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Opposites Attract

A hybrid house blends the old and the new



Hulya Kolabas

When you live in Pound Ridge, “small world” is a familiar refrain. Back in the 1990s, I pushed my children in strollers past scores of homes on the winding, country roads that led to New Canaan, Bedford, and often simply back to where we had started. One of my favorite walks was along Fancher Road, home to some of the oldest architecture and most compelling scenery in town. As the route abruptly turned right up a steep hill, a 19th-century, yellow saltbox was nestled into the hillside, overlooking the Old Mill River.

By 2008, the lemon-hued cottage had been transformed and painted an earthy shade of rust. Gone was the garage addition that had been cobbled on in the 20th century, and a new, sleek tail of glass and stone stretched out in its wake. One year later, the first of a series of emails arrived in my mailbox asking about that little saltbox. “I’m obsessed with the new addition attached to the red antique at the bottom of Fancher Hill,” wrote a lifelong resident. “What’s the story?”

And so, the sleuthing began. Eventually, I received an invitation from Donna Satow to take a peek. “We knew a Stahlkrantz family when we lived in Brussels in the 1970s,” said the gracious homeowner when I stepped inside her glass front door. “Any relation?” Sure enough, through marriage, we were practically old friends. Small world, indeed.

Over a cup of tea, I learned that Donna and her husband, Phil, bought the cozy cottage in 2007. As empty-nesters who lived in New York, they were looking for a small weekend house with space to host Sunday dinners for their family who lived nearby. “A friend told us about the house before it even went on the market,” says the youthful grandmother of four.  “The area is so beautiful; we liked that it was close to Scotts Corner but quiet, too.”

The Satows had renovated their SoHo loft a decade earlier and loved the open feeling created by Ziba Khalili, the architect who led the project. “We really wanted to do something vastly different that was clean and easy, would bring the outside in and marry the old house with a modern addition,” Satow explains. “Ziba was very skilled and ‘got’ what we wanted.”

A graduate of École des Beaux Arts in Paris, Khalili was excited to bring the Satows’ dream to fruition and began by presenting them with a book of inspiration. Page by page, the Iranian-born designer and her clients reviewed images of 20th-century homes and architectural details, winnowing down the options until her assignment was clear: the original two-story cottage would be transformed into the private family wing while the new addition would be a public, loft-like space. “The Satows wanted a modern structure that was unique to the neighborhood and open to its surroundings,” said Khalili, who immediately pictured the new house as a transparent box set in the greenery.

The Satows hired Gordon Moesh, owner of Basic Concepts Construction, to bring Khalili’s design to life while retaining 50 percent of the original structure. The old stone foundation under the cottage was crumbling, so Basic Concepts hoisted up the house temporarily to rebuild it. Once the old garage wing was demolished, the new addition of glass and stone was framed in steel. “I think I fell in love with it when they started putting up the stone,” Satow says. “The different textures gave me such a peaceful feeling.”

A gravel driveway now winds uphill and circles in front of the relocated main entrance—a glass transitional space where old meets new. “I chose the deep rust color to anchor the existing house to the land,” Khalili continues. “And, I brought this color through the new house as a horizontal line above the glass walls.”

Khalili spent hours at Bedford Stone, studying patterns and inventory before choosing the slabs of bluestone that lead up the front steps, into the breezeway and out onto the patio. Inside, the house flows seamlessly and reflects the simple sophistication sought by its owners. The kitchen, featuring deep purple custom cabinetry that was milled and stained onsite, has no interior walls and is, therefore, open to the dining and living areas. At the far end of the space, floor-to-ceiling windows frame a dramatic view of the tiered garden.  A library is tucked in to the right.

The first floor of the old house was completely renovated with the original living areas converted to a master suite, including a bedroom and luxurious bath, plus a small gym and laundry room. Khalili moved the staircase that leads to the second floor and designed a modern railing of maple dowels and woven leather. Upstairs, the ceilings were raised, and while the old doors and hardware were salvaged, new floors, windows and bathroom fixtures enhanced the renovated guest quarters. “Keeping the old house as a separate entity with its own structure and aesthetic empowered it to stand up proudly next to a new and modern structure,” said Khalili.

“At our loft in New York, we have a similar style but with different views,” Satow observed as she walked me toward the apple orchard through the meadow of native grasses and wildflowers. “We were looking forward to a place where at the end of a busy week, we could simply relax,” she added. Arriving at my old vantage point by the stonewalled property line, I sat on the new garden bench, took in the views, and experienced firsthand what the Satows set out to accomplish. 

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