Like so many home improvement projects, the transformation of Keren and Thomas Richter’s 1850s farmhouse in Pound Ridge, NY, did not lack surprises.
When the couple, partners with an interior design firm called White Arrow, found a dilapidated house in late 2017, they assumed they could refresh it with a cosmetic makeover and that it would serve as a weekend getaway. bucolic at their main residence in Brooklyn. Both of these assumptions turned out to be wrong.
“We would often go to North Westchester on weekends and drive around, and we have always been so charmed by the feeling of being in the country, even if you are really only an hour’s drive away. of the city, ”said Ms. Richter, 40, who appreciated the stone walls of the fields, the old houses and the generous grounds.
After the couple decided to make their dream of owning a home in the area come true, they quickly found their home: a clapboard structure, with three sections built over a century, on five acres of greenery. The house had charm, but needed some work. It appears to have been last updated in the 1950s, with worn linoleum and formica. Unruly bushes had taken over outside.
“He was in a state of succession,” Ms. Richter said. “Since we are doing 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 isn’t for everyone, so they didn’t anticipate the bidding war that followed. “There were developers who were interested in it because they could demonstrate it and create two houses on the land,” Ms. Richter said. The asking price was $ 650,000, but the Richters ultimately paid $ 818,000; they suspect that a letter they wrote to the seller, explaining how they planned to restore the house, helped secure the purchase.
However, as they began to take a closer look at the house, their initial excitement gave way to worry. They knew they wanted to raise the ceilings of some upstairs sections which were so low that Mr. Richter, who is 6ft 3in tall, could barely stand. But they had not planned to replace the foundation under the part of the house built in the 1950s.
“It wasn’t really built on a proper basis,” Mr. Richter, 39, said. “We hired a structural engineer to review it, and he said we had to redo the foundation under that part because it was sinking.
They also discovered that all electrical wiring and plumbing needed to be replaced. Then the septic tank broke down. Before long, it was clear that the project would involve much more than an aesthetic refresh: it would be a down-to-the-roof reconstruction and digging up the earth.
With Brooklyn-based INCA as the benchmark architect and Robert Lord Construction, the Richters mapped out their renovation plans for a year before starting construction in December 2018. When the weather was warm, they would sometimes camp there.
“We bought a Porta jar, and our friends came,” Mr. Richter said. “We had a hostel and tents and camped on the ground because the house was a shell.”
To restore the exterior, they found photos of the house from the early 1900s and aimed to recreate what was there over a hundred years earlier, including a porch that had been removed.
Inside, they hoped to create rooms reminiscent of not only early American houses, but English country houses as well. “At first we were joking that we wanted it to look like a Cotswold country house even though we are in north Westchester,” Ms Richter said. “But I think, in some ways, that’s the vibe.”
It helped that a UK-made used AGA range became the centerpiece of their kitchen after they found someone in Montana selling one on Craigslist. “Thomas flew in there and brought him back in a U-Haul,” Ms. Richter said.
“It was the best trip of my life,” added Mr. Richter, who grew up in Germany and had never experienced an American road trip across the country. “This trip was so epic and I took a lot of detours.”
Now the range is the popular feature of an expanded kitchen with Shaker-inspired cabinetry, wainscoting panels, and a custom worktable, all painted a deep teal blue.
Upstairs, they designed a new master suite, including an en-suite bathroom fitted with a cast iron freestanding bathtub and a shower under the newly raised ceiling. In the attic, they created a home office for their design studio.
The four-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot home also had a sunny playroom, which was of paramount importance. The Richters have two daughters, Mira, 4, and Laila, born last February.
This is part of the reason the couple decided to move out of Brooklyn and make Pound Ridge their primary residence. They were never able to use the house as a weekend escape: it was completed, at a cost of around $ 340,000, just after the pandemic last March, when they moved in.
Now, with a growing family, they have discovered that their five acres of fields and forests are too irresistible to leave them. “It’s a lot more of a nature-focused experience than it used to be, and it’s really great for the kids,” Ms. Richter said.
And with the relaxation of social distancing rules, she added, “we expect our friends from Brooklyn will be here often.”
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