September 26, 2023

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Your Dream House

Column: Building Your Own Dream House

Column: Building Your Own Dream House

562 North Street, Greenwich, CT

By Mark Pruner

One of the founding families of Greenwich, the Meads, had a large piece of land on the east side of North Street just north of the intersection with Taconic Road. They also had a lot of kids who needed something to do in the winter, so they expanded a pond into the perfect winter skating rink. Down a slope from North Street and surrounded by trees in mid-country, it froze earlier than ponds closer to the Sound.

Fast forward 100 years to the 1980’s, a young family was looking for home in Greenwich. They wanted a place where their children had a variety of activities, that would attract other kids. In those days, kids didn’t carry cellphones and being able to look out your window to see where the boys were was reassuring. Old Greenwich and Riverside were natural choices, but the lots are smaller than what you can get in north Greenwich. Backcountry was intriguing, but was a little too far out, so mid-country looked like a good compromise. But, where in mid-country?

Like many folks, building their own dream house designed the way they wanted was also a big desire. Even in the 1980’s there weren’t a lot of vacant lots available to build. The old Mead estate had been subdivided and one of those lots might work well for a family. It had a pond for fishing and skating and slopes for sledding. In addition, there was a large flat area by the pond for playing ball.

The lot looked like it would work, but what would you build there. They wanted to capitalize on the natural setting, the sunrise to the east over the pond and the majestic trees. They also wanted something distinctive, but with traditional elements. Finding the architect in this situation is key. You want someone who can improve on your ideas and design something that meets your wants and needs, while still staying within your budget.

While the slope down from North Street made for good sledding, it created an interesting issue for cars. The architect’s creative solution was a large circular driveway in two sweeping arcs coming down from the entrance. This way whether you were pulling in or going out and whether you were going north or south your car was already pointed nearly parallel with the traffic making for easy entry.

The house itself also took advantage of the slope and the pond . The double height entry opened to a living room with large windows that overlooked the pond. The kitchen was to the left of the entry, and he designed in a T-shape. It had a large island, which wasn’t that common in 1988, and an eat-in breakfast area with bay windows. The base of the “T” had the sink and cabinets so that if you were entertaining, the dirty dishes weren’t right in front of guests. For bigger occasions, the architect made sure that the dining room and family room as well as the living room all overlooked the pond.

To take advantage of the view down to the pond and the sun rising in the east over the pond the architect had three of the four bedrooms facing east and each had a balcony. The master suite got a large walk-in closet, and three additional closets. The master bath was state of the art with marble floors and walls, two sinks and a separate bath and shower. The boys two bedrooms were right next door for easy access for health care or behavior correction.

Downstairs, the architect and the owners designed a flexible suite with its own entrance and full bath. The rooms could be offices (as they are now), guest bedrooms, staff rooms or even a pool room with its own changing room/bath for the pool that the architect had designed.

As part of the building permit in 1988, the owners got a pool permit, but didn’t plan to build it until later. After several years of renewing the permit, their activities had evolved in different directions, so the pool permit was allowed to lapse. Today’s post-Covid buyers want a pool, but the rules have gotten tighter. However, the original architect chose well and even with the tighter rules the pool could be built right out outside the side entrance to this first-floor suite.

While the pool didn’t get built, what was added was a huge stone deck spanning nearly the entire length of the back of the house. This has become a primary focus of the house with barbecue, dining table and sitting areas. Even good houses can be made better.

Amazingly, even as their family has evolved with kids off to college and the owners both working from home, the house has continued to work well for the family. The only major change was the stone deck in back. A good design makes room(s) for the evolving family and even changes in technology and lifestyle that couldn’t be anticipated when the house was built.

Mark Pruner is realtor with Compass. He can be reached at 203-969-7900 or [email protected].