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June 2006


FEATURES

Character Building
by Diane Di Costanzo
photographs by Chi Chi Ubiña

A YOUNG FAMILY SELLS A CENTURY-OLD HOUSE AND BRINGS A CRISP, COOL GLAMOUR TO A NEWLY CONSTRUCTED HOME IN GREENWICH

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If you've ever owned an antique house, you will sympathize with the Coen family's dilemma. Yes, one lives in thrall of an old house's historical details, from wide wooden floorboards to hand-carved gingerbread. But there's also the doorknob that falls off in your hand, the windows that haven't opened since a Roosevelt was president and the dim, creepy stone basement. Welcome to life dictated by an endless series of small repairs relieved only by major renovations.

With four young children—now ages five to nine—Lisette Coen couldn't ignore the epiphany when it struck her. "We needed to simplify. We needed workable. We needed easy," she says of the decision to sell their century-old New Canaan home. "We needed new construction."

Coen is still enough of an "old house person" to express surprise at finding herself in a brand-new white clapboard home on a pretty Greenwich street lined with other new homes. ("I feel like I sold my soul," she says.) But when Coen and her husband John first saw the house while it was still under construction, it presented the couple with a best-of-all-worlds opportunity.

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