that embraces a style characterized by simple lines and unadorned beauty, a little luxury is always in order.


Besides, strict adherence to a style is not the point in this house. What obviously holds sway here is livability and comfort. It’s just that sometimes what’s needed to achieve these things are an eraser and a wrecking bar.


Jorge S. Arango is a design writer based in Mohegan Lake.



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