Fire and Ice
An Eclectic Collector Hosts a Holiday Party
Photos by Rana Faure
On a balmy Sunday afternoon in December, Pamela Salvatore is greeting holiday fête guests, while her husband, Paul, is stoking their outdoor pizza oven. Years ago, on a family vacation to Florence, Paul took a cooking class recommended by his friend. Like Paul, his teacher Faith Willinger was a native of White Plains, an ex-pat who relocated to Tuscany and built a reputation for providing gastronomic experiences in her Florentine kitchen. Once she introduced Paul to cooking al forno, he was hooked.
Back home in Bedford, Pamela, an interior designer and horticulture devotee, encouraged his new passion by designing a stone patio, complete with fireplace and stucco pizza oven. From spring to early winter, the couple, who became empty nesters this fall when their son, Luke, left home for college, cook everything from fish to bread in the forno. Paul starts the fire two hours ahead of time, carefully fueling it with fruitwood.
While the Salvatores’ guests head to the patio, Paul’s first round of pizzas are emerging—two tender pies: Kalamata olives, chèvre, asparagus, and pesto on a whole wheat crust for the adventurous palates and Margherita, for the more tame. Pamela, wrapped in a cashmere shawl, joins the cluster around the fireplace bearing a platter of tuna carpaccio in one hand and a bottle of Prosecco in the other. The party is officially underway.
As the pies are inhaled and a winter chill sets in, the Salvatores’ daughter, Colette, who is visiting from Manhattan, and her girlfriends grab steamy mugs of cocoa and head to the tiny house, a two-story cottage set amid Pamela’s extensive, terraced gardens, to warm up. His labor of love complete, Paul moves indoors to change for dinner, and Pamela leads her friends to the kitchen to prepare for the next course. While Frank Sinatra croons in the background, Liz Taggart, proprietor of Amba Farms, quickly unloads baskets full of organic produce, while Vanessa Smith and Tania Edwards help her craft a bountiful salad.
The ringing of the doorbell heralds the arrival of more guests. Paul welcomes the newcomers to the library, a room that for nearly a century has housed more than its share of family and friends. “The library was a circa 1920s Sears Kit Home,” explains Pamela, as she distributes flutes of the Italian bubbly. “Eventually, a subsequent owner built wings on either side to accommodate his growing family. By the time we bought the house in 2001, it was shaped like an ‘H’ with the Kit Home as the cross bar.” Now stocked with her collection of art, architecture, and gardening books and glass cloches filled with bits and pieces of nature—plus seasonal additions like antique glass ornaments tucked into evergreen boughs—the room feels a bit like a hybrid of a high-end curiosity shop and an English gentleman’s club.
Throughout the sprawling house, there are layers of detail that, like a scrapbook, reveal years of travel, family lore, and precious gifts—a handwritten menu tucked inside a china cabinet, a collection of seashells in a glass box, heart-shaped notes tacked to a bulletin board, and framed photographs nestled here and there. “Pamela is not just a collector of things but of people, too,” says Smith, a documentary filmmaker who met Pamela through their children’s school, Rippowam Cisqua. “She brings together people who are giving and loving and are doing interesting things in the world.”
Leading her guests toward the solarium—a great room the Salvatores added in recent years, Pamela explains how, with the help of their contractors, Gerhardt Isop and RC Torre Construction, she and Paul transformed the house to serve their family’s needs. “I love a cool, clean Scandinavian look, so when we first bought the house, we whitewashed the trim, added crown moldings, and painted the walls light colors. I took cues from the arched doorways that were already here and added more. With an H-shaped house you get two courtyards, so to open the interior to the outdoors, I added a lot of French doors.”
The solarium is Pamela’s favorite place in the house—“the kids call it my command post,” she says with a laugh. Each Christmas, she hangs her collection of Waterford and Swarovski crystal ornaments from sconces where they capture and reflect the afternoon sunlight. With its cathedral ceiling, topped with clerestory windows and a roof lantern, it is the perfect place for a series of fireside holiday toasts to friendship, family, and a fine feast that awaits next door.
The adjacent dining room doubles as a winter greenhouse thanks to a skylight overhead and terracotta tiles beneath the windows. Pamela brings in her small succulents as well as large palm trees, hibiscus, and bougainvillea to create a lush garden room. As guests take their places, each one marvels at the table décor—colored goblets, potted plants, and crystal candelabras, set against a backdrop of blue and white dishes and linens. To compliment the Amba Farms salad, asparagus, and the steaming paella that has just been pulled from the forno, Paul pours a Spanish Rioja, and more glasses are raised.
The house works well for casual entertaining, which is exactly Pamela’s style. “We really enjoy our home. I’m not a perfectionist when I decorate or when I entertain,” she says as she heads to her crisp blue and white kitchen to retrieve the final course—baked apples al forno with whipped cream and sorbet. “I like an eclectic mix of furnishings and an eclectic mix of friends. It makes life more interesting.”