Breathing new modern life into Hiram Halle's home
After viewing more than a dozen historic homes, Sarah and Grant Webb finally found a place to call home. “We were looking for something old that we could work on,” says Grant, a New Hampshire native who was attracted to the vintage vibe and large plots of land in Pound Ridge. Sarah, who grew up in Bronxville, has a more contemporary eye, so she strategically offered a compromise. “We made a deal. We could buy a really, really old house if he wanted to. But, I wanted an updated interior,” she says.
Perhaps the stars were perfectly aligned the day that real-estate agent Muffin Dowdle drove the couple and their infant daughter, Taylor, along Trinity Pass to the Hiram Halle House. Halle, who purchased the 18th-century home and 50 surrounding acres in 1929 for his personal use, was an architectural revisionist himself. An inventor, co-founder of the New School for Social Research, and benefactor of Depression-era Pound Ridge, Halle owned 33 houses in town at the time of his death in 1944. He built some and renovated others, working diligently to create the Currier & Ives aesthetic that defines the Pound Ridge hamlet today.
The Webbs, smitten with the rambling Colonial’s history and quirky charms, happily purchased the home and hired Bob Torre of RC Torre Construction to design and execute a multi-phase renovation plan. “Sarah and Grant had a vision of what they wanted,” recalls Torre. “One of the biggest challenges was maintaining the original charm while updating it to today’s modern standards.”
The first stage of renovation included a new kitchen, powder room, and master suite, plus a fresh coat of paint throughout the first floor and the nursery. “We felt that if the kitchen and our bedrooms were okay, we could live in it and slowly update the rest of the house,” says Sarah.
The following year, prompted by the imminent arrival of a second child, the Webbs had Torre begin the second phase: a “big-girl room” for Taylor, a guest room, and an upstairs family room. Soon after, a third phase of construction brought about an updated third floor and a laundry room.
The Webbs’ home still bears many of Halle’s eclectic touches but stands ready to serve a 21st-century family. This careful blending is immediately apparent when stepping through the antique front door into a hallway where vintage windows flood the space with light, and a decidedly contemporary West Elm carpet and a post-modern pedestal table anchor the space.
Decorating their first house was a challenge for this young couple with diverging tastes. “It was a tug of war at first. I wanted to err on the side of rustic, and Sarah likes things more contemporary. So we went contemporary,” Grant says with a laugh.
To help them feather their traditional-with-a-twist nest, the Webbs worked with their good friend, Susan Stacy, of Gauthier-Stacy, an interior-design firm in Boston. “We’ve known Susan for years,” says Sarah. “She has an old house that she completely restored, and she has little kids, so she knew that the décor couldn’t be too precious.”
The old house still unfolds from the front hallway, with a combination music room/dining room to the left. A grand piano settles into one corner beside distressed wall panels that reveal layers of old paint in shades of greeny-blue and red. “We know nothing about the origins of this wall, which I find frustrating,” says Grant, of one of the decorative touches he likes to think came from Halle, who would buy antique architectural pieces around the world to install in his renovations. “There’s a rumor that the panels are from the Orient, but I wish we could prove it.”
To the right is a formal living room, which may be the oldest part of the house, dating back as far as the 1780s. Restored paneling and cabinetry in golden hues contrast with freshly modern furnishings that Stacy helped the Webbs choose.
The couple’s favorite place to spend evenings together is the family room in the back of the house. Despite the old leaded-glass doors (punctuated here and there with a rose-colored pane or two) and a stone floor, the room is warm and cozy. A swinging pine door leads to the eat-in-kitchen where old timbers appear to have been added. “We think these are for effect because it looks like they were taken down somewhere and notched for reassembly,” says Grant. Garth Custom Kitchens designed and fabricated the fresh white cabinets and marble counters.
Upstairs, the updated master suite is reached via an anteroom. The bedroom was reconfigured to accommodate a new walk-in closet, though the Webbs took care to preserve Halle’s Delft tiles around the fireplace. “Bob worked an amazing transformation here,” says Grant of RC Torre’s bathroom renovation. Boasting custom millwork and tiles in shades of gray and white, it simply gleams. Down the hall are cheerful bedrooms and bathrooms, with an office tucked away for Sarah. Grant’s office, a guest suite, and a playroom are one flight up.
While Sarah loves to spend time in the kitchen, Grant enjoys opening the new French doors and stepping out onto the restored back terrace. “Someone did a wonderful job planting an interesting variety of trees here,” Grant says admiringly. A verdant lawn completes the landscape—a perfect setting for Halle’s legacy and a family’s future.