Real Estate

They Thought Remodeling Could Wait. Then a Tree Fell on the House.

When Dana and Jay Vasser purchased a midcentury-modern home in Pelham Manor, N.Y., in Westchester County, they figured they could renovate it — sooner or later.

Then the majestic pine tree that towered over the home got here crashing down on high of it throughout a storm within the spring of 2018, and the Vassers discovered themselves compelled right into a development venture they hadn’t deliberate on.

“It was a couple of 100-foot-tall pine tree in our entrance yard, and the trunk simply snapped about 15 toes up, and it fell instantly throughout the home,” mentioned Mr. Vasser, 40, who works in finance.

“That was the catalyst that made us begin transferring extra rapidly than we perhaps needed to,” mentioned Ms. Vasser, 41, who works in human assets for a monetary firm. “However ultimately, it labored out completely.”

The tree didn’t crush the home, but it surely did tear a gap within the roof that allowed water inside when it rained and broken a sunroom so badly that it needed to be boarded up.

When the Vassers purchased the home in 2013, for $920,000, that they had given the previous kitchen a easy replace, with white cupboards and white marble counters, however had left most all the pieces else as is. “It was a really fast and painless brightening of the kitchen, as a result of we each knew that sooner or later we have been going to do a much bigger renovation,” Ms. Vasser mentioned.

By the point the tree toppled, that they had two kids — Sophie, now 8, and Drew, 5 — and, confronted with the prospect of main development, they determined there was no higher time to create the household house they needed.

Designed in 1961 by Harold and Judith Edelman, a husband-and-wife staff who based an structure agency now generally known as ESKW/Architects, the low-slung rectangular field of a home had many components the Vassers appreciated, together with loads of pure mild, a spacious lounge and wooden ceilings supported by hefty uncovered beams. When the couple started interviewing architects for the renovation, they have been stunned that many needed to erase these authentic particulars.

“Lots of these architects would are available and wish to blast by means of the partitions, take down the attractive redwood-beamed ceilings and issues like that,” Ms. Vasser mentioned. “However we mentioned, ‘No, that’s the great thing about it.’ Homes don’t get made like this anymore.”

So that they have been relieved after they started speaking with Scott Specht, the founding principal of Specht Architects, who understood the house’s deserves and prompt a extra nuanced method.

“It was an attention-grabbing proposition, this home,” Mr. Specht mentioned, noting that it had already been modified and embellished in awkward methods through the years. “It had some nice qualities and options to it, however there have been additionally components that had deteriorated past restore.”

And there have been different experimental options, he mentioned “like utilizing jalousie home windows” — produced from glass louvers — “that are nice for a heat local weather however not so good within the Northeast.”

With the purpose of sustaining the house’s authentic spirit whereas updating it for power effectivity and a extra up to date way of life, Mr. Specht set to work. In session with the Vassers, he determined to retain the unique footprint, however to create more room by enclosing an out of doors patio beforehand beneath the again deck to develop the walkout basement, bringing the scale of the home as much as about 3,850 sq. toes. The beforehand unfinished basement now accommodates a visitor suite, a research, a fitness center and a den with a golf simulator for Mr. Vasser, an avid golfer.

Upstairs, Mr. Specht reworked the ground plan. “Considered one of our duties was to create an actual sense of procession into home,” he mentioned.

The unique entrance door led instantly into the lounge, and there was no awning exterior to supply safety from the climate, so Mr. Specht moved the opening, tucking it deeper underneath the roof to create a recessed entry, and reoriented the rooms inside to create a correct lobby.

On the Vassers’ request, he moved, expanded and opened up the kitchen, which was beforehand in a separate room. Now it accommodates a big central island and flows into the living-and-dining room. He additionally changed the previous, broken sunroom with a house workplace.

Together with new home windows and doorways, Mr. Specht added insulation within the partitions and above the ceiling (the place there was beforehand none) to enhance power effectivity. He additionally re-clad the complete home in a mixture of stucco and ipe siding.

For the brand new facade, he constructed a wall barely increased and longer than the remainder of the home. It features “like a proscenium,” he mentioned, obscuring the vents and pipes on the flat roof and making the home look longer from the road.

Nearly precisely a 12 months after development started in November 2018, the Vassers moved again into their overhauled modernist house whereas the ending touches have been nonetheless being accomplished. The venture was lastly completed in January 2020, at a price of about $300 a sq. foot.

When the pandemic struck a number of months later and the household was caught working and studying remotely of their new house, “we felt very lucky to have this,” Mr. Vasser mentioned. “It was like, ‘What a fantastic place to spend all our time.’”

The venture, born of a setback, has rewarded the household with a house they love.

“The frequent areas on this home are simply so inviting now,” Ms. Vasser mentioned. “We all the time wish to be hanging out right here collectively.”

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