“We’re not show-offy kind of people. We didn’t set out to buy a house this big,” explains the owner of this 20,000-square-foot home set on 15 acres in Garrison. “We just fell in love with it. The oldest part was built in 1895 and it has all the old mouldings and charm of an old house. But it also has the systems of a new house. And the property is great.”

But even after falling in love with the house, which was once known as Pen-Y-Bryn and occupied by a member of the Hecht department store family, the owner, a former lawyer turned stay-at-home mother of two, and her husband, a commercial real estate developer, hesitated. “My husband and I both grew up in apartments,” she says. “We’re used to small and cozy. My biggest concern was, ‘Can we make this feel cozy and use all of the space?’ I didn’t want a house with empty rooms.”

The couple ensured they wouldn’t have empty rooms when they decided to convert two rooms on the second floor into a home theater designed to look like a vintage movie house, with a royal blue-and-gold color scheme, decorative arches and columns, velvet curtains and seating for 20. “It was my husband’s dream to have a movie theater,” says the owner. “Almost every day someone is in there watching something.” Same goes for the roomy basement, which the owners had dug out an additional 8 feet so the husband could install a professional golf game among the jukebox, ping-pong and air hockey tables and video games. “The kids love it down here,” the owner says of her two children, ages 11 and 13.

To make sure the house felt cozy, the owners hired designer Dan Proctor, principal at Kirk Designs, to preside over a complete redecoration of the interior to reflect their eclectic, down-to-earth taste. “We have a large extended family with lots of kids,” says the owner. “I didn’t want the house to be uptight. I wanted everyone to be able to be in every room in the house.”

The owner also wanted to be a true partner in the design process. Since the family was moving from a 3,000-square-foot house, she needed to purchase a lot of new furniture. That meant trips to the design centers in Chicago, Miami and New York City. “It was a blast,” the owner says. “I learned so much.”

Proctor and the owner decided early on that the basic palette for the home would be mostly earthy shades— subdued greens, purples, blues and beiges— with the owners’ art collection providing splashes of color and interest in each room. They also decided that instead of stripping down the woodwork, much of which had been painted white, they would faux-paint it.

In the foyer, for example, the coffered ceiling and intricate moulding was faux-wood-grained to look like pecan then painted with a gilt glaze. The result is woodwork in a warm honey tone a shade darker than the parquet floors. The walls are upholstered in silk damask that contains threads of purple, green and gold, with the gold thread echoing a gilt-framed mirror that is aged to look like an Italian Renaissance piece. The center table can expand to seat six to eight, allowing the foyer to accommodate overflow from the adjacent formal dining room. On the opposite wall is a fireplace with an onyx surround, the same material that tops the custom-made vanity in the nearby powder room, with its hand-block gold wallpaper.

Adjoining the foyer is the sitting room or library, one of the owner’s favorite places in the house. Deep gray-purple walls and built-in bookshelves create a relaxing, bookish feel, with the furniture upholstered in shades of purple, sage and biscuit. Across the hall, in what used to be the formal living room, the owner’s husband has a home office. With its mahogany faux-grained moulding and built-in bookshelves in a traditional style, it has a serious, sophisticated look— what the owner’s husband calls “a grown-up room.”

Originally, the house ended at the rear wall of the foyer, but an earlier set of owners added a sunroom on the first floor and a master bedroom suite above. Since the current owners had decided to make the formal living room the husband’s home office, they in turn converted the sunroom to a formal living room. A window between the foyer and living room remains as an artifact of the home’s original configuration, and Proctor used that to create a niche or transitional space where a grand piano is located. “There’s certainly a beautiful vista as you come in here,” says Proctor. The back of the room is an entire wall of windows that are covered in woven grass shades. “They have a lacy blade-of-grass feeling,” says Proctor. 

The room is furnished in an eclectic mix of styles: Art Deco side chairs, a bone table from Holly Hunt that emulates the Biedermeier style, a classic Niermann Weeks chandelier with wrought iron and crystal beading, Biedermeier chairs upholstered in a purple silk print and a sofa upholstered in beige silk, all set on a custom made rug in purple and cream. As in the rest of the home, art plays a leading role, with a painting by Israeli artist Sevitt Francis displayed above a cabinet. The owner has been collecting art for more than a decade. “My husband gave me my first piece when I was pregnant with our first child,” she says. “I buy what I like— I don’t care who the artists are.”

In the hall leading to the dining room, a series of four pastels by Aleah Koury hangs over a whimsical server from Holly Hunt whose feet are lions’ paws. On the opposite wall hangs a sculpture custom-made by Jennifer Hollack for the spot. In the formal dining room, an original lithograph by Joan Mir— hangs over the fireplace, which has been faux-painted to look like Calcutta gold marble. The walls, which had been paneled originally, were faux-painted in a parchment tonal finish to appear mottled with age. The table, made of mulberry with a tortoiseshell veneer and tulip wood inlay, was custom-made as a round table with leaves that extend it to an oval. “The room couldn’t accommodate as big a table as the owner wanted in a round shape, so we did oval,” says Proctor. He’s particularly fond of the chairs by Therien, which are covered in a sturdy carved chenille.

In the large kitchen, the owners kept the existing cabinets but had them painted white and glazed to give a traditional aged look. They also removed the commercial stove and installed a hood encased in cabinetry and a tile backsplash, and added a Durango limestone countertop. A console on the border between the kitchen and living room houses two flat-screen TVs— one facing the kitchen, one facing the living room.

In the informal dining room, an Irish wake table— where a coffin as well as food would be laid out— is situated in a sunny corner. A custom-made curtain rod fits the curved wall of windows, with curtains that can move in any direction.

The living room ceiling was painted to look like parchment with the strapping faux-wood-grained to define it. A custom-made coffee table made of distressed wood sits between two sofas from Holly Hunt and two lounge chairs from A. Rudin, all of which are set upon a custom-made rug with leather and stud binding. Two “chairs and a half” in front of a fireplace that boasts a travertine noche limestone surround offer a comfy place to lounge.

But perhaps an even better perch is the window seat upholstered in aqua blue in the living room. When the owners moved in, “they had a wooden box window seat. We wanted to create something with movement because it’s very long,” says Proctor. “This is still built-in but we made it to look like a sofa.”

Upstairs in the master bedroom, a sunny room with three walls of windows, the owners wanted to create a true retreat. “She [the owner] really wanted to bring the whole bedroom to one monochromatic color,” says Proctor. “It’s cream and white, ethereal. It’s like heaven.”

The four-poster bed is romantic yet contemporary with its twisted posts and velvet headboard— and an original drypoint etching by Picasso hanging above. A custom-made mirror and fretwork TV lift cabinet stands between two lounge chairs upholstered in a heart leaves fabric.

The owner and her family spend most of their spare time at the house— whether in the game room, movie theater or the elegant yet casual living room. And now that the redecoration is done, the owner’s initial fears have disappeared.

“The house reflects my taste and it is cozy and comfortable,” she says. In the year that the family has lived in the home, they’ve done some large-scale entertaining and plan to host more charity events in the future. “My husband feels that if you buy a house like this,” says the owner, “you have to put it to good use.”


Dan Proctor, Kirk Designs, 410-468-0798

Faux painting
Extreme Faux Finishes, Florida, 561-686-1408, http://www.extremefaux.com

Movie theater
First Impressions Theme Theatres, Florida, 800-305-7545, http://www.cineloungers.com

Madelyn Madden, Renaissance Fine Arts, 410-484-8900

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