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July 2008


FEATURES

Close Quarters

(Page 2 of 2)

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A wood pergola wraps the tall chimney, which, like on its living-room side, sits squarely between two windows. But the main goal of garden designer Hitch Lyman, out of Trumansburg, N.Y., was to return the yard to the way it might have looked 150 years ago, when local merchant James Jauncey had a small farm there. Jauncey's house is now Rondi and Steve's main house, a six-bedroom, circa-1840 Greek Revival with stick-style truss-and-shingle flourishes on an upper floor.

To that end, Lyman uprooted spruce, hemlock and hostas, which were remnants of the yard's suburban phase, he says, and planted parsley, garlic and three varieties of lettuce. Adding colorful flecks nearby are irises, daphnes and peonies in well-tended beds. A paved driveway that used to sit flush against the main house was removed in favor of grass. "We decided to go rural rather than urban, to give it a mildly rustic look," Lyman says.

But not all is naturalistic. Right-angled paths frame a 38-foot-long swimming pool, which is edged with rough-hewn, three-inch-thick bluestone slabs, as is the circular whirlpool abutting it; viewed together from above, the two shimmering pools form an apt exclamation point.

The custom-made tool shed, designed to mimic a 16th-century palazzo, also suggests a certain formality, though it has unconventional uses. Next to dustpans and rakes is a rocking chair from Rondi's grandparents' house in Otter Tail Lake, Minn. Rondi, a professional jazz singer, often retreats to the shed to compose lyrics on legal pads. Some of the songs, she says, will make it onto a new CD, her third, which is set to be released in August. The guesthouse, too, plays an uncredited part on the album—hanging in the foyer is a star-shaped lamp that her daughter, Emma, holds on the album's cover.

But it's how the house will be used—Rondi and Steve cite using the space for everything from reading the morning paper, to putting up their nanny, to cooking a Thanksgiving turkey—that may best evoke the spirit of jazz itself: a wonderful stream of recurring, but generally unpredictable themes.

"There's no pretense," says Rondi, as she sits in the library, drafting liner notes. "It's a very living-in-the-moment place."

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