November 16, 2010

19th-century home updated for modern taste

Before Mahopac was a bustling suburb of New York City, it was a quiet agricultural town.

It was in this environment that the colonial-style farmhouse at 521 Barrett Hill Road was built in 1825. It is quite possible that Henry Barrett, the well-known owner of a general store for whom Barrett Hill Road was named, built and lived in the house. His general store was in Mahopac Falls, near where the post office currently stands, a short commute from the home, which originally sat on 125 acres of farmland.

Today, the house is owned by Matthew and Alicia Sable, who, in their almost three years of living there, have lovingly updated and maintained the house. Originally hailing from Massachusetts, the couple has lived in New York for 10 years, and wanted a home with a country feel. "We only looked at older houses, and this one had the private, country feel we wanted, but was still close to the city," Matthew said. It was also much more open and airy, and wasn't too close to the road, which is something you find in lots of historic homes." Though they plan to move to their pre-war apartment on the Upper West Side to be closer to work, they have loved their time in the home. Matthew has especially enjoyed researching the history of the house, posting some of his findings at 521barretthill.com.

The couple has made a variety of changes to the home. Their renovations, while staying true to the history of the home, have added to the energy efficiency and modern-feel of the home. The roofs above the kitchen and garage were replaced, along with clapboard around the house. While making these changes, insulation, plywood and tyvek were added to increase efficiency. "The house was like a sieve," Matthew said. "But after months of working on it, we made sure it was incredibly tight."

Inside, one of the bays of the garage was replaced with a full-size butler's pantry connected to the kitchen. Perfect for large-scale entertaining, the pantry features a second sink and refrigerator, along with plenty of cabinet- and counter-space. The kitchen itself features new appliances, but the cabinetry and especially the original-to-the-house butcher-block table maintain a historic feel to the room. A large, separate dining room is another key feature for buyers who enjoy entertaining. The room could easily sit enough for a large dinner party.

Refinished original flooring throughout most of the first level contributes to the historic feel of the home, and, Matthew said, "is one of the first things you notice when you walk into the house. People either love it or hate it, but most really love it." The living room features many historical details, including a fireplace, window-seat and built-in shelving. A large space in and of itself, it opens out onto the highest-level patio outside, to create a flow of indoor and outdoor space.

The double-staircase leads to the carpeted upper-level of the home. Windows on the top floor are low to the ground – as is typical in older farmhouses – but they let in plenty of sunshine. The light and modern colors add to the open feel of the bedrooms. The master bedroom has one closet, and features a passage way into the second bedroom. Shelving can easily be added to this passage to create a walk-in closet, and for families with children, having quick access to their room can be a wonderful feature. A third, smaller bedroom is perfect for a guest room, nursery or office. The top level of the house also features a full bathroom. It has been completely retiled, but a cast-iron filled tub has been maintained from an earlier era because of the high quality with which it was produced.

In the finished basement, a second full bath has a decidedly different feel from the first. Completely redone, the bathroom has a step-up Jacuzzi tub, and has been completely refitted with new tile and appliances. A large, clean utility room also has new utilities and a washer/dryer. The spacious family room, with new cable and entertainment hookups, opens out onto the lower-level patio, even with the lawn, for further entertaining space.

"I would tell the next owners to spend plenty of time outside," Matthew said. "You can sit in the hammock, or on the patio, and you can't see another house around you." With over three acres of land, the yard of the home is exquisite. A gravel path leads multiple ways through Japanese maples and cherry blossoms, each of which is lit by ground lights in the evening, to a potting shed and a sunken garden. Previous owners paid special attention to the plantings, and with minimal care, something new grows every week, constantly changing the face of the lawn and making sure there is something in bloom for three seasons of the year.

The sunken garden features original stone walls, a fountain and stone benches to create a quiet area for meditation. Because the lawn is fitted with electricity, it also makes an excellent place for entertaining. A stream runs along the edge of the property, and a pool could easily be installed for buyers that so desired. With the Sedgewood Club and its pools and tennis courts just down the road, however, many may opt to go there instead.

A barn on the property has been fitted with air conditioning, heating and cable, and has a locked room for storage at the front. Though there is no plumbing in the building, it can be used as a studio, office or guest house. This, like so much of the home, adds modern value to the house without detracting from its historicity.

"It's a beautiful, historic house that functions for modern use," said Margaret Harrington, the listing agent. "People have always admired it."

To find more information about this house, call Prudential Holmes and Kennedy Real Estate listing agent Margaret Harrington at 914-572-7395.


• List Price: $635,000

• Year Built: 1825

• Antique Colonial

• Listing Agent: Margaret Harrington, Prudential

• School District: Mahopac

• 3 Bedrooms

• 2 Bathrooms

• Square Footage: 3,000

• Lot Size: 3.13 acres

• Fireplace and built-in shelving

• Large seasonal gardens with lighting

• Double-staircase

• Finished barn with temperature control

• Kitchen with butler's pantry

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