A furniture maker brings a house to life
This was a grand, country house, staffed with a gardener, nurses, and cooks back in the 1950s when Susan Dallas and her extended family spent fun-filled Sundays on Mount Holly in Katonah. Her grandfather, Charles Donald Dallas, former chairman of Revere Copper and Brass, and his author wife, Harriet Hughes Dallas, built the house, packed up their Park Avenue apartment, and moved to the country long before Susan’s birth. “We spent a lot of time playing tennis, horseback riding, and swimming in the lake,” she recalls. “Grandma Hatsie built that garden out front by herself, and it was fantastic!”
Fast forward half a century to the day Randy Scully, a fine furniture-maker-turned-general contractor, and his wife, Meredith, a special education teacher, discovered the once-glorious estate in disrepair but so compellingly magical, they had to buy it. After tightening up the house and updating the mechanicals, the couple worked with Pound Ridge architect, Ken Okamoto, to design a garage that would be in keeping with the original architectural style of the estate and tweak the main house flow for 21st-century living.
“When I came to see the house, I noticed that the exterior views were obscured, and a lack of cohesion existed among the buildings and other property elements, like the lake and tennis courts. They didn’t necessarily appear to belong to one another,” explains Okamoto. So, the architect started sketching and soon enough, windows were moved, terraces were extended, and an octagonal porch, loggia, and a three-bay garage were added. “We went through every element of the house and replicated anything original that was beautiful. Randy even had knives made to reproduce the old millwork and siding.” With Randy serving as general contractor and carpenter, the Scullys polished up their tarnished treasure, and along the way, Meredith gave birth to two daughters and a son.
From the road, the property looks much as it has for decades. An old barn where the Dallas family horses were stabled still stands guard by the stone wall, albeit with a new coat of red paint. The one-story stone house settles nicely into the sloping land, but a new driveway provides two options, leading visitors to a parking court or the family to a spur that winds down and around the new, hidden garage. Placing the garage at a lower elevation was a key design element, as Okamoto wanted to avoid a looming structure that might overshadow the main house itself.
One of the most appealing aspects of the original home was the stone facade and terrace. Randy’s masons repaired and extended the terrace around the back of the house and added a staircase for easy access to the lake and the tennis court. Inside, the living room’s original paneling and stone fireplace had been whitewashed in the 1970s, so the Scullys embraced its illuminating effect while furnishing it with tables and chests that Randy handcrafted. The relocated windows in the adjacent dining room now offer commanding views of the property. French doors lead to the new octagonal porch featuring a stone fireplace, making this one of the family’s favorite places to relax.
Before Okamoto joined the project, Randy had built a new kitchen with design assistance from Beth Beekman of Cross Pond Designs. He and an employee milled the new cherry cabinets themselves, integrating a vintage seamstress cabinet into the layout. The original brick-walled kitchen was converted to an office and wet bar with a cozy guest room tucked into the corner by the hallway to the family bedrooms. At the end of the corridor is another favorite space for the couple: a sumptuous master suite.
When Okamoto was siting the garage, he decided to connect it to the main house with a loggia that would serve as a screen to the backyard. “A mid-century addition to the back of the house had a flat roof that leaked,” says Randy. “Ken was able to use the gabled-roof detail from the original house as a guide in transforming the back hips.”
A vintage cottage was renovated from top to bottom, including new wood floors, made from an old white pine that Scully felled, dried, and milled into 16-inch-wide planks. The first floor serves as the office for Randy’s contracting business, Scully Restoration, and the upstairs provides private lodging for guests. Randy, who grew up working in the trades and studied at William B. Sayre’s furniture making school in Massachusetts, methodically crafted all the architectural millwork for the renovation in his workshop.
The family takes full advantage of the property’s natural amenities. The lake, accented by old willow trees, is outfitted with a vintage diving board and serves as a favorite fishing spot for Randy and his elder daughter, who digs nearby for worms. The old Dallas tennis court was crumbling, so the Scullys replaced it with a multi-use Sport Court, the perfect surface for riding bikes, playing tennis, badminton, basketball, and of course, tennis.
Harriet Dallas’s garden was reborn with the repairing of old stone walls and the addition of iron fencing and a garden shed. Then, Meredith got to work planting, and like Harriet did generations ago, growing deep family roots.