A Katonah architect’s own family home
Photos by Phillip Ennis
“How we came here is really a 9/11 story,” says Rob Siegel, as he pulls up a seat beside his wife on the terrace of their Katonah home. “On September 11, 2001, Lynn and I were living in Battery Park City.”
“Rob was out of town, and I was home on the eighth floor of our apartment building with our two babies when the planes hit,” adds Lynn. “And then the power went out, smoke started coming in. We were trapped. Firefighters and policemen grabbed the babies, and they put us on a tugboat to New Jersey. I ended up meeting Rob, and we said ‘Okay, we need a place to live where we feel like we’re safe.’ So after we caught our breath, two days later we went shopping, got some clothes, and then started looking for a furnished place to live.”
“We were considering a bunch of different towns, and a woman in Bedford moved out of her house so we could rent it. I really feel if we had searched high and low and done all the research in the world, we couldn’t have ended up in a better place.”
After falling in love with the area, the couple searched for a home to buy and in 2004 settled on a house in Katonah. Rob designed the renovation, and soon after unpacking the last box, an opportunity arose for Rob to design the family a custom home on a four-acre property that had once been the “brick lot” of the historic John Jay Homestead. The site included a house that was very close to the road, and the Town of Bedford allowed them to move into the existing structure while they built further back on a hilltop.
With Rob as their on-site architect and construction manager, the family, now expanded to include three children, watched their new home rise up alongside John Jay’s vintage stone walls. “We really wanted something that would be modern and feel like it has always been here,” recalls Rob. “Lynn and I always liked that nice stone house on the corner of the Parkway in Katonah, and she said to me, ‘Look, you’re the architect, but I would really like a stone house.’ I had never built a stone house before, so I did lot of research into all different kinds of stone, and I worked with a local artisan, Gabriel Astrologo. He and his team were fantastic.”
Once construction was complete, the family of five moved in and donated the old house to local fire departments for training purposes. They held a “house warming” party for friends and neighbors who watched the old structure burn to the ground.
Every element of Rob’s design was purpose-driven, from the orientation of the house on a south-facing slope to its modest 3,500 square-foot size. “I had to be really disciplined about keeping the size of the house small—not just for cost and for performance but also because the bigger the house, the faster we lose contact with the rest of the family,” he explains. “So now, everyone has their own space to be in when they want to, but no one’s ever very far.”
From Jay Street, a long driveway now leads uphill, past the freestanding stone garage to a parking court. To the left, a reflecting pool glistens in the autumn sun, and the word FUN, meticulously crafted from the previous year’s holiday cards, beams through a plate glass window and beckons guests to enter. Rob’s office is tucked just inside the front door.
Further down the hall, the house unfolds into a great room—a blend of living room, dining room, and kitchen. Keeping everything open enables the family to be together while pursuing different activities, and the layout of the kitchen enables them to work together. “I really wanted to make sure that we were able to have multiple people in the kitchen simultaneously, so that it could become a family activity,” says Rob. “I love the flexibility of the space,” adds Lynn. “When we’re entertaining, the kitchen becomes the bar, the couch—which is made up of cushions—gets moved to the basement, and then we’ve got a big dance floor!”
The house, which is L-shaped, takes a turn at the staircase. Lynn’s pink and orange office is strategically located right in this intersection, so that while she’s working, she is also present for the kids, who now range in age from 12 to 16. A cozy family room anchors this wing of the house. It’s where the family goes to curl up under blankets and watch movies together.
Upstairs, Rob designed an “outdoor room” where the kids love to hang with their friends. The space has four walls but no roof and is furnished with an oversized sectional sofa and a patio heater. The kids’ bedroom wing includes a study lounge, and the parents’ wing is home to the master suite.
Lynn, who under Rob’s influence has admittedly become a modernist, says “I’m really happy. I think I was always one of those people who thought, ‘Oh, I could live anywhere.’ But now, when we get home from vacation, I’m always like, ‘Yay, we’re home. It’s beautiful.’”
“I’m so happy that it turned out well,” says Rob, “because, you know, with design there’s intent and there’s reality. The house itself I’m crazy about, but the real ‘wow’ is that every day I get to look out and see this property, and to me, the house really made this possible.”