An Organic Horse Farm Grows in Bedford
Photos by Hulya Kolabas
"We’ve been 100 percent organic for a decade,” says avid gardener and horsewoman Suzanne Galli, as she delivers the daily kitchen scraps to her flock of Polish Crested chickens. “No chemicals have been put on the grass, in the paddocks or the veggie garden for ten years. With free-range chickens, you don’t want any chemicals on the lawn.”
Galli and her husband, Stefano, bought their Bedford horse farm in 1998. The property’s existing 1950s Southern-revival Colonial offered plenty of nesting space for the Manhattan-dwelling, horse-loving newlyweds. With the impending arrival of their first child, they were thrilled to settle in and have their horses right outside their windows.
The Gallis quickly filled the house with three children, and by 2007, they were ready to make some changes to the half-century-old home. “We are fortunate to live in a gorgeous part of the country, surrounded by beautiful homes. Over the years, we photographed things we liked--dormers, details, trim,” recalls Galli. “So, when we hired our architect, Bill Kleinman, I handed him a front-elevation sketch of what I wanted along with 20 photos.”
Keeping to the original footprint, the Gallis collaborated with Kleinman to create a design that was an amalgam of traditional American styles. “We wanted it to look old, as if it belongs, has been added onto, and grown organically over the years,” she continues. “One of our challenges was developing the house in a modern way while keeping the historic scale and space allocation. Bill’s ability to avoid a looming effect and to maintain the scale that we wanted was invaluable.” Once the design was agreed on, the couple hired contractor Joe Cusato to build their new home and Susan Thorn to decorate it.
Connecting her home’s interior to the outdoors was a priority for Suzanne. So everything from window placement to color choice hinged on that link. An equestrian since the age of seven, she wanted to maximize her views of the family’s beloved horses. To that end, Galli requested a hallway that would run the width of the house, so when they entered the side door at the north end, they would have an uninterrupted sightline through the house to the horse paddocks. From this central, albeit non-traditional, hallway, all the first-floor rooms would unfold.
Cusato completed the construction over a 19-month period, and the Gallis have been thrilled with the results. While a covered porch beckons guests (and hungry chickens) to the front door, family and friends enter through the side entrance. Galli asked Thorn to create a cheerfully elegant, red and white mudroom that leads to the kitchen and adjacent family room. With a surname like Galli, which mean “roosters” in Italian, she was sure to integrate fowl motifs into these casual family spaces. A keen observer will find them hidden in wallpaper, upholstery, and objects of art.
Inspired by millwork she admired in a Clive Christian showroom, Galli had Cusato install a custom, country kitchen featuring butter-yellow cabinets and marble counters. Decorating with vintage items, like Roman amphoras that Stefano found in the sea while diving for treasure off the coast of his native Italy and Currier and Ives prints the couple picked up at an antiques shop, gave the new space some historical weight.
Further down the hallway, through one of Cusato’s expertly crafted arches, is the dining room, bathed in a very pale shade of green. A corner cabinet, passed down from Stefano’s parents, is filled with blue and white dishes, and a painting by Grace Galli, age seven, sets an informal, family-oriented tone.
The living room unfolds next. This is where the Gallis gather for movie nights. An oversized blue sectional accommodates the whole family, including the dog and cat. “I fell in love with a Nancy Corzine silk velvet sofa, and Susan said ‘You can’t have silk velvet with three little children; you will hate it,’ Galli laughs. “To prove her point, she sent me home with a fabric sample, and it was permanently marred by a frozen pea immediately! So Susan found me the perfect airline-grade fabric for a fraction of the price. It looks just as beautiful. Every time I look at this, it makes me smile that she had that much integrity to help a mother with young children make her house elegant yet functional.” At the end of the hallway, the final arch leads to the pool room. Despite its name and the swimming pool outside, everything about this room reflects its location in horse country. Once a small library, the space was reconfigured to accommodate a bank of glass doors that provide floor-to-ceiling views of the barn. A vintage Colonel Patchen weathervane sits atop the mantle, J. Harris fox hunt engravings line the walls, and an antique carousel horse stands guard by the entrance to an adjacent office. This is one of Galli’s favorite spots in the house.
Upstairs, a master suite overlooking the paddocks is a tranquil escape for Galli and her husband. Three family bedrooms are just down the hall for the children, and an expansive playroom is located on the third floor.
Back outside, Grace mounts her pony for a late morning ride, and Galli leads the chickens to their coop noting, “In some ways, I feel like we live in a Currier & Ives lithograph. The horses and the classic American architecture in those vintage prints truly embody life in this part of the country.”