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Garden of Love

A Stratfield Couple creates their Dream Space, after years of meticulous renovations



Photos by Hulya Kolabas

Twenty years ago, Daryl Duarte threw a birthday party for a friend at his Black Rock apartment. A mutual friend brought David Schiffer, a designer who owns DMSsite Design, a landscape architecture company. As Schiffer wandered through the apartment and garden, he became more intrigued by the man who lived there. “There were vines growing up the house, a very nice sitting porch with hanging baskets, and the apartment was full to the brim with Daryl’s collections. The walls were hung floor to ceiling with paintings done by Daryl’s father and other inexpensive, but pretty, paintings from tag sales and flea markets,” says Schiffer.

As he got to talking to Duarte that night, the two hit it off. He learned that Duarte and his downstairs neighbor had won “Bridgeport in Bloom” twice for enhancing the beauty of streets in the city of Bridgeport. The next day Schiffer brought Duarte some tomatoes from his garden. “We’ve been together ever since,” says Duarte. 

They kept separate apartments for a few years and then decided it was time to share an abode, which is what prompted them to begin house hunting. Schiffer grew up in Stratford and Duarte had lived in Black Rock for almost 20 years, having grown up in Barrington, Rhode Island. But they both gravitated to Fairfield, and specifically the Stratfield section of town. “Stratfield is a neighborhood in the best sense of the word,” explains Schiffer. “We love that people walk their kids to school, children play in the streets, and the houses are close enough to have a strong feeling of community, but far enough apart to provide privacy.”

They fell in love with the home on Inwood Road, with its abundance of storybook charm and curb appeal. Duarte had heard that it was for sale, drove by, and quickly texted Schiffer, “you’re not going to believe this house.” Both are attracted to the construction and style of period homes, and this one is the epitome of all they sought. The rooms are generously proportioned, with high ceilings, and the porch has dramatic stone pillars accessed by two sets of French doors, one from the living room, and one from the dining room—providing great flow.

“The whole house has hardwood floors, and each story of the house has a different wood,” explains Schiffer. “The first floor is quarter-sawn oak, the second floor is fir, and the third floor is heart pine.” Part of the original butler’s pantry, complete with glass front cabinets, remained in the kitchen. Duarte was smitten, as he had substantial vintage pottery collections to put behind those doors.

With its good bones, the house was the ideal canvas for their vision. While they set to work renovating, they never changed the footprint. “We replaced the roof with a AAA-ripped cedar shake roof and copper gutters, and removed the steam radiators as they were very large and too dominant for our tastes and replaced them with forced hot air and central air conditioning,” says Schiffer. They restored the plaster and refinished the wood floors. They were careful to keep much of the home’s 1928 details, maintaining the original window frames and restoring the oversized wood front door. 

Over the years Schiffer and Duarte have tweaked the house, always employing the same treasured team. “We have relied on the same contractors since 2003. Whenever we are thinking about making any changes, or doing any renovation project, we say, “Let’s have a meeting,’” Schiffer says. “That is code between us that we need to meet with plumber Joe Tassitano, electrician David Gasso, carpenter Mark Eigenbrodt, landscape contractor Juan Coyt, and garden assistant Pat Sniffen. “They all know each other, work with each other collaboratively, understand we want the best outcomes we can possibly achieve, and they always exceed expectations.” 

While the house is itself a gem, the park-like garden is something to behold. The plantings and property are a continuous work in progress. In 2005, the couple bought a one-quarteracre parcel from an adjoining neighbor, in the middle of which lay an abandoned, 100-year-old spring-fed swimming pool. It was a “cement pond” without any purification system. Spring water came into the pool, and exited through an infinity edge water spout, dropped into a cistern, which then supplied water to a pond. “We renovated the swimming pool adding modern filtration and a spa accompanied by gardens, walking paths, and destination patios,” says Schiffer.

Later they added the pergola which serves as the nucleus of the property, framing all other features and forming a gate through which they pass from one section to another. “We sit on Adirondack chairs, which were owned by my grandparents, under the shade from the wisteria, sip our cocktails, talk about our day, reminisce about the past and plan our future,” says Schiffer. 

At least once a day, Duarte and Schiffer walk around the entire yard and make plans for future projects. “We love to adjust borders as plants mature, move plants when they outgrow their spot, and divide,” says Schiffer. The couple recently celebrated their 2013 marriage with an overdue honeymoon trip to Italy. They love to travel, but are always thrilled to return to their Inwood Road oasis.

“We don’t take the house for granted, we appreciate our good fortune for having found it, and know that we are lucky to live in a neighborhood surrounded by such giving and lovely people.”

 

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On June 23, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich opens Expressionism in Print: The Early Works of Richard Haas, 1957 - 64 in the Arcade Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through October 21, 2018....

Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
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Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
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Open during regular Library hours Paradise [Lost] features a collection of color photographs by Árpád Krizsán, Best in Show winner of Pequot Library's 2017 Art Show....

Cost: Free and open to the public.

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
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Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346
Contact Name: Pequot Library
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Nature is on display in “A Reverence For Nature” with pieces that reflect the artists’ admiration of nature or the environment in a multitude of ways. Exhibiting artists include...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
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Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Nadia Martinez
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Francisco Fullana, Violin Soloist Join us for three masterpieces representing important moments in time for orchestral music.  Arvo...

Cost: $50; $37.50, $25, Students $10

Where:
Norwalk Concert Hall
125 East Avenue
NORWALK, CT  06855
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Sponsor: Norwalk Symphony Orchestra
Telephone: 203-956-6771
Contact Name: Sandra Miklave, Executive Director
Website »

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On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
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Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

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ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
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Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

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Laura from Olive My Skin will be joining us to talk about her lovely natural soaps, wood wick soy candles and skin care line, all proudly made in Connecticut. All Fair Trade, paraben free,...

Cost: free

Where:
The Smithy
10 Main Street
New Preston, CT  06777
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Sponsor: The Smithy
Telephone: (860)868-9003
Contact Name: susan
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A series of graphic novel-style panels designed by illustrator Kirk Manley tells the dramatic story of the spy ring that operated between New York City, Long Island, and Fairfield during the...

Cost: Members: Free; Adults: $5; Seniors & Students: $3; children 5 and under: Free.

Where:
Fairfield Museum
370 Beach Rd
Fairfield, CT  06824
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In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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The Housatonic Museum of Art presents a new exhibition, “Drip Drop, Tick Tock” by regional artist, Joseph Fucigna. The show focuses on sculptures from the on-going Plastic Fencing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Housantonic Community College
900 Lafayette Blvd.
Bridgeport, CT  06604
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Telephone: 120-333-25052
Contact Name: Robin Zella

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On June 23, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich opens Expressionism in Print: The Early Works of Richard Haas, 1957 - 64 in the Arcade Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through October 21, 2018....

Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Formed in 1963 in Stamford, CT, The Fifth Estate was a central part of the garage rock movement. Remember NBC's 'Hullabaloo'? They performed their crackin' song 'I Just...

Cost: $28

Where:
Fairfield Theatre Company at StageOne
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Website »

More information

Open during regular Library hours Paradise [Lost] features a collection of color photographs by Árpád Krizsán, Best in Show winner of Pequot Library's 2017 Art Show....

Cost: Free and open to the public.

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346
Contact Name: Pequot Library
Website »

More information

Evocation of light is ever present in the romantic and experiential landscapes of Ira Barkoff. His recent works convey the spontaneity and the maturity of the artist’s hand and dedication to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Canfin Gallery
39 Main Street
Tarrytown, NY  10591
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Sponsor: 1953
Telephone: 914-332-4554
Contact Name: Jean-Claude Canfin
Website »

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Francisco Fullana, Violin Soloist Join us for three masterpieces representing important moments in time for orchestral music.  Arvo...

Cost: $50; $37.50, $25, Students $10

Where:
Norwalk Concert Hall
125 East Avenue
NORWALK, CT  06855
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Symphony Orchestra
Telephone: 203-956-6771
Contact Name: Sandra Miklave, Executive Director
Website »

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

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