A Trip to Bountiful
A Wilton Property Rich in History and Natural Beauty
Photo Rana Faure––Outdoor Tablescapes Courtesy of Open House
How did a die-hard New Yorker and a high-energy finance guy with little patience for DIY projects and a penchant for competitive archery, end up buying an antique house on Seir Hill Road in need of a lot of TLC? It all came down to an informal—but binding—verbal agreement the couple made when they got married.
“We made a deal,” explains Tammy Ward, “that if I got pregnant, we’d move to the country. I was a city girl. I grew up in apartments and had lived in Manhattan for 20-plus years in a one-bedroom on the Upper East Side—which I loved. John, on the other hand, is a country boy at heart from Williamsburg, Virginia.”
The couple was living in New York but also renting a house in Wilton to be close to Alex and Kyle, John’s two sons from a former marriage.
In her 30s, Tammy, who had previously worked as a technology recruiter, stumbled into a successful and lucrative career as a fit model, working for major brands such as Calvin Klein, Gap, and Champion. Life was god. Great even. But then it got even better when Tammy discovered she was pregnant.
A deal was a deal so the couple began their real estate search in Wilton, Westport, and Weston. “This was the first house we saw,” says Tammy. “John didn’t love it because basically it was a disaster, but I could see the potential.”
The overall structure was confused. Built in 1878, the original dwelling was a classic farmhouse, with approximately 1,500 square feet of living space. In the 1950s, a dining room was added. In the 60s a lower family room addition was built, followed by a new kitchen, foyer, and second floor build in the ’90s, with three more bedrooms and two baths bringing the house total to 5,000 square feet.
The décor throughout was tired. “Every single room was covered in peeling floral wallpaper,” says John. “All I saw was dollar signs and construction but I loved the property because it was flat enough for me to practice archery.” For Tammy, it was all about the massive oak tree in the backyard. “That tree sold me,” she says. “I immediately envisioned pushing my daughter on a tire swing. I also loved the porch. It was the perfect spot for lunch, afternoon tea, or dinner in the summertime.”
There were a lot of pros about the property, but also a long list of cons, so the couple kept looking. Another contender, a new build on Powder Horn Hill, was tempting but ultimately, the lack of a swimming pool and professional landscaping deterred them.
After seeing 15 potential houses, the Seir Hill property finally won them over. “It had the yard and the bones,” says Tammy. “We figured we could paint the walls, live in it for a while, and then figure out how to make it ours.”
And they did exactly that. The wallpaper came down and every surface was repainted. But Tammy, who was busy taking care of their young daughter Zoe, had no experience renovating a house. Enter Joss Citrone of Sheridan Interiors who helped the Wards define their vision. Like many redecorating projects, it all started with one room and the scope expanded from there. The formal parlor at the front of the house was being used solely for storage. John had become passionate about collecting bourbon and wanted a place to relax and showcase his 300-bottle collection. Once that room was transformed into a cozy bar and lounge, the dining room looked like it needed some attention too. Design plans for the kitchen, foyer, master bedroom, and living room followed.
“Here in the living room we had dated olive green couches, an old Persian carpet, and a metal coffee table. It was a total mish-mash of discards,” says Tammy. Now, it’s a sophisticated space with contemporary furnishings and a neutral palette of ivory and blue echoed throughout the house.
After painting the solid wood kitchen cabinetry a warm white, adding new appliances, countertops, and fixtures, the kitchen has now become Tammy’s favorite room. “I love to cook so I basically live in the kitchen. I make jellies, jams, salsa, and tomato sauce and preserve the veggies that John grows. I can be in the center of it all. It is really the heart of our home.”
John favors the bourbon parlor room. “I leave for work at 6:15 a.m. and am not typically home until 8:30 p.m. My job is demanding and stressful so I want to relax. This is a space to unwind and catch up with Tammy.”
The couple has spent just as much time and expense on landscaping the exterior as they have on refurbishing the interior. After living in the house for about a year, John’s then 17-year-old son, Alex, noticed a small garden behind the garage that was completely overgrown. “He suggested that we go buy some plants and put them in, so we did.” Soon, John was hooked. “Because I can’t do anything small, I had our landscaper put in 600 square foot garden with raised beds. I went crazy with all the varieties of peppers, tomatoes, and asparagus, so I had another 15-by-15 foot garden installed for squash, pumpkins, watermelon, and zucchini.
But that wasn’t enough for this gentleman farmer. “One of my friends mentioned that beehives would double my yield of vegetables, so I had two beehives installed and in the first year, we harvested 80 pounds of honey.”
For outdoor entertaining, the couple doubled the patio square footage and created a sumptuous outdoor living room with a seating area, dining table, and water feature. Vibrantly colored flowers bloom throughout the property all summer long making the space even more magical.
And Tammy got her wish. At the very back of the beautiful two-acre property stands the gracious 75 year-old maple tree, with an oversize tire swing where six-year-old Zoe loves to swing, long hair flying, as she is gently pushed by her mother.