million-dollar views for this classic farmhouse
When Mary Ann Hawley conceived of the home she built, Rochambeau, what she had in mind was not just an amazing place to live, but a great place to hold events and parties. Hawley, who lived in the tony London neighborhood of Belgravia for two decades, moved to a home in Bedford Corners a few years ago with her husband and two children.
In 2010, yearning for a canvas to realize her artistic dreams, she purchased 67 acres atop the hamlet’s highest peak, which overlooks some of the grandest vistas in Bedford. The land, where no house had ever existed, was at one time part of the estate of Mrs. Wilhelmine Kirby Waller, the doyenne of the horse farm Tanrackin. “It was my intention to integrate a minimalist aesthetic with the grace and history of the bucolic Bedford area,” Hawley says. “I was going for a Zen aesthetic that also had a farmhouse utility and modern comfort and style.” There are special and unique views from every room, and the house she built reflects and opens to the environment all around it. A circular drive allows drop off at the main entrance, leads to the garages and yoga studio, and surrounds a tranquil Japanese garden. The landscape design is clean and Asian-inspired.
All the furniture was designed for this estate but is available by request for custom production. In fact, Hawley designed much of the furniture herself, including the large maple kitchen table and benches on casters with locking wheels. The living-room sideboard is made of Zebrano wood with dovetailed drawers, and Wenge wood was used for the single-plank console table.
Rochambeau, so named for the French nobleman and general who participated in the American Revolution and who walked the property in 1781, was designed by Hawley not just for family living but also for entertaining. “I was thinking of Caramoor, actually,” she says. Coincidentally, Hawley sits on Caramoor’s board and recently co-chaired the Masked Ball Soiree at the center’s Rosen House that took place in October. “I wanted to have a great hall with great acoustics and great insulation for performing artists, a place to hold lectures, a gathering space for meaningful events,” Hawley says of her home. So far, no Caramoor-related events have taken place at Rochambeau, which was only completed last March, but Hawley has been plenty busy hosting other events.
The first thing she did was throw a cocktail party for 150 people before the house was fully furnished. “It was a wonderful party,” she recalls. “We had a violinist and a cellist playing during cocktails, and later a DJ for dancing.” A brunch honoring the work of the artist, Edward Giobbi, and his wife, Elinor, followed, featuring a Mediterranean-style risotto prepared in Rochambeau’s new kitchen.
In the fall, Hawley hosted an event for the Visiting Nurse Association’s Caring Circle, which supports bereaved children. “The children made horse treats in the kitchen under the supervision of Sue Kelly, our former Congresswoman,” Hawley says. An upcoming event is a sit-down dinner for eight prepared by a famed local chef, offered by Hawley as a silent auction item for the Westchester Land Trust.
“The posts and beams aren’t just reclaimed wood,” Hawley says of her design, which was conceived alongside architect Teo Siguenza. “The wood is from an actual barn built in 1840 that was located in Albany. We had it reconstructed on this property to be freestanding joinery.” The 10,000-square-foot dwelling is a classic New England farmhouse design based on a series of buildings known in olden days as a “big house, little house, back house, and barn” that are attached by walkways.
Inside are five bedrooms, seven baths, five fireplaces, and a large mudroom. The oversized farmhouse kitchen is fitted in marble, stained oak, lacquered oak, limestone, and brushed stainless steel. Rochambeau represents Hawley’s reimagining of a well-documented, authenticated landscape of a centuries-old working farm whose centerpiece is an eye-catching house. “It’s the ever-changing beauty of nature that is always the main event at Rochambeau,” Hawley says of the 360-degree view that extends to the Palisades of New Jersey and portions of Connecticut. “I never tire of it.”
The building constrictions that had to be considered before construction began were numerous. Several easements created by two of the property’s former owners, including Wilhelmine Waller and Gwenn Brant, who purchased land from Mrs. Waller in 2001, had to be honored. Before them, the land was once part of an even larger parcel owned by the VanCortlandts.
An avid researcher, Hawley did her own due diligence. “There were many meetings with town historian John Stockbridge and the Historical Society,” she says. “Among other things, there could be no shiny metals, no reflective windows. And the house had to be in an architectural style in keeping with Bedford.”
Daisy Hill, a popular organic working farm run by Gwenn Brant, is located on the property below Rochambeau. The farm stand provides farm-to-table fare for local restaurants and private kitchens. Above the farmland, several horses live in a new courtyard stable area also conceived of by Hawley, an avid field hunter and equestrian.
While it was stressful and difficult to make her dream come true, Hawley says, at the end of the day, Rocham-beau is an idyllic retreat for her family. “Mrs. Waller’s rules created such a structure, but at the same time, such a freedom. Rochambeau, as it now exists, would not have been possible without the easements. I felt there was a real responsibility to honor the land, and without having any architectural precedence, I just hope that I have done that.” n