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August 2008


REAL ESTATE

Deeds & Don'ts
by Lily Oliver

INSIDE STORIES BEHIND AREA REAL ESTATE DEALS

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Celebrity (sort of) Listings

This month ushers in our state's silly season. Come August 1, Connecticut's characteristically conservative matrons dress up in candy-colored capris while their normally sober-sided spouses sport shorts embroidered with lobsters and Labradors. In the absence of much market activity, real estate talk turns silly, too, with gossip about which bold-face names may or may not be moving in or out of town. Last August, word was that Yankee Alex Rodriguez was shopping for a Connecticut manse (an unfounded rumor that now seems even more unlikely given the Madonna mess). This summer's verified celebrity-linked listings are all in Greenwich and have all been on the market for a while, including Leona Helmsley's Dunellen Hall ($125 million) and Mel Gibson's Old Mill Farm ($39.5 million). The New York Post also reports that Diana Ross has re-listed Quarry Farm, her nine-acre Greenwich estate ($39.5 million), which first popped on the market in 2006 at that same price.

In a recent press release, Drew Barrymore's name was dropped in connection with the stunning penthouse loft atop The Metropolitan in Stamford. A closer read revealed that the condo belonged to the character Barrymore plays in a movie Everybody's Fine, scheduled for release next year. The luxurious nearly 3,400-square-foot condominium was used as a location, in other words. Never mind, we love the sound of the listing's four bedrooms, four bathrooms and private 1,500-square-foot, teak-decked terrace with views over the Long Island Sound. It's among the final two units still available, offered at $1,995,000 (for more information call the sales office at 203-940-3908 or visit themetropolitan 1515summer.com).

Otherwise, our state's version of bold-faced names tends toward the historical—exciting to an archivist maybe but hardly fodder for the tabloids. What these listings lack in star power, they make up for in stateliness however. Take the elegant Lakeville Georgian once home to a grandson of sculptor Frederick Remington. OK, so he wasn't the Brad Pitt of his day, but Andrew Remington still had the panache to own this grand home with commanding views of Lakeville Lake and the rolling lawns of the Hotchkiss school grounds. Reduced to $2,950,000, it's an awesome price for the six-acre property, which includes a 4,400-square-foot main house with four bedrooms and four bathrooms (plus one half-bathroom). There's also a Prairie Style-inspired guesthouse with two additional bedrooms. Andrew Gates of Sotheby's International Realty in Salisbury has the listing (860-435-5924).

The Summer Market: Slow, Steady

It sounds a bit like damning by faint praise, but brokers continue to talk up the-not-totally-moribund market with signs of life that include a few noteworthy sales (noteworthy, perhaps, because they actually did sell) and a trickle of fresh listings. And while the quantity of new offerings is low their quality is impressive-representing, in fact, the best of what the Connecticut market has to offer from backcountry estates to coastal cottages. Here, our favorites homes in the most desirable locations.

Fairfield
Greenfield Hill Antique
$3,875,000

Although you're just a few minutes from the Merritt Parkway, you'd swear you'd just pulled your Citroen up a private road that opens onto a Provencal chateau. There's the courtyard, hand-paved with antique cobblestones. There are 2.5 acres of manicured lawns, a tennis court, formal boxwood gardens and exotic specimen trees, including a Japanese Feather Maple, said to be a gift from the emperor of Japan at the turn of the last century. And that's just a prelude to the circa-1900, 5,000-square-foot main house. If it looks vaguely familiar that may be because Ralph Lauren has used it as a backdrop for photography. At his peril: To our eye, the interiors are dramatic enough to upstage any vicuna blazer, no matter who's wearing it. We're particularly smitten with the Grand Salon, a kind of second-floor living room-more private than the formal rooms below-that features barrel-vaulted ceiling, an enormous fireplace with marble surround and two entire walls of custom-built bookcases with floor-to-ceiling windows on either side. There is also a solarium-style living room with a limestone floor, a massive dining room with an adjoining butler's wing and a modern kitchen with all the requisite appliances from Viking, Bosch and Sub-Zero. And then there are the outbuildings that were once de rigueur for grand homes, including a pool house and a three-bay carriage house with an artist's studio. Al Filippone Associates of William Raveis Real Estate in Fairfield has the listing (203-256-3264).

Greenwich
Near-town estate
$16.9 million

This 13,200-square-foot manse is both formal and family friendly. It boasts both grand rooms for entertaining and housing guests as well as plenty of places to play across its 3.4-acre grounds, which include a pool, pool house and tennis court. Built in 2,000, the Georgian-style home has a total of six bedrooms and seven full (plus three half-bathrooms). Marilynne Stratton of Sotheby's International Realty in Greenwich has the listing (203- 869-9085).

New Canaan
Wisteria Hill
$11.2 million

The numbers look good: 23 rooms are included in this 11,205-square-foot estate on nearly nine acres, which also racks up eight fireplaces, seven bedrooms, six bathrooms and three half-bathrooms. But the real appeal of the circa-1910 Wisteria Hill lies in its old-fashioned charms including grand spaces with high, beamed ceilings, arched entrances, sweeping staircases. Outdoors there are mature and formal gardens, a pool and pool house, a tennis court and a two-bedroom guesthouse with its own kitchen. Wisteria Hill is co-listed with Carol Hollyday and Rita Kirby of William Pitt Sotheby's International Realty in New Canaan (203-966-2633).

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Wilton
Nod Hill Road
$1,495,000

It's hard to find a home that boasts an estate's worth of amenities but at a much smaller footprint. This 4,331-square-foot clapboard colonial has the millwork, beamed-and-vaulted ceilings and luxuriously-appointed kitchen of grander (and much pricier) listings. The three-acre grounds also offer up abundant charms in the form of gardens, a pond, a brook and even a waterfall. In all, it offers four bedrooms and four bathrooms (plus three half-bathrooms). Theresa Blinder of William Raveis in Wilton has the listing (203-858-7947).

Washington
Renovated Barn
$2,955,000

When designer and serial renovator Dennis Kyte first laid eyes on the circa-1900 Litchfield County barn, he re-imagined it as a Manhattan townhouse-a seemingly quixotic vision that makes total sense now that the transformation is complete. Both structures are inherently vertical and tend toward grand and airy high-ceiling spaces on multiple floors. Which is exactly what Kyte has created in this 10-room, four-story, 3,743-square-foot dwelling. An artist, illustrator and former designer for Brunschwig et Fils, Kyte was also inspired by the elegant earthiness of homes in the south of France. His new barn home has cool, limestone floors, deep marble baths and loads of windows that look down onto the 5.5 acres and distant foothills. Additional awesome amenities: an eat-in kitchen with a fireplace, marble counters, Sub-Zero refrigerator and Viking ovens; a main floor master suite (so as to allow separation from the two additional ensuite bedrooms on the floor above) and a top floor gym. A former owner-French, as it happens -had commissioned a high formal garden and that's where Kyte sited the pool and pool house. The co-listing is with Kyte and Seymour Surnow of Sotheby's International Realty in Washington Depot (860-868-6900).

Renovated Carriage House
Rowayton
$1,995,000

This circa-1920 carriage house was completely renovated by its current owners, who also endowed it with its now-mature English gardens, bluestone patio and Brazilian hardwood deck and pergola. Inside, the home offers three bedrooms, two bathrooms (and one half- bathroom). And it takes full advantage of Rowayton's charms with deeded water access to Farm Creek and close proximity to the Rowayton Yacht Club (membership sold separately, of course). It's listed with Christine and Roy Thompson of Prudential Connecticut Realty in Rowayton (203-853-5999).

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What's in Store for Stamford's Lord & Taylor?

Famed architect and industrial designer Raymond Loewy had a three-decade-long partnership with Lord & Taylor. In all, Raymond Loewy/William Snaith designed 12 stores for one of America's first posh retailers-along with its free-flowing, elegant script logo-with the Stamford store as the architects' last project, opening its doors in 1969. Architectural historians praise the clean lines and commanding "citadel-like" siting of the Stamford store. All alone on its 12-acre hilltop lot, the massive, horizontal planes that make up its cantilevered, white-concrete Modernist facade are still pleasing, even after 40 years. And while it still houses a Lord & Taylor store, the building's fate hangs in the balance: the owners, National Realty and Development Corporation (NRDC), would like to demolish it and erect a larger retail complex and two multi-level parking structures.

Sad to say but our state has not acted fast-or effectively-enough to save important Modernist homes. So is it fair to assume that a retail store is even more likely to perish, especially one that's not yet 50 years old? Maybe not. In May, NRDC's application to repurpose the site was withdrawn after pressure was applied by neighbors and land-use board members. More good news: In June, a group of high-powered preservationists-supported by a grass-roots effort and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation-requested of the state's Historical Commission that the store be added to the State Register of Historic Places. That nomination was successful. Will preservationists prevail this time? Stay tuned.

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