R5 Room to Grow

It’s one thing to move a half dozen times in a dozen years. It’s quite another to build or overhaul just about every one of those six homes—and in the utmost of luxurious style, to boot. No doubt, it’s ambitious. But according to one tireless homeowner involved in those efforts, individuals have used other words to describe her get-up-and-go attitude.

“Some people think I’m totally nuts,” admits Christine, sitting in the living room of her latest—and, arguably, greatest—project: a two-year-old, 15,000-square-foot estate in Purchase, which the home- owners affectionately have dubbed Rabbit Run II. Although the house is named for the bunnies that hop along the property, a 1960 edition of the John Updike classic has found a home in her dining room, its preppy green, yellow, and blue striped hardcover a match for the room’s striped walls.

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The Country French Christopher Peacock kitchen features a teak-topped island, marble countertops, a restored antique double sink originally culled from a junkyard, and, to blend in with the creamy cabinets, vanilla-colored twin Viking dishwashers and a six-burner range.

The homeowners with their two daughters and Yellow Labs.

“It makes me happy running around looking for another couch, another painting, and another place to put them in,” admits Christine.

She’d be hard pressed to come up with another “place” as spacious and stylish as the current residence she and her husband, Bo, call home. The cedar-shake Nantucket-style farmhouse, which abuts the third and seventh holes of the golf course at The Country Club of Purchase, is traditionally yet cozily outfitted, with pine paneling in the library, a soothing pastel palette in the living room, and whimsical wall coverings, such as the iron-and-clothespin-printed Jaima Brown wallpaper in the laundry room.

The estate, which has six bedrooms and seven full (and two half) bathrooms, is so expansive and so well appointed that there are rooms designated for just about every function the homeowners could dream of. There’s a playroom for 5-year-old Alexa and 3-year-old Kate, as well as their own arts-and-crafts room (where a wooden potato-and-onion rack provides stylish storage for supplies). Carved into an eave, separate dress-up quarters—complete with a mirrored “window” with a coordinating valance and mini-chandelier—house a trove of fairy-princess costumes in pink tulle and glitter.

Soft beige walls with a handpainted striae finish by Tim Eaton and Elisabeth Gogois of Beaux Arts Studio in Katonah provide the backdrop for George Smith sofas, Manual Canovas window treatments, Stark carpeting, and, the room’s focal point, a limestone fireplace. One pop of deep color: a black Steinway piano.

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One might find Christine nestled into a comfy office nook where she returns correspondence and works on the computer. Or the basement spa room, where she retreats every other Saturday for massages. Or the gift-wrap room—one of her favorites—where dowel rods are draped with colorful tissue paper and shelves stow ribbons and boxes. “I have my Martha Stewart label maker,” laughs Christine, whose tastes run from Scalamandré wall coverings and Manuel Canovas curtains to Waterworks fixtures and Christopher Peacock cabinetry. “I’m organized.”

And although Yellow Labs Taxi and Sprewell (as in Latrell) have plenty of room to roam on the five-acre property, they’ve also got their own bedroom inside. Canine quarters lay claim to a Dutch door, a limestone floor, Pierre Deux window treatments, and a giant Howard Miller clock. The dog-height marble sink allows for easy and elegant lapping, and a double closet holds bones, leashes, towels, and tennis balls-turned-chew toys.

Instead of erecting a basketball net and shooting hoops from the 700-foot driveway, Dad, a portfolio manager for a hedge fund, built a 4,500-square-foot, college-regulation indoor basketball court he can dribble in, sometimes with famous neighbors. About a year ago, former Knicks Coach Isiah Thomas showed up to play with his wife and kids, leaving behind his John Hancock on the padded wall. For workouts between games, there’s a gym off the master suite with its own deck and wooden staircase designed for discreet, early-morning house calls from Bo’s personal trainer.

The couple’s abodes haven’t all been as opulent as the current one. Take Bo’s former Upper West Side bachelor pad, which boasted little more than ketchup packages in the fridge and a navy dot-print sofa.

“I am the secret behind Christine’s design sensibility,” her husband jokes. The couple, both Ukrainian-American, met at a Ukrainian resort in the Catskills when he, a Queens native, was 21 and she, a Howell, New Jersey, girl, was 17. As the story goes, he took a break from playing volleyball, and she, a waitress, served him water. They still vacation there and the gift-wrap room still holds the bag that contained the very first present he gave her back then: a set of three-for-a-dollar votive candles and a plush chick.

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Their house hopscotching didn’t begin in earnest until they moved downtown and rented a large SoHo loft. Christine concedes she “got a little crazy” outfitting the new space in a country scheme, with stained-glass panels and antique watering cans. Next was a shift north in search of land, to a 4,500-square-foot, 1920s Bedford carriage house on four acres, which they gutted down to the barn beams. After nearly three years in residence (half of which was in the midst of construction), the couple sold the house in 2000 completely furnished, soup pots to coffee cups. “She bought my life,” Christine says of the new owner.

Then came the first Rabbit Run, which sat on three acres of Dorann Road in Purchase, by the country club’s 17th hole. The classic Colonial was somebody else’s dream home under construction until the deal fell through. Though it was 80 percent complete, Christine still had the opportunity to incorporate her own personal touches, such as blanketing the living room with 100 yards of green check drapery.

“People ask, ‘How can you possibly enjoy a home for what seems like a week and sell it?’ ” Bo says. “She’s like a little Tasmanian devil. She’s already after the next project when she’s done with something.” In fact, Rabbit Run II is on the market for about $8.4 million; meanwhile, the couple is searching for the right parcel of land to build on.

“She’s got a good eye and she knows what she wants,” says Joshua Katz, owner of Fabu Fabrics in Bedford Hills, who has helped Christine with the curtains, wallpaper, and upholstery for nearly 10 years and stitched together the 36-inch Hermès scarf pillows propped up throughout the house. “She’s got this ability to wander into wacky little fabric stores and find beautiful things.”

For her next venture into valances and vitrines, Christine is envisioning a largely traditional shingle and/or clapboard exterior but with an increase in the amount of glass and, inside, modern decor, “just to mix it up,” she says. “It’s time to get a little crazy.”

A New York-based freelance writer, Julia Lange writes frequently about architecture and interior design.


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