Loving life on Pierrepont Lake
Photos by Emily Sidoti
As Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg’s motto is “lean in,” Amy Pal’s should be “jump in.” Whether opening her wildly successful JoyRide spin studios or organizing a fashion show to support local art charities or renovating her house on Pierrepont Lake, Pal brings an energy and enthusiasm to everything she touches, including the town of Ridgefield. “I love living in Ridgefield,” she says.
Pal, her husband Kevin Manley, and their two sons—eight-year-old Magnus and seven-year-old Thor—moved to Ridgefield five years ago. Both Pal and Manley hail from Connecticut, but the couple met in Seattle and spent years in London, where both sons were born. Like many young parents, Pal and Manley moved back to Connecticut to be nearer to their families.
Amy Pal’s “jump in” spirit might best be exemplified by her preferred method of getting the boys off to Barlow Mountain School—paddling in a canoe! She enjoys the 30-minute paddle there with Magnus in the bow and Thor in the middle, and leisurely captains the boat solo on the return voyage. The boys are lobbying to skate to school next winter for the ultimate in lakeside commute. Boating, skating, and fishing are all regular activities for this busy family—as is hiking in the neighboring hills.
Pal’s irrepressible nature is also embodied in the two-part renovation of the Pierrepont Lake house. Upon moving to town, they rented the home on Clayton Place, which is in the Twixt Hills community. Twixt Hills is a tax district of 101 houses run by an elected board. As a community, they pay to maintain a private sandy beach and the Pierrepont dam; hire neighborhood teenagers as lifeguards; and host lakeside bonfires, parties, and fun.
The family’s year of being tenants proved to be key when the owner decided to sell and the young family snatched up the house. “Because we had been living here a year,” says Pal, “we knew exactly what we wanted to do. It was like the house was placed by the lake but didn’t take advantage of that location.”
The first step of their renovation was the kitchen. Working with Eddie Ribeiro of EBR Contracting in Norwalk, they knocked down a wall in the dining area, offering them a tableside view of the lake. They installed a window on the side of the house, which both floods the space with natural light and gives Pal a bird’s-eye view of the boys’ generous soccer pitch.
Pal chose a peninsula design over an island to give her more counter space. “I love to cook,” Pal says, describing the mouth-watering shrimp-scampi pasta and kale- avocado salad she made the night before. Emboldened by what she learned with Blue Apron food-delivery service, Pal intends to try new recipes now that she has the fundamentals under her belt. White cabinets, Carrera marble tile, Coventry gray walls, and a wood floor finish the stylish look and transform the 1964 house into a contemporary showcase.
EBR further opened up the space by taking out a wall between the dining area and staircase. Ultimately, this meant rebuilding the stairs, which resulted in a nice space in the entryway of the house for the requisite backpacks and boots.
Contractor Ribeiro says that he has a lot to thank Pal’s family for. “They are great, very energetic people, and happy with the project.” In fact, a producer for the network HGTV saw the kitchen on the popular website Houzz and contacted EBR to remodel a kitchen in Fairfield for a House Hunters Renovation episode.
Because of the synergy between client and contractor, it was no surprise that Pal and Manley looked to Ribeiro for the second stage of the renovation—the family room. As with the kitchen, they wanted to open up the space to take advantage of lakeside views and keep the design clean and comfy.
To achieve the open layout the owners wanted, Ribeiro needed LVL (laminated veneer lumber)-engineered beams to support the second floor. EBR installed columns that look decorative but are functional. Built-in custom bookshelves and crown molding give the house a modern feel. The walls are painted Chelsea grey. Ribeiro says that the family went on vacation during the renovation, which highlighted to him the trust they had built over time.
Amy Pal describes the original 1964 fireplace as “anemic,” so EBR built up the mantel and installed a wood-burning insert, which kicks off a lot of heat. “It’s very homey,” says Pal.
Sitting by the fire with views of the lake is a great feature of the house and an enviable luxury to non-lake dwellers. The family-room area opens to a four-season glass porch with 180-degree views of Pierrepont for magnificent wildlife watching and stargazing.
The Pal/Manley house isn’t big, but it has a comfortable elegance found with good design. “We’re almost like foreigners,” says Pal. “We’re used to small spaces.” Their well-chosen furniture with blue accents complements the tasteful renovation. Like the boys’ names, Magnus and Thor, that reflect time Pal spent in Denmark, the house has a Scandinavian vibe. Its warm functionality makes it a model for family life.
In April, Pal, Manley, and their partners sold their JoyRide studios in Ridgefield and Wilton back to the original owners. It will be exciting to see what Pal jumps into next. Besides, of course, the lake.