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Hilltop Haven

Endless skies, lush gardens, and a sparkling pool



Friends gather under the pergola that sits poolside for al-fresco dining.

Photographs by Hulya Kolabas

The long and winding drive of Janet Olshansky and Jeff Morris’s home, with its various twists and turns, could in many ways serve as a metaphor for their life. As one ascends the hill and looks to the left, a view that expands well over 30 miles on a clear day radiates in the distance. To the right lies a gentle green sloping hill that comes to touch the glistening grey gravel and is often filled with wild flowers.

The life and home of Janet and Jeff could also be deemed as one of accidental encounters. In 1985, she, with a degree in Medieval and Renaissance English, and Jeff, with a degree in engineering, were introduced at a friend’s home in the city for dinner. “Only after the guy I really wanted to meet was unavailable,” explains Janet. The absent date worked for a cool consulting company and had a cooler loft but couldn’t make it, so her friends invited Jeff (a former college roommate), who was working for an educational media business and living in New Jersey. “Can you imagine that—someone wanting to live in New Jersey by choice!” exclaims Janet, who was born and raised in the Garden State. 

The first date didn’t go so well. They had an argument over the novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Janet thought Jeff a pompous ass when he declared her college major a “total waste of time.” So concluded the evening. Not much was thought of it until Jeff called again three weeks later. “We went to a hip restaurant where we ate, drank, danced, and by the end of the evening I was smitten,” Janet says. Two months later they were traveling the countryside of England and spending romantic evenings in local bed and breakfasts. 

Fast forward to 1989 and Janet and Jeff are married and living in Manhattan. They have started their own educational media company, and Janet would finally feel vindicated—her college degree proving quite useful, while Jeff with his engineering degree (“who couldn’t fix a thing”) would take over the content aspect of the company.

By spring of 1995, after the birth of their daughter Maddy and their son Ian, they realized that maneuvering two children around the city was too challenging. They started looking for a weekend “safety valve.” So every Friday they loaded the car with toddlers and cats and headed up Route 684 where they would have a late dinner and “discover nature,” as Janet recalls with sarcastic humor. 

Over the years, North Salem would become their retreat. “It was so much nicer to roll out of bed and go up to Purdy’s Field instead of trying to find some green space in the city,” says Janet. They rented for a while and after flirting with the idea of buying property and building, came upon a quirky house.

As a friend described it, “Monticello meets Nantucket in Tuscany.” People who first saw the house always ask, “What was this before?” But it had beautiful property and breathtaking views. “You can always change a house, but you can never change a view like this one,” Janet said many times. They were sold.

Today the original shingle-style home with its center rotunda still serves as the site for many dinner parties when the season or weather prohibits outdoor entertaining. Now there is a great-room kitchen that they love, as well as a master suite so that they no longer “live in their bathroom,” as five year-old daughter Maddy had said.

Janet notes that it took just the right architect to understand and appreciate the integrity of the house. “Everyone we interviewed wanted to make it larger. We didn’t want bigger. We just wanted something that suited our needs better.”

In fact, the very first thing they did was put in a pool for the children. “Ian loved the house and all of the ongoing construction. He grew up thinking that every home came with a backhoe and tractor that kids got to sit in and play on.” 

As the house evolved with its various nooks, crannies, hidden gardens, and rooftop balconies so did the family’s interests. 

The children played a variety of sports. Janet became an avid walker and tennis player while Jeff took up golf. But one of the most popular pastimes was spent welcoming friends and family.

The two love to entertain and do the majority of it during the warmer months when people can be outdoors and enjoy the expansive views and stunning sunsets. When the sky turns a pale shade of purple and pink, guests work their way to the upper garden, pool, and pergola and dine by candlelight, continually admiring the landscape and horizon to the west.

One could look at the Olshansky and Morris home as an intricate canvas of their life. There was never anything predictable or ordinary about where Janet and Jeff would end up. In March, Jeff suffered a significant physical setback and is working hard to regain his mobility. Janet says that never has it been more important to spend time in a place where the view of life from the inside looking out, gives them both so much hope for the future.

 

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Profiles

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July 2018

Take a one-hour guided tour of the historic Lyndhurst mansion overlooking the Hudson River. The Gothic Revival mansion has been used as a movie set for six major motion pictures...

Cost: $18

Where:
Lyndhurst
635 S. Broadway
Tarrytown, NY  10591
View map »


Website »

More information

Kykuit, a hilltop paradise, is now a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, was home to four generations of the Rockefeller family. Read our review of...

Cost: $25

Where:
Kykuit
381 N. Broadway
Sleepy Hollow, NY  10591
View map »


Website »

More information

Games, Crafts, Live Music, Watermelon and fun for the entire family on the library lawn. Sunday, July 22nd from 2:00-4:00 PM No registration, just show up. Sponsored by the Friends of the...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

Looking for some family-friendly activities this summer? Visiting museums is educational and engaging for even young children, but tickets can often be expensive. Luckily, The Friends of Keeler...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 titicus road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

Little Radical Theatrics Inc (Fatima Viegas, Executive Producer) is thrilled to be presenting its Summer 2018  Production of "Ragtime".  In an effort to truly live up to...

Cost: $10-$25

Where:
Grinton Will Library
1500 Central Park Ave
Yonkers, NY  10710
View map »


Sponsor: Little Radical Theatrics
Telephone: 914-589-1669
Contact Name: Fatima Viegas
Website »

More information

 Little Radical Theatrics Inc (Fatima Viegas, Executive Producer) is thrilled to be presenting its Summer 2018  Production of "Ragtime".  In an effort to truly live...

Cost: $10-$25

Where:
Grinton Will Library
1500 Central Park Ave
Yonkers, NY  10710
View map »


Sponsor: Little Radical Theatrics
Telephone: 914-589-1669
Contact Name: Fatima Viegas
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Take a one-hour guided tour of the historic Lyndhurst mansion overlooking the Hudson River. The Gothic Revival mansion has been used as a movie set for six major motion pictures...

Cost: $18

Where:
Lyndhurst
635 S. Broadway
Tarrytown, NY  10591
View map »


Website »

More information

Kykuit, a hilltop paradise, is now a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, was home to four generations of the Rockefeller family. Read our review of...

Cost: $25

Where:
Kykuit
381 N. Broadway
Sleepy Hollow, NY  10591
View map »


Website »

More information

Looking for some family-friendly activities this summer? Visiting museums is educational and engaging for even young children, but tickets can often be expensive. Luckily, The Friends of Keeler...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 titicus road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Take a one-hour guided tour of the historic Lyndhurst mansion overlooking the Hudson River. The Gothic Revival mansion has been used as a movie set for six major motion pictures...

Cost: $18

Where:
Lyndhurst
635 S. Broadway
Tarrytown, NY  10591
View map »


Website »

More information

Kykuit, a hilltop paradise, is now a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, was home to four generations of the Rockefeller family. Read our review of...

Cost: $25

Where:
Kykuit
381 N. Broadway
Sleepy Hollow, NY  10591
View map »


Website »

More information

Looking for some family-friendly activities this summer? Visiting museums is educational and engaging for even young children, but tickets can often be expensive. Luckily, The Friends of Keeler...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 titicus road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Take a one-hour guided tour of the historic Lyndhurst mansion overlooking the Hudson River. The Gothic Revival mansion has been used as a movie set for six major motion pictures...

Cost: $18

Where:
Lyndhurst
635 S. Broadway
Tarrytown, NY  10591
View map »


Website »

More information

Kykuit, a hilltop paradise, is now a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, was home to four generations of the Rockefeller family. Read our review of...

Cost: $25

Where:
Kykuit
381 N. Broadway
Sleepy Hollow, NY  10591
View map »


Website »

More information

Looking for some family-friendly activities this summer? Visiting museums is educational and engaging for even young children, but tickets can often be expensive. Luckily, The Friends of Keeler...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 titicus road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

Westchester Community is in need of more than 40 foster homes to provide the county’s most vulnerable children with housing in a safe and stable environment. For more information and to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Department of Social Services
112 E Post Road
White Plains, NY  10601
View map »


Sponsor: United Way of Westchester and Putnam
Telephone: 914-997-6700
Contact Name: Toyae Liverpool
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Take a one-hour guided tour of the historic Lyndhurst mansion overlooking the Hudson River. The Gothic Revival mansion has been used as a movie set for six major motion pictures...

Cost: $18

Where:
Lyndhurst
635 S. Broadway
Tarrytown, NY  10591
View map »


Website »

More information

Kykuit, a hilltop paradise, is now a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, was home to four generations of the Rockefeller family. Read our review of...

Cost: $25

Where:
Kykuit
381 N. Broadway
Sleepy Hollow, NY  10591
View map »


Website »

More information

Looking for some family-friendly activities this summer? Visiting museums is educational and engaging for even young children, but tickets can often be expensive. Luckily, The Friends of Keeler...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 titicus road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

Throw paint balloons (washable, of course) at a canvas to create an awesome piece of abstract art, and more importantly have a bunch of fun doing it! Thursday, July 26th at 4:00 PM Grades 6-8...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

On Thursday, July 26 from 7:00 to 8:30 pm, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich will host “The Language of Flavor in Honey: A Guided Sensory Honey Tasting Event.” Italian-trained honey expert...

Cost: $50 for Bruce Museum members, $65 non-members

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Contact Name: Cynthia Ehlinger
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Take a one-hour guided tour of the historic Lyndhurst mansion overlooking the Hudson River. The Gothic Revival mansion has been used as a movie set for six major motion pictures...

Cost: $18

Where:
Lyndhurst
635 S. Broadway
Tarrytown, NY  10591
View map »


Website »

More information

Kykuit, a hilltop paradise, is now a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, was home to four generations of the Rockefeller family. Read our review of...

Cost: $25

Where:
Kykuit
381 N. Broadway
Sleepy Hollow, NY  10591
View map »


Website »

More information

Looking for some family-friendly activities this summer? Visiting museums is educational and engaging for even young children, but tickets can often be expensive. Luckily, The Friends of Keeler...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 titicus road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

See and Touch exotic animals up close. Plus, learn about endangered species and conservation hands-on! The Nature of Things is an environmental outreach program that presents quality live animal...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

Returning after his Caramoor debut at the 2015 Jazz Festival, Joey Alexander brings an original swing and improvisational style that is unmatched at his age, along with an artistic maturity well...

Cost: $40-$75

Where:
Caramoor
149 Girdle Ridge Road
Katonah, NY  10536
View map »


Telephone: 914.232.1252
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Take a one-hour guided tour of the historic Lyndhurst mansion overlooking the Hudson River. The Gothic Revival mansion has been used as a movie set for six major motion pictures...

Cost: $18

Where:
Lyndhurst
635 S. Broadway
Tarrytown, NY  10591
View map »


Website »

More information

Kykuit, a hilltop paradise, is now a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, was home to four generations of the Rockefeller family. Read our review of...

Cost: $25

Where:
Kykuit
381 N. Broadway
Sleepy Hollow, NY  10591
View map »


Website »

More information

All ages. In a partnership between Lewisboro Library and the Westchester Land Trust, we’ll be hiking the Pine Croft Meadow Preserve, while discovering a great book whose pages are...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lewisboro Library
15 Main Street
PO Box 477
South Salem, NY  10590
View map »


Telephone: 914.875.9004
Website »

More information

Looking for some family-friendly activities this summer? Visiting museums is educational and engaging for even young children, but tickets can often be expensive. Luckily, The Friends of Keeler...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 titicus road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

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