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October 2009


Deeds & Don'ts
By Lily Oliver


WELCOME TO WESTERLEIGH (click photo for larger view)

When shopping at Bungalow, the chic home-furnishings boutique in Westport, we're always tempted to sink into a charmingly distressed-leather English club chair and never leave. Life lived at Bungalow would mean putting our feet up on a Moroccan pouf, snuggling up in an Hermès cashmere throw, switching on a French Deco lamp, and reading only those books published by Assouline. Heaven, in other words.

BEACH BEAUTY (click photo for larger view)

Gracious though she is, Bungalow's proprietor, Wende Cohen, has never seemed willing to let us actually live in her store. So we were thrilled to learn that she's now offering us something even better: the home she spent five years building on a private island called Compo Mill Cove that's off the coast of Westport and accessible via an (also) charmingly distressed pedestrian footbridge, all cars left on the mainland in their assigned spots, thank you very much. While Bungalow lives on, Cohen has decamped to Aspen and is selling the glorious, weathered-shingle newly constructed home she calls Sandbar, completely furnished, from sisal to ceiling. And what furnishings they are! The dining table in the great room, for instance, is made from a piece of slate that was salvaged from an English water tower, whose patina is derived from 200 years of water running over it. The great room also features random-width salvaged floorboards, glossy coffered ceilings and a gorgeous hearth topped by a mirrored surface that hides a flat-screen television. (More amazing still: all of the building materials, furniture and fixtures had to be brought in by barge to this vehicle-free island.) Among the five bedrooms is the enormous master suite that comprises the entire backside of the home on its second floor, with awesome Turner-seascape-worthy vistas of the Sound through the walls of windows and from the private balcony. Indeed, the entire 4,500-square-foot home is infused with the sights and sensations of living with a sea on one side and a quaint cove on the other: it has a seagrass buffer between lawn and sand, a barefoot-friendly walk to the beach and a screen porch with a hearth. Like we said: heaven. Billy Nistico of William Raveis Exceptional Properties in Westport has the $9.9 million listing, (203) 682-0897.

Sandbar represents what high-end shoppers are looking for as they browse and buy (with more browsing than buying, it must be said) their way around the Autumn '09 market. "Buyers don't want to take on a project or a punch list. They don't want to settle. They want turn key," says Nistico. With "turn key" as our watchword this month, we've pulled together a list of homes that we think qualify—across Connecticut and in Westchester County, as well.

ARTS & CRAFTS TIME (click photo for larger view)


You really can't go wrong on Sasco Hill in Fairfield. The gracious, curved road winds down to a public beach, passing along the way the decidedly not-public Country Club of Fairfield and its waterfront, windswept links-style golf course, which reviewers call "tricky" and "intimidating" (no worries, though; if you're not a member you will never, ever play here). The 11,100-square-foot Arts & Crafts manse at 210 Sasco Hill is typical of the grand homes in the 'hood: tasteful, expensive and built for privacy and to take in views of the Sound. What this one has over its neighbors is a larger-than-average lot—at 2.38 acres—terraced gardens, an Infinity pool and 330 feet of private waterfront, including a deep-water dock. Not to sound like an infomercial (this is, after all, a $9,395,000 purchase) but that's not all: the interiors offer seven bedrooms and nine full bathrooms. Melanie Smith at Prudential CT Real Estate in Southport has the listing, (203) 319-3403.

The Westport home that Martha Stewart (we covered it in this column when it was on the block) sold a couple of years ago was an immaculately restored antique. But new owners Chuck and Casey Berg found something to improve upon anyway—and have won a Westport Historic District Commission 2009 Preservation Award for their efforts. Because Stewart lived alone in the circa-1820 home, the living spaces were intimate, formal and altogether unsuited for people who drink apple juice out of sippy cups. The commission commended the Bergs "for enlarging this outstanding Greek Revival house in a sensitive and appropriate manner… The unobtrusive addition, which is at the rear of the house, does not detract from the original historic structure."


This Shingle-style estate was built to look as if it has graced its 12-acre Litchfield County property for a century or so. But because the paint is still drying on the newly constructed home, it features all the details that today's buyers love. Case in point: the front-to-back views from the entry hall. While older homes tend to have closed-off foyers (built for warmth, not style), today's buyers like a clear view from the front door through windows on the opposite side of the house. This is especially true if the vista is over water or, in the case of this listing, onto mountaintops. Buyers also love staircases that don't look as if they were ordered directly from a big-box lumber store, and this home doesn't disappoint. More cool details: there's a huge covered porch with a fireplace; beamed and barrel-vaulted ceilings; and among the four bedrooms, a luxe first-floor master suite. There's also a cute guest cottage on the property with three additional bedrooms. Maureen Burmann of Sotheby's International Realty in Washington Depot has the $5,795,000 listing, (860) 868-6919.

HIGH SOCIETY (click photo for larger view)


Welcome to The Power of Positive Thinking. That bestseller—and the publishing empire it spawned—made this 225-acre estate possible for the now-deceased Norman Vincent Peale and his wife, Ruth, who continued to live in Pawling until she died at the age of 101 last year. The Hill Farm, as it's called, includes a white-clapboard circa-1830 Colonial, renovated and expanded to 6,600 square feet, with seven bedrooms and six bathrooms. The real draw is the estate's setting, with its impressive allée of trees along its private drive, its sweeping, pastoral views and a compound of outbuildings including classic-red antique barns, a guest house, a carriage house and a caretaker's house, as well as a pool and pool house. It's listed with Robert Morini of Houlihan Lawrence offices in Brewster and Millbrook, (845) 279-6800.

LUXE LIFE (click photo for larger view)


Who can resist an English-style manor home that calls itself Society Hill? Equally irresistible are the outbuildings that grace the estate's 11 acres, starting with the circa-1693 stone farmhouse, called the Odell Tavern, that was converted into a watering hole in 1743. The property also offers a barn and a carriage house, including stables and a paddock. Indeed, the main house itself is something of a latecomer to the property, built in 1936 and styled to resemble a genteel country manse. In all, the 12,000-square-foot home has 23 rooms, including eight bedrooms and six full bathrooms (three half bathrooms). It's listed with Dalia Valdes of Sotheby's International Realty in Chappaqua, (914) 238-5843.

THINK POSITIVE! (click photo for larger view)


We're a sucker for anything built by McKim, Mead & White, the architects who designed the first Pennsylvania Station, the Harvard Club and numerous Newport "cottages." Stanford White gets credit for the circa-1907 house called Westerleigh, one of the best examples of Gilded Age grandeur, from mahogany floorboards to ornate moldings. The 21,000-square-foot home has seven bedrooms and seven bathrooms and sits on a nearly eight-acre property. It's offered by Joan Pine of Houlihan Lawrence in Rye, (914) 967-7680, ext. 324.