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June 2007


FEATURES

Rescue at Sea
By Diane di Costanzo

A DESIGNING COUPLE BREATHES NEW LIFE INTO A NEGLECTED COASTAL COTTAGE

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When Marisa Bistany and Tristram Perkins first saw the coastal cottage they would one day call home, it had been languishing on the market for a year—an oddity in Rowayton, where beach bungalows and seaside manses of all kinds are highly prized. They walked in, then they walked out. "We said to each other, 'Who would ever buy that place?'" Bistany recalls.

It's not that the couple objected to taking on a project. As a senior designer for a prestigious interiors firm, Bistany has the skill, the eye and the connections to do it right—and she's not above dipping into the odd dumpster to rescue discarded drapery fabric. "I try to be eco-conscious," she says. "I try to find new uses for old things. People tease me about having a big bag of recycling with me at all times." Perkins' mother owned an antiques business so he, too, has a penchant for finding diamonds in the rough.

In this case, the diamond itself was rough, if not downright repellant. The victim of several slapped-on additions, the house had a decrepit galley-style kitchen and some peculiar decorating choices: the brick fireplace surround was painted bright pink, for example. But the place had qualities the couple couldn't walk away from: it was large, had water views and sat on a lovely street. So they made an offer—low but fair, given the amount of work they would have to put into it.

They took possession of their new home in the spring of 2005. By September the two main floors were gutted, confining the couple to a third-story bedroom—a cool, garret-type space but cramped, given that it was also home to their beloved beagle mix and a couple of cats.

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