In some 15 years of contributing to Home, I have had the privilege and pleasure of exploring area homes ranging from a cozy Craftsman bungalow to those with square footage in the five digits featuring every bell and whistle imaginable to the truly spectacular, such as Richard Foster’s Round House in Wilton. The homes reflect the personalities and interests of their owners, the love and care put into them. And each has something special about it, some facet or detail that is distinctive.
Occasionally, however, there is that home that seems to have it all, including such a warm and welcoming energy that as I walk through it with the owner, I am uncertain if I want to linger in each room, or move on to see what the next room or space has to offer. Such was the case of Fairhaven in Ridgefield, a home that has had only a few long-term owners since being constructed more than 100 years ago.
Located at 209 West Lane, it is secreted behind a tall hedge that runs the width of the front yard. A turn up the driveway of the 2.11-acre property, however, reveals an elegant home boasting straight lines and symmetry. Its grace is emphasized by the full-width (almost 55 feet),* deep (16.5 feet) wraparound porch, enclosed on the right side, accented by Corinthian columns, a timbered ceiling, leaded and beveled glass windows (original to the house), and a portico on the left.
A plaque on the house is dated 1910 and notes Fairhaven was the home of Geraldine Farrar (1882-1967), American lyric soprano who, among other accomplishments, made an acclaimed appearance as Cho Cho San in the Metropolitan Opera’s first production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly in 1907. She played the role 95 more times at the Met and had a second career as a film star while still giving concerts.
The home has been expanded since Farrar’s time, including by the current owners, who added the three-car garage with 35-by-22-foot room above, a breezeway with heated floors connecting the garage and mudroom to the back of the house, a breakfast area and an octagon-shaped, turreted sitting room off the renovated kitchen, and finished off the third floor. The six-bedroom, seven full- and two partial-bath house now totals about 8,500 square feet. And while spacious, with nine-foot-plus ceilings on the main level, it doesn’t feel like a big house; there is a coziness to every room and crown molding throughout.
Entering into the (added) foyer — the home had a glass-enclosed vestibule when acquired in 1998 — and the central living room beyond, the eye is drawn to the wood-burning fireplace to the right and the daylight streaming into the staircase area with leaded and beveled glass window straight ahead. But the window is misleading — drawing closer, you realize it rises near the height of the two-story opening, and is joined by two smaller windows, each a variation of the same design.
Aside from the leaded glass windows, the home’s many large windows were also updated and fill the home with natural daylight. “I love the light in here,” the female owner says. “It’s spectacular.”
This is a house meant for entertaining, with the rooms on the main floor flowing into each other, most with two entries, and French or pocket doors that can be closed for quiet or privacy. The homeowner noted that when her children were small, she could be in the sitting room having phone conversations while watching the children play in the breakfast area through the glass door.
A narrow porch was added alongside the breezeway (accessed by three sets of French doors), the steps and patio area renovated and updated, and the swimming pool replaced with a Gunite pool and spa. The curved stone wall near one end, hugging a garden, is, however, original to the house. The lower level is walk-out and much of it serves as the pool house (and an exercise/rec room), with a kitchen and full bath. The flat yard is bordered with an abundance of trees and shrubs and is very private.
When renovating the kitchen, which included combining a couple of small rooms and a small area suspected of being where the servants ate 100 years ago, the decision was made to move the staircase to the lower level to increase the kitchen size. In the process, two things were learned: the house had no structural steel holding up the top two floors, which was added, and a false wall covered a brick corner wall. That element definitely needed to be incorporated into the kitchen design, the owner recounts, and cutouts were created to hold the oven, microwave and two shelves. Additional brick, the back of the living room fireplace, was also exposed in the stove area.
While white is the dominant wall and cabinetry color throughout the house, the kitchen features a large light-blue island with mahogany top and decorative sink, an influence from the family’s time in Paris.
The third floor was primarily unfinished attic space when the owners purchased the house, but there was an 18-by-23-foot room that a prior owner used as a painting studio. Today, in addition to the bonus room, the third floor has two bedrooms, an office, a full bath, and a large cedar closet. Closet space is ample throughout the house, and most have custom built-in features.
The family lived in the house through the renovation, which included all new mechanical systems and “turned out better than we thought it would.” Dan Stasio was the builder and details include lots of nooks and crannies and a couple of window seats.
The family was initially attracted to Ridgefield by the architecture of Main Street, but wanted something less exposed.
“With this house, we feel we got the best of both worlds — a house with great architecture, a large back yard, lots of privacy, but convenient to everything. Living in the southwest corner of town is a great location for commuting — you can be to the Katonah train station in less than 15 minutes,” the owner says. “It was a great place to raise our family, but now with the children grown and going out on their own, it seems like a lot of house for two people.”
To learn more about Fairhaven, contact Karla Murtaugh at karlamurtaugh.com or 203-856-5534; Neumann Real Estate, an exclusive affiliate of Christie’s International.
Additional Fairhaven photos by Jay Graygor: