Celebrating the arts and community at home
Sarah Long and David Solomon built their hilltop home as a weekend destination for family, friends, and neighbors. “We wanted a house where we could entertain,” says Long. Their architect, Robert Couturier, delivered their dream design, including the whimsical “glass house,” where everyone loves to watch storms roll in while playing board games.
Photos by Phillip Ennis
On the occasion of of Sarah Long’s recent milestone birthday, her husband, David Solomon, commissioned a video tribute. In the film, her family and friends described her as “vivacious,” “passionate,” and “hilariously funny.” Clearly, the Bedford Playhouse could not have found a more spirited and dedicated board chair. Long’s passion for the arts was evident long before she agreed to lead the team.
Raised in Hamden, Connecticut, Long double dipped at Yale, earning both an undergraduate and graduate degree before pursuing an acting career on stage and screen. She met Solomon on campus, and after law school, he worked first as an entertainment lawyer, and then they moved to Hollywood where he oversaw the development and production of feature films. Eventually, the couple decided it was time to head back east, closer to family—hers still in Connecticut; his in Manhattan and Bedford. “David’s parents used to have a wonderful home on Old Corner Road. I spent a lot of time there—about the same time I fell in love with David, I fell in love with Bedford,” she recalls.
Solomon now works with his father, Howard, at Hildred Capital Partners in Manhattan, but he continues to feed his passion for production with special projects like Rebirth, the Peabody Award-winning film about those whose lives were dramatically impacted by September 11. Long’s focus, meanwhile, has shifted to parenting the couple’s three children—Calvin, Emmett, and Abigail—and in her free time, she dedicates her energy to causes such as the New 42nd Street, a non-profit that oversees the redevelopment of seven historic theaters in Times Square and operates the New Victory Theater, the city’s premier theater devoted to arts and education for children and families. On weekends, the family religiously decamps from Manhattan to Bedford, where they live next door to Howard and his wife on Harris Road.
Last year, Bedford Playhouse president John Farr asked Long to lead the board. “I chose Sarah for several reasons,” says Farr. “As a former actress she clearly had an affinity for film and culture. As Vice-Chair of the New 42nd Street, she knows a lot about renovating theaters. And finally, I was immediately struck by her energy, vitality, and commitment to the cause. She was an incredibly quick study, and I felt we had an immediate rapport.”
Long took a month to think over Farr’s invitation before accepting the role. “I’m very passionate about the Playhouse,” she says. “And, it’s completely up my alley—all my interests coming together—arts, education, film, poetry, authors. I mean, everything I love to do. I like film, but that’s not why I got involved. I got involved because of the community aspect of it.”
On a sunny, late summer day, Long wraps up her weekly meeting with the Playhouse design team just in time to lead a tour of her home and property. She and Solomon purchased an old farmhouse on this site in 2003 and hired celebrated architect Robert Couturier to design a renovation and expansion. However, when contractor Chris Wilson and his Alternate Designs crew began to remove the stone exterior, they discovered extensive rot, and the whole project needed to be reconsidered.
Couturier and his project architect Bob Epley went back to the drawing board and worked closely with Long and Solomon on a completely new design. “We had worked with Robert on four different projects already, so he knows us well,” Long says of Couturier. “He’s wonderful at mixing elements of both our personalities. He’s got a great sense of whimsy, and he knew that we wanted a house where we could entertain.”
Couturier and Epley also knew that their clients wanted a comfortable getaway where everyone, including the dogs and cat, could come and go, and people coulddrop in last minute. In Manhattan, their entertaining spaces are much more formal.
“In Bedford, I didn’t want one big room where everybody gathered; I wanted people to have nooks and crannies. I wanted nature everywhere with animals and plants in every room. And, I wanted a folly. That’s what this is,” she says in reference to the two-story glass wing that overlooks the property. “Traditionally, a folly would be off on its own in the garden, but we decided to attach it to the house.”
The building process took nearly five years—from methodically salvaging the original stone to installing the new hand-carved wood paneling and plaster friezes in the library. At the same time, landscape designer Miranda Brooks reimagined the hilltop property to include an allée of linden trees and lush perennial and vegetable gardens. Long and Solomon soon added a whimsical tree house, an amphitheater, and a bali bed that overlooks the pool and pool house, as well. Adjacent to the pool is a gate that leads to a forest wonderland nestled in a ravine where Solomon has created pathways and boardwalks, bridges and benches, and even a gazebo.
Some of the paths serve equestrians who canter by on the Bedford Riding Lanes, while the boardwalks facilitate Solomon’s Saturday morning walks with his father. “When we moved in, there was a pond in bad shape, swampy wetlands, and BRLA trails,” explains Solomon. “We wanted to restore the pond, improve the bridge and paths for riders, and build the boardwalks so we could enjoy the wetlands. Our kids love going down there now.”
Entertaining is a high priority here, and over the past nine years, the Long-Solomons have hosted some fabulous events. “I love to throw a party. I love to set a table,” Long says. “We’ve done parties for 60 or 70, but my favorite thing is people just stopping by, staying for dinner.”
While Long cherishes spontaneous, intimate gatherings, her dramatic productions best illustrate her attraction to the Playhouse. Four years ago, she directed a homegrown cast in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream out back on the boardwalks.
This past June, she followed up with her spirited interpretation of Aristophanes’s The Birds. Three hundred guests settled into the amphitheater while family and friends performed various roles wearing costumes and masks that Long’s family and neighbors handcrafted in the weeks leading up to the performance. “It’s all about experiencing and discovering the arts together. That’s where the magic happens,” she says. “I’d like to make the Playhouse like that, too.”