Home Improvement

The fantasy of a Cotswolds nation dwelling meets actuality in Westchester

Like so many renovation projects, the remodeling of Keren and Thomas Richter’s 1850s farmhouse in Pound Ridge, NY, came with many surprises.

When the couple, partners at an interior design firm called White Arrow, found a shabby home in late 2017, they assumed they could give it a cosmetic makeover and that it would serve as a quaint weekend getaway from their main Brooklyn home. Both assumptions turned out to be wrong.

“We used to come to North Westchester on the weekends and drive around and we were always so intrigued by what it felt like to be in the country when you really are only an hour from town,” said Ms. Richter , 40 who appreciated the field stone walls, old houses and spacious lots.

After the couple decided to pursue their dream of owning a home in the area, they quickly found their home: a peeling clapboard structure, with three sections built over a century on five acres of green space. The house had charm but needed work. It appeared to have been last updated with worn linoleum and formica in the 1950s. Outside, unruly bushes had gained the upper hand.

“It was in an estate state,” said Ms. Richter. “Since we do interiors, we thought it would be a great opportunity for us to restore something and give it our own touch.”

Such a time-consuming project is not for everyone, so they did not expect the subsequent bidding war. “There were developers who were interested because they could demonstrate it and build two houses on the property,” said Ms. Richter. The asking price was $ 650,000, but the Richters ultimately paid $ 818,000; They suspect that a letter to the seller explaining how they intended to restore the house helped secure the purchase.

However, as they began to examine the house more closely, their initial excitement gave way to concern. They knew they wanted to raise the ceilings in some upper sections, which were so low that Mr. Richter, who is six feet tall, could barely get up. But they didn’t expect to replace the foundation under the part of the house built in the 1950s.

“It wasn’t really built on a proper foundation,” says Mr. Richter, 39. “We hired a structural engineer to look into it and he said we had to renew the foundation under this part because it is basically sinking.”

They also found that all electrical wiring and plumbing needed to be replaced. Then the septic system failed. It quickly became clear that the project would involve much more than a cosmetic refresh: it would be a down-to-earth and down-to-earth remodel.

With Brooklyn-based INCA as architects and Robert Lord Construction, the Richters honored their renovation plans for a year before starting construction in December 2018. Sometimes they camped outside in warm weather.

“We got a Porta Potty and our friends came,” said Mr. Richter. “We had a fireplace and tents and camped in the country because the house was a shell.”

To restore the exterior, they found photos of the house from the early 1900s and wanted to recreate what was there more than a hundred years earlier, including a distant porch.

Inside, they hoped to create spaces that were reminiscent not only of early American houses but also of English country houses. “At first we joked that it should feel like a cottage in the Cotswolds even though we are north of Westchester,” Ms. Richter said. “But I think in a way that’s the mood.”

It helped have a used, UK-made AGA range become the centerpiece of their kitchen after they found someone in Montana to sell one on Craigslist. “Thomas flew out there and drove it back with a U-Haul,” says Ms. Richter.

“It was the best trip of my life,” added Mr. Richter, who grew up in Germany and had never been on an American cross-country road trip. “This trip was so epic and I made a lot of detours.”

Now the series is the most popular feature in an extended kitchen with Shaker-inspired cabinets, beadboard paneling, and a custom work table, all painted in deep petrol.

Upstairs, they designed a new master suite with a bathroom fitted with a freestanding cast iron bathtub and shower under the newly raised ceiling. In the attic, they created a home office for their design studio.

The 3,000-square-foot, four-bedroom home also has a sunny playroom which was of paramount importance. The Richters have two daughters, Mira (4) and Laila, who were born last February.

That’s one of the reasons the couple decided to leave Brooklyn and make Pound Ridge their primary residence. They were never able to use the house as a weekend getaway: it was completed shortly after the pandemic outbreak last March for about $ 340,000 when they moved in.

Now, with a growing family, they have found their five acres of fields and forest too irresistible to leave. “It’s much more in touch with nature than we had before and it’s just great for children,” says Ms. Richter.

And with the social distancing rules relaxed, she added, “We expect our Brooklyn friends will be here a lot.”

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