For West Coasters, bringing the outside in
Photos by John Caropreso & Jay Graygor
What happens when California chic meets New England charm? The result is an enchanting home of exposed stone with a unusual floor plan that blends perfectly with streamlined décor stylish enough to appeal to a Hollywood couple. Jeffrey and Alex Wetzel first discovered the property during a house-hunting mission. It was a former barn on land that was carved from one of Ridgefield’s circa 1920s estates.
Jeffrey is a director and producer, well known for his work on The Intern, I Am Legend, and Hangover (both 1 and 2), among a long list of other popular movies. Alex is a former costume designer and supervisor with an impressive résumé of her own. Their world travels as well as their exposure to Hollywood designs have steered their tastes toward the contemporary, something the redone barn was lacking.
Still, they were captivated by the large indoor swimming pool, which they thought might help mirror their preference for outdoor living, even when confined to the indoors. They also liked the high ceilings, oversized windows, and multiple fireplaces. They especially appreciated the exposed stone in evidence throughout the house. Little details like hidden screens that could be pulled from the window when in use, but tucked out of view when not were especially appealing.
They liked the quirky little nooks and crannies and the potential to put their own stamp on the house. An added bonus was the small cottage out back they could transform into a dance studio for their daughter, Emma.
Moving to the East Coast was going to be a tough transition for the family who was used to doing everything outdoors all year round. While Jeffrey grew up just over the line in Cross River, he had been living in Los Angeles, building his career as producer, director, and even actor since the late 1980s. It is where he met Alex, who hopes to someday return to her career. L.A. was all that Emma knew.
But the Wetzels wanted Emma to be closer to her octogenarian grandparents, and Jeffrey remembered Ridgefield as an idyllic small town with a great community feel. With Emma entering fifth grade, the good schools made the town even more attractive.
The former barn the Wetzels purchased fell short in many ways. The newly completed kitchen they left in California was so much more appealing than the dark heavy cupboards and less attractive granite this house offered. Rooms felt heavy with dark wood stained moldings and the property was shadowed by an overabundance of trees. Some deferred maintenance including a water seepage problem on the lower walk out level came as a surprise.
Jeffrey credits Alex with the vision for the gardens and the great curb appeal. It was her idea to remove what Jeffrey laughingly refers to as “mature plantings,” which he suggests is really just another way of saying “not well kept!” While they couldn’t have all the fruit trees they enjoyed in California, Alex added two apple trees. Opening up the property and adding gardens alongside a new driveway has created a very welcoming entry to the house that Jeffrey says makes him happy every time he drives in.
Jeffrey describes himself as the guy who figures out how to fix things and it took him very little time to realize the water seepage was the result of a broken pipe running beneath the lower level family room. Once replaced—problem solved giving the family an area for their home theatre and playroom. Jeffrey attacked additional hidden problems and added some smart features bringing the house up to today’s standards.
Calling his wife “spectacularly creative,” Jeffrey says it was Alex who envisioned how the interior would feel more open and airy by painting the moldings white and using soft spa gray tones on the walls. Because Alex loved her California kitchen so much, they decided to copy it. Modern black-honed countertops contrast with the white cabinets and stainless appliances. The kitchen is much larger than their previous one with high ceilings and French doors opening to the pool. A step-down living space is open from the kitchen and this is the family go-to place. It is also where they entertain.
The décor is comfortable enough to act as the family hub, but has a sophisticated flair with white sink into couches flanking the large stone fireplace. The family uses every room in the house, especially the poolroom, where they swim all year round. One of Emma’s favorite things is the Juliette balcony off her small bathroom that overlooks the backyard and the redone cottage where she teaches dance.
Alex’s favorite spot is the Tuscan-style wisteria covered patio that acts as a welcoming entryway to the home. With its outdoor fireplace, patio table and the soothing sound from the adjacent fountain, it’s a great place to relax. For Jeffrey, he says you can’t beat having a “his and hers” bathroom, something new to him. Says Jeffrey, “it’s the greatest house I could ever imagine living in.”