The art and craft of blending two lives (and households) into one.
(page 1 of 2)
Photography by Thomas Moore
The home’s side entrance opens onto a lovely courtyard of pavers and gravel.
A mutual friend introduced them at a Super Bowl party in 2004. “We were so engrossed in conversation that we totally missed Janet Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction,” Paul Bissonette recalls of the first time he met his wife-to-be, Barbara.
When they decided to get married in 2006, their first thought was to buy something new together. After scouting what was on the market, they decided they both really loved North Salem and the property where Barbara had been living since 1999. But her house, a nondescript raised ranch, needed an extreme makeover. So the couple began their search for an architect. They interviewed six or seven, but none of them really clicked with the Bissonettes’ vision. One day, divine intervention pointed them in the right direction.
As Paul recalls, it was a gorgeous summer day and the couple was looking forward to having family come up for a reunion and cookout. Suddenly, their quiet rural neighborhood erupted in a cacophony of construction noises coming from the next-door neighbor’s property. “It was so loud, you had to shout to be heard,” Barbara says. So Paul went over to beseech his neighbor to temporarily stop the work, offering to pay for the crew’s time.
The mahogany front porch offers sweeping views of the lawn with large rock outcroppings and a pond. Creeping Jenny and ajuga peek out from the stone steps and rock outcroppings.
His neighbor, Maria Bilotta, of the kitchen-design family, invited him into her newly renovated home and graciously agreed to send the workers home. The cookout was saved and, serendipitously, the search for an architect was over. Paul fell in love with the style of Bilotta's house, designed by architect Terry Lennon of North Salem, who specializes in Arts and Crafts-style houses.
The resulting renovation is a revelation. Gone are any remnants of the raised ranch. In its place stands a stunning cedar-shake Arts and Crafts home, perfectly sited midway up a long, rolling hillside. A beautiful mahogany front porch offers sweeping views of the couple’s “zen garden,” large outcroppings of stone ledge uncovered in the renovation process.
The Bissonettes dine as often as they can in the sun porch, above. The art nouveau print over the fireplace flips up to reveal a flat panel television. The mantel was created out of a 150-year-old hand-hewn oak barn beam. The antique secretary that Paul’s late wife purchased decades ago now holds Barbara's collections.
“I designed the house in response to Paul and Barbara’s lifestyle,” says Lennon. “They like being outdoors and looking over the property, so we have the covered front porch with the screened-in sun porch next to it, a patio out back, and a slate terrace off the master bedroom.”
“We have dinner on the sun porch every night,” Barbara says. “We get such pleasure sitting here, looking out at the view. I think this is the prettiest part of Westchester.” After what Paul described as an “enormously long process” to get approval from the town of North Salem, New York State, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and others, the Bissonettes finally got the green light to transform the wetlands down the hill from the house back into the pond that it once was.