An Interior Designer Brings New Life into an Old Home
We’re chronic movers,” says Kimberly Handler, a 30-something interior designer and married mother of three. “We both love looking at houses—even when we’re not ‘looking.’” Two years ago, Handler and her husband, Andrew, a commodity options trader and owner of CrossFit in Mount Kisco, were living in a ten-year old Penwood Colonial when they started looking for a new project. On Sundays, they’d go to real estate open houses. “I like old houses – the quirkiness, the coziness; there’s something about the detail you don’t get in a new house. So, I started looking for an older home to renovate,” she recalls. “That’s when we found this one.”
The 1929 ivy-clad Mock Tudor had been on and off the market for five years when the Handlers took a peek. “As soon as I pulled up the driveway, I could envision how we’d update the house,” continues Handler, who had renovated their Cotswold-style home in Greenwich before settling into Penwood. “I was inspired by some of the Tudors from our old Greenwich neighborhood.”
The couple swiftly purchased the seven-bedroom manor house and hired DPD Builders of Bedford Hills to bring it structurally and mechanically into the 21st century. Handler’s plan for the interior included re-staining the wood floors a dark espresso brown, whitewashing the trim, updating the light fixtures, and completely overhauling the dark, Mission-style kitchen and dated master bathroom.
Perched atop a seven-acre plot of land in Bedford Hills, the Handlers’ new home evokes an Old-World grandeur while serving a modern-day family lifestyle. A long driveway meanders past the guesthouse that Kim redesigned as a two-story office for Andrew and continues uphill. As the property levels off, the sprawling, stucco main house, trimmed in a soft shade of taupe, is revealed. Window boxes overflow with seasonal foliage, two Golden Retrievers lope into view, and peals of laughter float up from the children’s play area.
The Handlers’ home is one of a limited collection of early 20th-century Tudor Revivals in the Bedford area. Following World War I, the style was borrowed from a trend in London’s outer suburbs –an effort to reflect the growing nostalgia for rural values. Typical Tudor Revival features include a half-timbered exterior, steep slate roofs, gables, leaded-glass casement windows, and jetties. On the outside, the Handlers’ house is a charming celebration of this historical style. With a nod to the past, Kimberly’s transformation of the interior belies the dark and dreary stereotype associated with old Tudor living spaces and instead reflects a warm and welcoming aesthetic.
The front door opens to a foyer with a direct view of Kim’s office. “When we came to see the house for the first time, I immediately fell for the view of the leaded-glass windows in the office straight ahead. I loved seeing that detail,” says Handler of the space where she now runs Kimberly Handler Designs. Flanking the entrance are two vintage chests from her Penwood home that she repainted a vibrant blue to add a modern pop to the traditional surroundings.
To the left is the great room, furnished with sumptuous, upholstered sofas and chairs, a massive two-tiered iron chandelier, and enlarged photographs by both Handler and fine art photographer John Richter. French doors lead to a stone terrace where a wisteria-covered arbor provides a sheltered seating area that overlooks the tennis court, swimming pool, and pool house. Beyond the great room is a paneled library with a spiral staircase that winds up to the master suite.
To the right of the foyer is the cozy dining room. An aerial photograph of Aspen Mountain by Gray Marlin serves as a modern counterpoint to the antique Chinoiserie buffet and gold-embossed wallpaper. Thanks to a wall of windows, an adjacent sunroom floods this interior room with daylight.
“My favorite place in the house is probably the kitchen,” says Handler. “It’s not a massive kitchen. I like the feel of it; it feels like home.” DPD Builders worked with Handler to design the kitchen and build the cabinetry from their custom Blake Ashley line. “Kim has great taste and did her homework,” notes Dan Divitto, DPD’s President. “She gave us lots of pictures of the look she wanted to achieve and together we came up with a modern kitchen that marries well with the magnificence of this older home.”
Upstairs, the master suite includes a bedroom decorated in soft shades of blue and gold. “I wanted to make it bright and airy,” notes Handler, who added a brass chandelier for drama. Beside the bedroom, vintage leaded-glass doors swing open to reveal a brand new, sparkling white bathroom with a re-glazed antique, soaking tub as the centerpiece.
The Handler children, Laney, Reid, and Evelyn, decorated their rooms themselves, and a shared project room, nestled nearby, invites creativity, thanks to chalkboard walls and worktables at the ready. A long bedroom corridor connects the main house to the second floor of the garage where a playroom has been known to house a jumble of friends during sleepover parties as well as overflow family during holidays.
While Kimberly Handler Designs accepts two client projects at a time, Handler keeps her creativity flowing by renovating ski houses in Vermont that she then rents out to lucky tenants. On the subject of whether or not she and Andrew are still “looking but not looking” at available real estate, she remains mum, but for the time being, the family is happily settled and looking forward to hosting a Thanksgiving feast for 15.