Westchester's 14 Best Architects

14 architects who are changing the way the county looks—and lives.



 

We searched back through a decade of AIA award winners, and queried its membership along with interior designers, realtors, and builders, on who they thought was the top talent in the county (no fair voting for yourself!). Many of the names were familiar to us, for good reason—we’ve seen their award-winning designs time and time again over the years. But we also were introduced to some terrific new talent as well. We think their work speaks for itself.

MICHAEL GALLIN

Gallin Beeler Design Studio
828 S Broadway, Tarrytown (914) 693-4004  www.gdstudio.com

Gallin renovated the interior and exterior of this Colonial, adhering to local guidelines for historic homes

The airy grand staircase in the Colonial was cut to computerized specs and put together “like a jigsaw puzzle”

In Gallin-designed spaces, such as this modern loft, “nothing is superfluous.”

Cutting-edge technology and materials put Michael Gallin and this young firm on the fast track.
What clients want: “A great kitchen.” Inspired by: “People first. Then nature and technology.” Go-to design tool: “We’re doing a lot of three-dimensional modeling of complex forms or shapes, and matching them to specific projects. We do the 3D modeling in CAD and then give a computer file to a fabricator. You get a level of precision and complexity you’d never be able to get with traditional construction methods. It allows us to do things that we couldn’t even conceive of twenty years ago.” Favorite material: “There’s some great bamboo sheathing that has real environmental advantages. There’s not a project we do that doesn’t have significant consideration on glass. It’s sort of the anti-material; we play with translucency and the layering of different opacities.” Favorite architect: “Renzo Piano. He looks at the super-fine details of things and at the big picture all at the same time.”
 



IRA GRANDBERG

Grandberg & Associates Architects
117 E Main Street, Mount Kisco (914) 242-0033 grandbergarchitects.com

Ira Grandberg excels at designing estate homes and seamless additions.

The Long Island Sound house’s study overlooks all the other rooms of the house and the coastline beyond.

Each side of a custom home, like Round Hill in Greenwich, has “an artistic balance” of dimension and interest.

Architect Ira Grandberg indulged his love of modern design in this residence on Long Island Sound.

The blueprint: “We do a lot of big, very complicated homes. In a custom home, you can walk around any side of the home and it’s an artistic balance. How many developer homes have a great front, and then you look at the sides and the back, and it almost looks like a Western stage set?” What clients want: “Couples want a sense of openness. They want light; they want a sense of flow. We’ve done 15,000-square-foot homes and people will say it’s the most intimate house they’ve ever seen. And that’s the trick. We do not do starter castles.” Smartest move: “We go to builders with our concept designs so there’s no sticker shock later.” Favorite material: “One of my houses has blue-jean insulation made from recycled denim. Inspired by: “My dad. He was a builder when I was growing up in New Rochelle.”

This traditional New England-style coastal home has a look of permanence and history. “We don’t want our houses to show off; we want them to be lived in,” says Grandberg.

An award-winning addition tripled the size of the historic Walter Kirby home in Westport, CT and replicated details like the original chimney pots.

 


Photography by Curtis R. Lew

CAROL CIOPPA

Cioppa Architects LLC
92A Fancher Rd, Pound Ridge (914) 764-1549; cioppaarchitectsllc.blogspot.com

A two-time AIA Award-winner, Carol Cioppa has a flair for transforming humdrum homes.

In Croton, Carol Cioppa transformed a 1960s ugly duckling into a light-filled showplace. She kept the footprint, adding nine feet to one end and a generous second floor, siting the house to take advantage of the Hudson River views. “The property was overgrown when they bought it,” says Cioppa. “Now, everytime I go there it takes my breath away.”

Also in Pound Ridge, she took a bland 1960s ranch and added a front porch and a partial second story for a master suite and offices.

In Pound Ridge, Cioppa created a new hardscape and a sleek outdoor pavilion for a 1950s home.



The blueprint: “My expertise is in turning an old house that has been totally destroyed by bad additions into a jewel. I don’t seem to get projects that are easy to solve.” Notable project: “I was asked to take a simple 1960s ranch in Pound Ridge and add a partial second floor to house a master suite and home offices. This very low-budget project won an AIA Westchester Hudson Valley award. Your client doesn’t have to spend a million dollars to get a good project and have it be recognized as such.” Smartest move: “My clients are my collaborators. I try to make their dreams come true, not my dreams.” Most annoying client: “The one who took almost three months to sign my contract. Then, after the project was done and they raved about how fabulous it was, they decided not to pay me for site supervision and the structural engineer we had agreed to hire.” Favorite architects: “Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier."  Inspired by: “New buildings, interiors, and landscapes. I visit hotel lobbies as well as restaurants. Magazines, too—I get way too many!”


Photography of Carol Kurth headshot, Maplemoor Residence and Five Star House by Peter Krupenye

Photography of the Link House by Albert Vecerka/ESTO


CAROL KURTH

Carol Kurth Architecture, PC & Carol Kurth Interiors, LTD
644 Old Post Rd, Bedford (914) 234-2595; carolkurtharchitects.com

The farmhouse-inspired “Maplemoor” has been called “one of the most beautiful homes in Westchester.”

The award-winning Five Star House (featured on MTV) is “an assemblage of buildings with a historic feel done in a modern way,” using an array of finely hewn natural materials to define space and function.

Kurth worked on the original incarnation of the “Link House” in Pound Ridge in 1983; decades later its new owners asked her to “bring it to the next level” with more space, clear cedar siding, and a new pool area.

"Link House"

 

Carol Kurth, a five-time AIA Award winner, is known for glamorous, impeccably constructed homes that are ready for their close-up.

What clients want: “Comfort." Go-to design tool: “My eye and a Sharpie marker. I can use them to sketch on anything from a napkin to a piece of lumber on a job site.” Favorite material: “The sun. When designing custom homes, we always orient toward the best southern exposure.” Inspired by: “Traveling. I often photograph gates and manhole covers in the places I go. I find those particularly interesting, some ancient and embellished, others utilitarian.” Biggest challenge: “Zoning and wetlands restrictions. The properties that are still around are more and more complicated to develop.”


PAUL SHAINBERG

Paul Shainberg Architects, LLC
43 Purchase St., Rye (914) 967-3474; shainbergarchitects.com

 

A brick Colonial in Harrison got a soaring family-friendly space with a mudroom and three-car garage. “Clients want light and airy, not old and stuffy,” says Shainberg.

A Memphis-born master of the family-friendly addition, Paul Shainberg never met a Tudor he couldn't imporove.

The blueprint: “All I do is residential work, mostly renovations.” Where the work is: “Lower Westchester. We do a lot of work in Harrison; it has a tremendous number of old Tudors. I open them up and add more windows and light.” What clients want: “Young families with lots of kids want that mudroom; they can’t stand the mess. They want the family room and that awesome kitchen/breakfast area.” What clients don’t want: “Living rooms. To me there’s no reason to design spaces that are being used a few hours a year. Everybody wants fireplaces nowadays." Go-to design tool: “I’m a simple Southern boy. I have my big, black felt pens and I sketch. I don’t ever design by the computer.” Toughest clients: “Micromanagers.” Favorite architect: “Robert Stern. Only one employee in my career left me for another architect, and it was Robert Stern. I took that as a compliment.”


Photography by Frederick Charles

STEPHEN TILLY

Stephen Tilly, Architect
22 Elm St, Dobbs Ferry (914) 693-8898 stillyarchitect.com

Stephen Tilly, known for his green designs, gives old buildings a new energy.

Tilly’s update of a Normandy Tudor in Dobbs Ferry included a spectacular Classical revival outdoor area, with a new pool, elevated greenhouse and grotto spa. All the materials are recyclable, natural and locally sourced.



The blueprint: “The common thread in our projects is sustainable green design and historic preservation. Often, we combine the two.” What clients want: “To take advantage of the landscape views and natural light.” Notable project: “The green-renovation and expansion of the YWCA Residence in White Plains, for low-income and disadvantaged women. We like projects where we can bring our design talents to help good causes.” Go-to design tools: “A 6B pencil and yellow tracing paper.” Favorite material: “When I first got out of MIT, I worked as a carpenter, so I really like timbers; any hardwood.” Inspired by: “Running on the Croton Aqueduct and observing the light and shapes of nature.” Favorite building in Westchester: “The Modernist IBM headquarters on Route 9 near Tarrytown. It’s usually all lit up at night. It’s an energy disaster, but I like the building.”


 

 

Photography by David R. Sloane

DEBORAH GOLDREYER & BART HAMLIN

102 Brite Ave, Scarsdale (914) 472-4724; hamlingoldreyerarchitects.com

For this detail-oriented husband/wife team—Deborah Goldreyer and Bart Hamlin—two creative heads are better than one.

The domestic quarters of this 1918 Scarsdale stone Tudor was renovated into a new kitchen and mudroom with master bedroom above. Existing materials were matched or reused, including shingles from the old roof.

An addition houses a two-car garage and a new family room with quarter-sawn oak paneling and beams.

The new mahogany library was constructed as part of a renovation of a vintage Georgian Colonial. “Every detail you saw was drawn by Deborah,” says Hamlin proudly.
 

comes to making a design decision, it’s her call.” What clients want: Goldreyer: “Media rooms and sophisticated audio-visual systems.” Go-to design tool: Hamlin: “Persistence. Deborah works the design until it’s right.” Favorite material: Goldreyer: “Scagliola stone is crushed stone made into a paste and then molded into shapes that replicate carved stone. It’s great for mantles.” Favorite building in Westchester: Hamlin: “The Jacob Burns Film Center is a nicely done example of adaptive re-use, and the Media Arts Lab shows that you actually have some contemporary attitudes about new buildings in Westchester.” Favorite architects: Hamlin: “Louis Kahn and Edwin Lutyens." Goldreyer: "Hugh Newell Jacobsen. He does very clean, wonderful residential architecture.”



LUCIO DI LEO

Studio Rai Architectural Design P.C.
290 Salem Rd, Pound Ridge (914) 273-6843; studiorai.com

Lucio Di Leo brings an Italian flair for artistry and drama to his projects.

 This expansive interpretation of a Georgian Colonial in Purchase features a two-story glass wall on the back. “When you first walk in, you can see directly through the foyer to the pool beyond,” says Di Leo.

This stone and shingle home in Old Greenwich “is a perfect example of a modern house designed with old sensibilities.” The stonework of Ossining churches inspired the masonry.



The blueprint: “I like to involve craftsmen, whether it’s ironworkers, woodworkers, or specialty painters. Michelangelo would always say, ‘The sculpture is in the stone; it just has to reveal itself.’ That’s how I feel about the houses we do.” What clients want: “Smaller houses. Five years ago we were doing 10,000-square-foot houses. These days, 6,000 square feet is considered a large house.” Notable project: “Moderne Barn in Armonk for the Livanos Restaurant Group. Over the years, I’ve also designed all of the family’s homes too.” Favorite materials: “Stone and timber. My father was a stonemason from Italy. I considered him a sculptor." Go-to tools: “No. 2 pencil; anything that marks. I love drawing on brown paper bags.” Favorite structure in Westchester: “The double arch bridge on the Old Croton Aqueduct in Ossining. It’s a beautiful example of engineering and architecture.”

 


RADOSLAV OPACIC

Radoslav Opacic Architects
24 N Astor, Irvington (914) 591-4306; opacicarchitects.com

Croatian-born architect Radoslav Opacic brings Old World refinement and a perfectionist’s eye to proportion, detail, and craftsmanship.

A large addition makes space for a master suite on the second floor and a new kitchen on the bottom, with a bay-window breakfast area looking out on Larchmont Bay.

Man’s best friend at the entryway portico of the Tuscan-style home in Irvington.

A Colonial home in Sleepy Hollow got a modern makeover, including a sleek bath with poured-concrete sinks and soaking tub.

A new Mediterranean-style home in Irvington. “The client had been to Tuscany many times and liked the casual feeling of that style,” says Opacic.

n Bronxville, Opacic gutted the kitchen and servants’ quarters in a Louis Bowman Tudor and created a new kitchen, eating area, and terrace. He matched the home’s existing stained oak paneling and plaster walls.
 

A classic-style Manhattan hallway, created from scratch with plaster moldings and details.


The blueprint: “Details are everything for me. Our clients hire us for a quiet, subtle elegance that makes for an almost timeless quality.” Where the work is: “Scarsdale is the hot spot in terms of new buildings.” What clients want: “Green construction. A new home we’re working on in Scarsdale is geothermal, super-insulated, and all the lighting in the house is going to be LED. There will be some solar as well. It will use less than a quarter of conventional energy.” Splurges: “A lot of people put in lighting control systems, which are very expensive and sometimes complicated, and audio systems. They’re not always necessary.” Toughest job: “We had a family with many children, and every bedroom had to be exactly the same size. The site was very narrow, so it was very difficult to make the house fit on the site and not look like a McMansion.” Favorite material: “There are so many wonderful new surfaces, like PaperStone. There are all sorts of new decorative glass. There are endless possibilities with these new materials.”

 


Photography of Eileen Fisher's residence by Rob Magnotta (exterior) and William Rothschild (interior)


EARL FERGUSON

Earl Everett Ferguson Architect, PLLC
One Bridge St, Irvington (914) 591-5066 earlfergusonarchitect.com

A master of preservation, Earl Ferguson brings integrity and history to every project he touches.

(Top and right) In his stunning renovation of the 1952 Usonian-style Rakhaus in Bedford, Ferguson restored the original circular stone structure and added a large addition that kept with its organic, natural feel.
 

(Top and right) Ferguson found his inspiration for Eileen Fisher’s residence in the 19th-century architecture of the historic Hudson Valley. The interior has a modern layout, with the kitchen opening onto living spaces.
 



The blueprint: “We were practicing good sustainable design standards and a concern for the environment before it became a popular movement.” What clients want: “We’re seeing more emphasis on spaces of refuge.” Notable project: “Eileen Fisher’s headquarters and offices on the waterfront. We celebrated the beauty of the factory building’s bare bones, with open steel trusses, and skylights. The space had dirt floors and pigeons living in it previously.” Go-to design tool: “AutoCAD. My staff’s knowledge of computer technology as the main medium in the creative process is invaluable. We couldn’t compete without it." Favorite architect: “My great mentor, Edward Larrabee Barnes.” Toughest client: “Myself. When designing projects for my family, there’s no harsher critic. Sometimes the client just can’t make up his mind.”


JOHN DEAN DAVIS

John Dean Davis, Architect
93 Rockledge Rd, Bronxville (914) 961-5753; deandavisarchitect.com

Davis makes old homes feel new and new homes feel like they’ve always been there.

 Davis added a wing to this vintage Mediterranean in New Rochelle’s Premium Point 18 years ago.

 Recently he updated the space, removing a chimney between the kitchen and family room to open them up.

 A new country house on 17 acres in Millbrook has a shingle style Arts and Crafts look.

 Davis gave a cinderblock eyesore a total facelift, resulting in a soaring contemporary with Prairie-style curb appeal.


The blueprint: “Most projects that come to me are updating older homes. I try to work within the existing style; you don’t take an English Tudor and put a white box on the side. You are handling probably the biggest investment most people have; whether you enhance or decrease the value is critical.” What clients want: “To bring their house into the modern lifestyle. They want a kitchen, informal eating area, and family room that open into one space.” Notable project: “I have a commercial building under construction that’s probably the only thing to have been built in Bronxville village on the east side of the railroad tracks in 25 years.” Favorite architect: “Charles Lewis Bowman, a local architect who designed a lot of the Tudor-style houses in Bronxville in the 1920s and ’30s.” Inspired by: “Colonial Williamsburg. After graduating from the University of Virginia, I took a job there and loved the restoration of the historic buildings.” Oddest request: “A master bath with a shower big enough for three. I told my wife, 'Remind me never to go to any parties there.'”


TEO SIGÜENZA

Teo Sigüenza Architect PLLC
460 Old Post Rd, Suite 2A, Bedford (914) 234-6289; teosiguenza.com

A native of Ecudador, Teo Sigüenza  is making his new country more beautiful, one home at a time.

In Bedford, half of this new shingle-style home on four acres was built on the existing foundation of a previous house.

Sigüenza also designed the cabinetry in this classic Chappaqua kitchen.

This new English-style home is constructed with old-school materials: stone, stucco, and slate.


What clients want: “A dedicated space for the kids where they can do the homework and mom can spend time with them close to the kitchen.” Go-to tool: “My head and my hands. I have taught myself to write and draw upside down so my clients who are sitting on the other side of the table can see the images.” Toughest client: “The one who gets the plans and decides to embark into the construction process without an architect.” Oddest request: “To have a baby-grand piano in the master bathroom. That seemed like a little too much.” Biggest mistake: “Over-designing. You have to know when to stop.”

 


TOM O'BRIEN

O'Brien Architects
653 B Old Post Rd, Bedford (914) 244-4202; obrienarchitecture.com

Westchester-born Tom O’Brien has an all-American style and a thing for “the structural clarity” of barns.

A Dutch barn in Bedord features an “erector set” stair structure and a new fireplace.

The core of this South Salem farmhouse is a silo and barn that O’Brien renovated and expanded, with a new kitchen, family room, and garage.
 

The blueprint: “Eighty percent of my work is residential. I’ve also done a number of horse farms, some recording studios—I have a secret life as a musician—and a new spa in Bedford. I have a real sensitivity to historic buildings, but we have to live in modern houses.” What clients want: “Screened-in porches but not in the old fashioned sense—we’re putting in TVs, fireplaces. It’s a room you’ll use for three seasons.” Oddest request: “A little tower for a client who was a musician and writer. It had a keyboard and a place to write. She would climb up there like Rapunzel.” Inspired by: “I do motorcycle touring around the world. I’ll see an interesting building that sparks my imagination; it could be a cathedral or a stable. I pull over, take a photo, and keep going.” Go-to design tool: “I always start with hand sketches. A computer locks you in.” Favorite structure in Westchester: “The Croton Dam is an unbelievable piece of engineering.” Biggest challenge: “I had a client who was in an electric wheelchair. She had a Louis Bowman house she asked me to make accessible." Favorite architect: “Le Corbusier. I just rode 1,200 miles across France to see his midcentury chapel in Ronchamps.”