Friday, November 14, 2008

House of the Week

The call came in at 8:45. "The house is going to be finished today, furniture and people come tomorrow. If you want to see it, come today!"

The voice belonged to John MacDonald, a builder with his partner, Patrick McCarthy, of spectacular homes. They've done cottages before - concrete walls, specially designed windows, shake siding with their own green clapboard. Lovely homes that live in the trees. In Oswego.

The day of course was cold and blustery with snow in the air. Not the day to drive 40 miles one way, all north. Intrepid Janet had to work, the dogs were unreliable, Bob was at my aunt's finishing a job, but I had to go. Ice or no ice! Neither wind nor rain......the houses they build are that special.

This one was more so, about 5,000 sf of "moreso." I came up the 800 foot drive to a sea of contractors' vans and the rear of the house and wandered in. John said hello and made a dump run, giving me over to Patrick.

The first room I entered was the daughter's room with - I kid you not! - a mote outside the windows (actually basement window wells) but the analogy made sense. The walls were textured, the woodwork phenomenal, the doors - all interior wooden carved doors - were arched. The effect - spectacular. And I hadn't gotten out of the rear bedroom yet!

Down a hall to the kitchen - huge, naturally, and solid and big. Ovens and wine coolers and stone and granite. An arch over the 6 burner Viking stove, stainless steel appliances except for the dishwasher hidden away in a panel. Patrick pulled open a couple drawers in the island and said "Look at this!" I had no idea what I was looking at - I'm not sure he did, either! He didn't even bother trying to explain the steam oven.

Beyond that was a fireplace and den, then another one I think but I'm getting lost. All the richness of detail. I said it was like a castle, and he agreed. That was the intention - a new home that felt like it had been there for years. The carved wood - but not overbearing with light everywhere.

The main room was a great room open to the kitchen, centered by a massive fireplace. The chandelier - copper and filagree - could be lowered to dust or change bulbs. The staircase on the side caught my eye - spindles had been ordered from Italy for it. Above the room it opened into a small balcony overlooking what could be mad revelers or a round table with knights.

Upstairs was quiet. A den, a guest bedroom, the master bedroom - everywhere details and texture. I met Dina Pollits McCarthy, Patrick's daugher-in-law, who completed the tour while he went off to work. She graciously showed me through - the bathroom off the den, blue, with the prettiest flooring! - and told me that her husband, Noel, had crafted many of the built-in wood fixtures.

The master bath took my breath away. I love bathrooms. I think they are both essential and lend themselves to creativity. This was no exception. Dina explained that the focal point, a massive jacuzzi double seated tub was situated in the center so the owners could see the stars while they soaked. She demonstrated a screen that could be raised and lowered for privacy that stayed hidden when not in use. I'm sure I'm going to think of that tub in the winter months to come.

There was so much more. The lighting, the furniture, the closets - all massive and chosen by Dina to give a sense of stability and function as well as beauty. She explained those drawers Patrick had pulled out - refrigerated vegetable drawers near the stove for the weekly organic delivery. And yes, you can bake a cake in a steam oven.

Dina was the decorator who had a vision, but as she explained to me the vision came only after speaking with the owners. And they are thrilled, understandably. They are moving in to a gorgeous home that is both a magnificent piece of art and a home.

I walked outside into the winds and the cold, realizing that I hadn't felt one buffet while inside. John told me the house was built to accept wind, solar, and geothermal energy systems. The goal is zero cost eventually when all is in place.

As I drove home I listened to NPR and Talk of the Nation which providentially had a program on real estate. The experts agreed there were two spots in the entire country in which properties increased in value: some odd areas of North Carolina and Upstate New York. But even in the midst of this most dismal economic year, a home such as the one I had just visited could be built with relative certainty that it would hold its value.

To see photos, Dina will soon load them on her website: